This article is not about your habits of nagging and negotiating, it’s about your kids’. However, they may have learned it from you in the first place. We may not even realize we nag or negotiate. When our kids don’t do what we say the first time we ask, we may begin a downward spiral.
When we ask our children over and over again, we are nagging. Nagging sends the message that we don’t really expect them do to what we say. Sometimes when they don’t comply, we begin to plead or negotiate for obedience. Children who are used to nagging or negotiating tend to wait until that ‘certain’ point when they know they must obey. We really must not nag or negotiate, as they can catch the habit and become very skilled at getting their way.
They discover how effective it can be in just one moment of weakness when we cave in and let them have what they want. It only takes once. From then on, they will try it on everything from a sweet before dinner to staying up a little later to expecting a toy every time they go shopping with you.
They will try it on every adult involved in their care. But if you observe carefully, you may see that they never try it with certain adults. Maybe they torment you and your husband, but never seem to do it at preschool. They may hassle your parents, but never nag your husband. Perhaps that adult knows the key is to never, ever give in. The kids know it and quit trying with them.
But any learned behavior can be unlearned. That’s the truth. It only takes consistency.
Amy McCready, at Positive Parenting Solutions, has a three-word answer that will stop nagging. She calls it, “Asked and answered.” Here is her example of how it works:
The concept is simple. When seven-year-old Daniel begs to dig a giant hole in the front yard and gets “no” for an answer, chances are he’ll be back in five minutes asking again – this time with a “pleeeeeeaase” just so you know he really, really wants to dig the hole.
Instead of repeating yourself or jumping in to a lecture, avoid child nagging by getting eye to eye and follow the process below:
Step One: Ask, “Have you ever heard of ‘Asked and Answered’?” (He’ll probably say no.)
Step Two: Ask, “Did you ask me a question about digging a hole?” (He’ll say yes.)
Step Three: Ask, “Did I answer it?” (He’ll probably say, “Yes, but, I really ….”)
Step Four: Ask, “Do I look like the kind of mom/dad/teacher who will change her/his mind if you ask me the same thing over and over?” (Chances are Daniel will walk away, maybe with a frustrated grunt, and engage in something else.)
Step Five: If Daniel asks again, simply say, “Asked and Answered.” (No other words are necessary!) Once this technique has been established, these are the only words you should need to say to address nagging questions.
So the next time your child tries to nag or negotiate for their way, try ‘Asked and Answered.’ It saves arguments, whining, and frustration. Try it and keep using it. When they have asked and gotten the same answer 12 times or more, they will retire the tactic. In a few weeks or months, they may try again, just remember, “Asked and Answered.”
For some other help on getting your kids to do what you want the first time you ask, please read what Dr. Leman says in, Have a New Kid by Friday: