Children can be incredibly persistent when they want something. When your child is used to you giving in, the more likely he will try again and again to get you to change your mind and give him what he asks for. Your child learns early to push for what he wants when it has worked before.
Your child will ask … and ask … and ask to see if you have changed your mind. This is called child nagging and your child learns it very quickly. A child learns this when you, in a moment of weakness, have taught him you will give in to whatever he had been asking or nagging about.
But like any learned behavior, child nagging can be unlearned. A solution comes from Lynn Lott, co-author of the Positive Discipline series of books. She maintains this will work on kids as young as two or three, all the way through their teens.
She believes it only takes three words: “Asked and Answered.”
Her idea is simple. When 7-year-old Millie begs to have a friend come over before they go shopping and gets “no” for an answer, chances are she’ll be back in a few minutes asking again – this time with a strong plea because she wants you to know this is important to her and so you will change your mind.
Instead of telling her once again that there isn’t enough time or that you already told her it wouldn’t work today or repeating everything you already told her, avoid child nagging by going through the following steps:
Step One: Ask her if she has ever heard of “Asked and Answered?” She will probably say no.
Step Two: Ask her, “Did you ask me a question about having your friend come over this afternoon?” She will probably say yes.
Step Three: Ask her, “Did I answer you?” She will probably say, “Yes, but, I really ….”
Step Four: Ask, “Do I look like the mom/dad/teacher who will change her/his mind if you ask me the same thing over and over?” Chances are Millie will turn around and walk away with an unhappy smile or a disgruntled remark, and do something else.
Step Five: If Millie asks again, simply say, “Asked and Answered.” Nothing else. No other words are necessary! Once you do this a couple of times, these are the only words you should need to say to address nagging questions.
Now, consistency is key! If you want this to work with your persistent child, you need to stick to it. Your “Asked and Answered” technique with your nagging child will only work if you are consistent.
If your child is nagging you, you need to be strong and stay strong. Answering her questions again and again will only cause her to keep asking.
If you answer her question after she is persistent or if you change your answer because of her nagging, this will reinforce to her that her nagging works. On the other side, helping her learn about “Asked and Answered” takes patience.
After a while, your child will understand you mean it and you will see a change.
Make “Asked and Answered” an effort you can include your spouse in.
If your child spends a lot of time with a baby sitter or with grandma, explain to them what you are doing so they can join the effort.
Research by people working in speech and language programs report this technique works well for children with communication challenges, particularly those with autism. One pathologist uses a notebook or chalk board and writes down the question asked. Then when the child who has reading skills asks again, she just points to the board. She still reminds them that they’ve asked and you’ve answered.
This is a positive step to try to end child nagging and negotiating that wears down most parents. Remember to be sure to follow through and stay consistent – and before you know it, you will see the results.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.