Updated: Jan 9, 2020
When our daughter was in Kindergarten, we decided we wanted her to be in the half-day class and I would stop working full-time. This left the afternoons for fun activities like investigating as many parks as possible, bake blindingly frosted cupcakes, and dance in the kitchen.
N was really enthusiastic about dancing at that time. Everyday after school she would run to her bedroom to put on her favorite ‘dancing dress’. Her favorite for almost two years was a red flamenco dress with a black ruffle cascading from the shoulder down the entirety of the dress.
As my physical talents are limited to golfing and hiking, it was clear that N was going to need outside assistance to propel her dancing skills to the next level. We signed her up for a class in town and we soon realized that three girls from her kindergarten class were also enrolled. As we mommies talked and schemed, we quickly came up with a plan to take turns feeding them lunch and transporting them to class.
One day, when the girls were at our house, they all came to me to ask if they could play the Wii together. At the time (boy have times changed), the rule when friends were over was no video games. N knew this rule, but seemed compelled by the group to ask the question anyway. I gave the same answer as usual, “No video games today, you have each other!” and they were off to play.
A few minutes later I could hear them whispering in the hallway. It was clear that one of the girls was really pushing to play video games and telling N to ask me again. “Just ask her again. She might change her mind!” I heard one say. In one of my biggest parenting wins to date, I heard N reply, “When my mom says no, she never changes her mind!”
Many children learn that if they keep asking the same question, some adults will give in because they just want the questions to stop. However, this can create so many difficult situations down the road. If you struggle with the ‘changing your mind’ phenomenon that children tune into so quickly, it is possible to modify your techniques. It will take some getting used to both on your part as well as your child’s(ren’s), but it is possible.
The blog A Fine Parent recently posted some writing by a fellow parent about the pitfalls of lecturing your child. Lecturing is a trap we can all fall into at times. As described in the article, once the lecture gets started, all your child hears is the teacher from Charlie Brown! Blah, blah, blah, blah. Keeping your reasoning short and sweet is not only better for your child’s understanding, it is better for your peace of mind!
Here are three steps that I have found work well:
1. State your decision and provide one or two age appropriate reasons for the decision.
In the example above, I told N and her friends that there would be no video games because they have each other to play with. They were 5 years old at the time so there was no reason to go deeper.
2. When questioned about your decision, say in a very calm voice, “I’ve given you my answer.” If and when there are questions about your decision, simply remind the child that you’ve given your answer. Do not restate the answer because they know it. This will only serve to aggravate you. The intention at this point is to make you give up and give in.
3. Walk away and disengage all conversation. If you feel you must respond, calmly say again, “I’ve given you my answer”. Walking away or moving onto the next thing you need to get done is the best way to provide distance from the conversation and further reinforce that your decision stands. Staying calm and keeping your voice on an even keel also helps to keep you calm as well as informs the child that it’s not something to get upset about, but that it’s time to move on.
It is a good idea to tell your child(ren) that this is a change you are going to make before a confrontational situation rears its ugly head. This forewarns everyone so it isn’t such a surprise. It also helps you put into words that you are making a change.
Positive Parenting Solutions suggests using the words, “Asked and Answered” which would work as well. The best part of the article is they talk about how to make this work for children with autism or children that need visual cues. They suggest writing or drawing a representation of the question on a white board and pointing to it when the question is repeated. I love it!
Habits are difficult to break, but you can do it! It will make daily interactions so much smoother and happier on everyone’s part. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
April Remfrey is an American special needs consultant living and loving life in Switzerland. Please feel free to share this blog post by giving credit to the author and the website link: www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com