BY ANDREA ZEVENBERGEN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, SUNY FREDONIA
It might be about buying a particular toy, or watching a certain movie, or staying longer at a friend’s house. The parent’s answer is, “No.” Sometimes a child will take the answer of “no” in stride, such as when my son asked if he could go to camp at Sea World. He knew there was no way he was going to a camp in Orlando, even if he could swim with sharks there. The harder times are when the child persists in the request: “Please?”; “Why not?”; “Will you think about it?” The challenging appeal at our house is, “All of my friends are allowed to.”
Research shows that “giving in” is not always a bad thing. Many studies have revealed that a democratic style of parenting, when children are invited to provide well-considered ideas supporting their viewpoints, results in closer parent-child relationships and better peer relationships for the child, compared to parenting which is in the style of “because I said so.” After telling my son I would not let him see a particular movie, I did let him see it, after he was a few years older, and after several discussions about the movie.
There are times, however, when we as parents want to “stick with ‘no’”, and not give in to the pressure from a child’s repeated requests. Here are some ideas of how to stay with “no,” and not give in:
1. Once you have already said, “no,” do not make further decisions when you are tired or preoccupied. Your child may ask you to reconsider your original decision if he/she senses that you are vulnerable to giving in because you are not paying close attention to the conversation with the child. If you are busy or tired when your child makes his/her appeal, tell your child that you will think about it more and talk about it later.
2. Be prepared before you say “no” in the first place to provide a rationale for why you will not allow your child to do the particular thing, make the desired purchase, etc. Your providing these reasons when you say “no” in the first place may decrease the chance that the child will make a further request, since you have a clear reason why you are saying, “no.” For example, you might say, “No, we can’t go to the water park because we need to save up our money for the camping trip.”
3. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and experi
ence when you say, “no”, but then stay firm with your decision. For example, you may say, “I know you are sad that I won’t let you go to Tim’s house today, but your cousins are coming over later and we need to get ready. I’m not going to change my mind on this. Maybe you can go to his house next weekend.”
4. If needed, be prepared to remove your child from a setting where an attractive item remains in view, if your child keeps asking for the item (e.g., at a store). Leaving a store may seem inconvenient, but giving in to a child’s requests for a purchase in a store (which may be done out of embarrassment as the child’s requests escalate) unfortunately teaches the child that the repeated asking pays off. Your child is likely to make the same kind of demands, and show the same persistence, the next time you are in a store.
5. If your child’s persistence routinely turns into “pestering”, with the hope that he/she can outlast you (i.e., you’ll give in if he/she keeps asking), consider that this is not a habit you want your child to take into the future. You can tell your child that repeated requests are not respectful, and you will remove privileges, or give some other consequence, if the behavior continues.
It’s only natural that sometimes your child will try to get you to change your mind when you say “no.” Children, like adults, have certain things that they want to do and have. But, you know why you are setting the limits you are, so have the confidence to stick with it!
Andrea Zevenbergen is an associate professor of psychology at SUNY Fredonia. She has been conducting research related to parent-child shared reading since 1990. She lives with her husband and son, who is now a fifth-grader, in Chautauqua County.