Rebecca is leaving her mother’s place and driving home with her 7-year old daughter Olivia.
They have barely left when Olivia inquires, “Mommy, can I get an ice cream?”
“No, honey, you already had a lot of treats at Gammy’s. That’s too much sugar.”
“But, Mommy, I didn’t have too much sugar and I really really want a chocolate ice cream…”
“Olivia, I said no”
5 Minutes later:
“Mommy, I haven’t had an ice cream yet this week. Pleeeeease just one small ice cream…”
You can imagine how this interaction continues. Either this conversation leads to Rebecca repeating herself and getting angry, or—what might be even worse—to Rebecca eventually giving in. Children are smart and persistent. All it takes is that the strategy of begging or nagging works occasionally because the tired parent ultimately gets worn down and gives in.
What can Rebecca do to stop this cycle of Olivia begging or trying to negotiate, and herself either caving in or getting angry with her daughter? Lynn Lott, psychologist and co-author of the book series “Positive Discipline” has a simple but effective strategy, called “Asked and Answered”.
This is how Rebecca introduces this strategy to her daughter:
“Mommy, I haven’t had an ice cream yet this week. Pleeeeease just one small ice-cream…”
“Olivia, have you ever heard of asked and answered?”
“No,” replies Olivia hesitantly.
“Did you ask me about getting an ice-cream when we first left Gammy’s house?”
“Did I answer this question?”
“Yes, but …”
“Do I look like I might change my mind if you keep asking the same thing over and over?”
“… but I really really want an ice-cream so much…”
Rebecca simply replies calmly and in a friendly tone, “Asked and answered” and changes the topic.
Now that the strategy has been introduced to Olivia, all Rebecca needs to say are these two words. The key to this strategy working successfully is consistency. Rebecca has to be consistent until Olivia has learned that nagging does not produce the desired results.
In order to do that, Rebecca has to manage her own emotions. She has to keep in mind that her daughter is not trying to be difficult, but that she is actually a smart girl who has learned that with persistence she can reach her goals. Being persistent and able to negotiate with others are useful skills for many situations in life.
She also has to make sure she does not fall for Olivia making her feel guilty for saying “no”. Whatever limiting negative stories Rebecca might have going on inside of her mind about not being the mother she should be—perhaps about not having enough time or about having to say “no” more often than she likes—will backfire in these situations. In order to be a terrific parent, who can provide consistent boundaries and limits for her daughter, she has to shift those self-critical ideas and underlying feeling of guilt.
Finally, Rebecca needs to enlist her partner and her mother to use the same strategy and to also be consistent with it. Otherwise, Olivia will simply redirect her efforts to nag her father or her grandmother until she gets what she wants.
If you are striving to be a conscious parent or you want to work on your relationship with your children, your partner, any other family member or work colleague, reach out for a free phone consultation, or to set up an appointment to work together online (usually via Zoom).
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