Q: My husband and I are at a loss to control our 6-year-old sonís constantly asking for things! Heíll ask over and over. No matter how many times we say no, he keeps begging and badgering until we blow up, or give in just to keep the peace. One place this always happens is the supermarket. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
A: Oops. Itís time to undo a mistake. Donít feel alone, this is probably the most common mistake we parents make, and we all make it sometimes. Luckily, itís correctable.
The mistake is two-fold: First, allowing your son to keep asking for something after youíve said no. Second, giving in after he has asked over and over. By giving in, you are actually rewarding the behavior you want to change!
Hereís the simple fix. I say simple and it is; however, you need to be absolutely determined. Follow-through is everything! In a calm moment, tell your son that from now on, he is allowed to ask one time for something he wants. If your answer is no, he can (if itís appropriate at the moment) ask why, and have one chance (30 seconds or less) to change your mind. If he can sell you, wonderfulóyou are reinforcing your childís use of logic and persuasion to get his needs met. If your answer is still no, he may not persist in asking. If he does ask again, say in a firm, neutral tone of voice, ďStop. You have your answer. If you ask again, the consequence will beÖ.. Name a consequence that is appropriate and that you can carry out immediately. Examples: Time out in the shopping cart or putting back another treat that you have allowed him to have. If he does ask again, immediately deliver the consequence.
Expect your sonís asking behavior to actually increase at first, as he tests your resolve! DO NOT GIVE IN! Treat every badgering behavior as an opportunity to teach. Repeat the same steps each time. By stopping the behavior before it becomes badgering, you wonít have to lose your temper.
One more thing: Praise appropriate behavior often.
As parents, we need to be clear, consistent and firm. Just as in dealing with adults, we will get the best result when we have a kind and respectful attitude.