These kids generally use one of two strategies. They may either nag or hound you until they get an affirmative or they’ll seek out an adult who will give them the answer they want.
Pester power wears you down!
The first method, based on persistence, is generally very effective to use with tired parents and sole parents who are more susceptible to this type of behaviour.
“All right have the at ice cream. Anything for some peace and quiet” is a response that most people who have spent time around children are familiar with.
Playing one parent off against the other
The second method is a little more devious but very effective and usually occurs in dual parent families. You know the situation. A child’s request for a treat, favour or outing is turned down by one parent (“No Jessica you can’t have an ice cream now. Wait until after dinner”) but a child seeks out the other parent who gives them the affirmative they are seeking.Minor happening but very irritating.
These situations are indicative of two people are operating on different parenting planes. If it happens every now and again then it is no big deal.
However, if one parent is always granting a child his or her wishes without consultation or thought of how the other parent thinks then it’s probably time to step back and reflect on how you can both work together. If it happens frequently your child will learn how to play one parent off against the other or manipulate situations until they get what they want. This type of scenario is ramped up when parents live apart, which kids either find confusing or they play to their advantage.
It’s human nature to seek a yes
Most of us learn intuitively who to ask for a favour and who will give you a negative response.
This type of parental manipulation can occur for many reasons. Either it is due to different standards of behaviour or different beliefs about bringing up children, or a lack of understanding about what has happened in a child’s day. Regardless of the reason it means that parents need to communicate between themselves and also get the message across to their child or children that it is taboo to keep seeking out a parent until they get the response they want.
One No is enough
My advice: Be firm with child who goes to another parent in search of a yes after they have received a knock back from another.
“Where did you get that ice cream from? I already said no.”
“Daddy said I could have it.”
“I am sorry but you should not go to daddy after I said No.”
If in doubt, defer
The other technique that you can use which is very effective if one parent is a jellyfish and gives in all the time is to defer to the other parent whenever they ask some a little tricky.
“Okay Jessica, I’ll just check with dad and I’ll get back to you.”
This strategy maybe artificial but it is helpful in bringing the other parent into the act ,and also demonstrates that you are working together.
Deferring is also a smart way to a manage teen who corners you into making quick decisions. Control the timing of your interactions and don’t be railroaded into making snap decisions.
Take it in turns saying NO
Most dual parents play good cop/bad cop where one is more the disciplinarian or hard-line manager and the other is the play director. That tends to be the way of families. This is wearing on the bad cop so it helps if you can swap roles occasionally (or even backbones) to give the other parent a break. Sole parents play both roles, which is draining.
Switch between credible and approachable
If you default to friendly rather than firm when you’re with your kids then get used to switching roles. Kids know instantly when you really mean what you say as your non-verbals (eyes, posture, tone of voice and breathing) give you away every time.
Managing children who won’t take no for an answer demands teamwork, a willingness to hold your ground, and most importantly, good communication skills so that when you say ‘NO, not this time’(or however you say it) your kids actually believe what you say.
PS: Want to learn more about helping your child manage anxious & other unhelpful types of thinking? There’s a whole section on Resilience in the Parentingideas Club full of age-appropriate tips, tricks and strategies to help children manage their emotions and thinking.
A popular presenter, Michael Grose speaks to parents, teachers and principals on a regular basis.Michael comes from an education background, and has conducted post-graduate research into what makes healthy families tick.He's given over 1500 parenting presentations, including the first parenting seminar in Parliament House, Canberra.Michael is married with three adult children who have all successfully flown the parent nest.