Children’s Whims: What Do They Try to “Teach” Us?

The attitude of adults to children’s whims is often scornful and irritable. It would be desirable sometimes to find a “magic button” and with one pressing of it turn off the whining and disobedience! But, alas, we bring up the child, and the child in its turn does the same with us. What do capricious children try to “teach” us?

Children’s Disobedience

First of all, it is worth mentioning that sometimes we take for a whim the disobedience of our child. And we act completely automatically: pass to a metallic tone, start to shout and threaten. This path is really dangerous because the reasons for children’s whims can be very, very different. If your baby is tired, becoming sick, hungry, overloaded with impressions – punishment and rigid approach will bring only harm. If the child runs from you far away, despite an interdiction, note, that he can explore the distance that you allow to move away. In order to anchor the knowledge, some children need to be repeated a few dozen times the same thing!


Happens that a child cannot hear you. Even if he is close to you. Even if he responds. If he answers “yes”. When your son or daughter is very keen on something (usually a game) – the probability that they did not understand the meaning of what has been said, is very high. It is better not to interrupt the enthusiastic child from the process. But if it is necessary, sit down on the same level with the kid, and looking into his eyes, clearly say the request. You can ask them to repeat what he has heard.

Children’s Whims as a Message to Parents

Any whim, especially “out of nowhere”, is some kind of message to parents or adults. Sometimes these messages are on the surface. For example, a baby hurt his knee, and his caprices mean that he wants to be fondled. Sometimes everything is more complicated.

Quite often, child psychologists meet with a situation when the child with whims tries to tell parents “treat me in a different way.” Most often it happens because of a violation of the educational system – for example, overprotection. Such cases require a comprehensive approach, as you have to change the whole intrafamily system.


The situation becomes more difficult when parents are in conflict with each other – overtly or covertly. In such a case, a moody (or aggressive) child is trying to say “I do not like the atmosphere in our family. I feel uncomfortable, scary, and cold.” Working with these children is also not possible without the involvement of the parental couple.

However, the question of measures should be taken immediately by mom, whose kid shouts at the sight of an expensive toy, sounds very often.

Recommendations for Difficult Situations

  • Try to formulate precisely what a child really wants
  • Tell him what you are going to do about it (“I see that you are upset because of a quarrel with the boy and that is why now you are throwing with sand. Let us walk in the park”)
  • Offer your child to say with words what he tries to achieve with action or crying
  • Use the principle of Tom Sawyer: to forbid doing what is necessary to achieve (to paint the fence, do you remember?). Among children, especially between the ages of 2 and 5 years, it works in 80% of cases
  • Try to approach to the process in a creative way. It is very difficult! But the result will please you. Not automatic “do not tear the book, what are you doing!” but “it hurts the book, it will have to be treated” or “It is forbidden to tear the book, but you can do it with old newspapers”. With this sensible approach you will gradually develop the habit to delve into the child’s affairs. Try to suppress the reflex desire to react automatically, as usual