The True Story of When Children Nag

Social media, when used well, is a great way to spread information.  I am particularly grateful that it allows people like me to share knowledge about raising and educating children.  It may surprise you to know that I ordinarily don’t read many parenting posts by other people.  I never want to have something someone else has said stay with me and become inadvertently part of what I write.  I read the research and studies.  I talk to people. I draw on my education and experience.  I avoid other blogs similar to mine.  Recently, however, I couldn’t help but notice two articles that people were sharing.  Both had some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard about dealing with children who nag.  I expressed my opinion in the comments under the articles and to people who posted them.  Many people agreed with me and then I saw them being posted again by others.  They are like social media weeds.  They keep popping up.  It’s time to combat the articles with one of my own. 

Children nag for the same reason as adults.  They want something desperately and are willing to fight for it.  They are pretty sure that if they say it enough times or with enough desperation that you will either give up or feel badly.  Maybe once, in a weak moment, you gave in and now they think it can happen anytime.  Young children are very egocentric and cannot even understand why you don’t want them to have something they desire.  They think that if they want it, then the world should want them to have it. As long as you stay in the conversation, children will think they have a chance to get what they want.  It can be exasperating.  It is, however, normal human behavior.  We may not be able to prevent nagging but we certainly can react appropriately.

Remember that your reactions impact your relationship.  When our children are teens and adults, we want them to feel comfortable talking to us about their lives.  We need to set up a relationship of caring and respect all of the time – even when we are losing patience.  Yelling, barking or refusing to talk to children are never ways to deal with behavior.  They demonstrate to children that bullying is okay and that their feelings have no validity.  There are situations far more serious than nagging during which you should remember that these tactics don’t work in the long term.  Remain calm.  Take a deep breath and think past the moment.  Don’t participate emotionally in the power struggle.  When your children see that their nagging isn’t changing your demeanor, they will exit the argument sooner.

Be consistent.  No can never mean maybe.  The first time a no means maybe is the last time your decision will go without being tested.  This doesn’t mean that your children won’t try to change that no into a maybe for a while.   Calmly and kindly say to your children, “No never means maybe.”  Don’t be emotional.  Don’t sound flippant.  Just state the fact.  Tell your children that no does not change to another answer.  Then make sure it doesn’t.

Know that you will have to repeat yourself – and then change the subject.  You can exit a conversation without isolating your child.  After calmly restating your position, change the subject.  Start talking about something else with them or anyone else in the room.   When your child tries to bring it back to the original issue, simply say, “We had this discussion already.  We are talking about something else now.”  Exit the conversation with the same respect and dignity that you would have liked when you were young.

I hope when you read articles on the internet, you do so with the future in mind.  Your adult relationship with your children starts on the day they are born.  It won’t suddenly be all that you want it to be when they turn some magical age.  It builds, over time, on a foundation of caring, support, respect and good listening skills.   I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  I’m not afraid to nag you!

For more information about conversations with your children, click on these titles:  "Is Respect a Part of Your Discipline Method?", "Talking to Young Children About Death" and "When Speaking with Children...".


Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website -
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
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