Do your children ask you the same question 80 times in a row? My 5-year old does, and sometimes I think it’s due to her age — distracted, impatient, excited, forgetful, enthusiastic — and sometimes it’s because she’s hoping for a different answer. But little kid nagging is The Worst. Amirite?
“Can I have a snack?”
“No. We’re having dinner in 20 minutes.”
“Can I have pretzels?”
“No. We’re having dinner in 20 minutes.”
“Can I have yogurt?”
OH MY GOD!
Have you been there?
Sometimes it’s not because she’s hoping for a different answer. This can be just as exasperating.
“Are we going to the library after school?”
“Can we go to the library after school?”
“When are we going to the library?”
Like every parent I’ve talked to, I’m tempted to say, “If you ask me again, we’re not going/you’re not having that/there will be no iPad/Christmas/baby cousin you’re so excited about.”
But I try to remember what I learned from Amy McCready, the Positive Parenting guru, and keep the consequences relevant to the behavior.
So what does Amy say about incessant question asking?
She says that we probably have trained our child that if they’ve ask enough times, they might get a new response. So, like any dog trainer will tell you, IT’S ON US to change our behavior.
Here are the steps she recommends to end child nagging and negotiating. In her example, “Daniel” is asking to dig a hole in the yard in five-minute increments.
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.
A commenter on Amy’s site said that she had a similar strategy, but used the abbreviation “EOD” with her kids, which she had taught them meant “End of Discussion.”
I’ve been trying to use “Asked and Answered” with Scarlett, when I remember. It doesn’t solve everything, but I think it’s a useful tool. The only part I don’t feel great about is “Do I look like the kind of parent who will change her mind?” because I think it carries an undertone of sarcasm, used not for humor, but to make the other person feel stupid, and that’s not a dynamic I want to model in my house. Sort of like the hostile, “Do you think this refrigerator is going to close itself?” versus the more direct, “Close the fridge, please.” Maybe when my children are older, I’ll ask them if they think my gas tank is going to fill itself up, but for now, I’m trying to teach kindness.
Last night, Scarlett was talking loudly and incessantly after bedtime, and I told her to lay still and let herself fall asleep. She asked me to get in her top bunk with her. I said that I would not get in her bed because she was talking, so she had lost that privilege. She asked for a second chance. I reminded her that she already knew she needed to be quiet and since she knew that, I wasn’t going to lay down with her because instead of being quiet, she was talking. Guess what she said then.
“Can you get in my bed with me?”
I said nothing while I thought about the right way to respond.
“Are you kidding me?” I wanted to say. “Are you freaking insane?” “Do I look like a parent who is going to get in your bed after you’ve been yelling nonsense words mixed with pop music lyrics for ten straight minutes?”
While I mulled this over for a few seconds, silently trying to temper my inner sarcastic voice, I heard a little voice from the top bunk say, “Asked and answered.”
What do you guys think? If your child is over four, do you think “Asked and Answered” could be a solution for nagging?