Badgering, Whining, and Arguing: Just Say No
Saying no to a child’s request can be one of the most difficult of all parenting responsibilities. You may wonder if you’re being too strict, or you may second-guess your decision because your child seems so upset. The process of saying no is complicated by a child’s ability to use a host of manipulative techniques to get you to change your mind.
Children may not even realize that they’re being manipulative. They view themselves as pursuing a goal. In fact, many parents mistake demandingness in their child for the good quality of perseverance. One mom told us, “I like it that my son keeps coming back to me. He’s persistent.”
Crossing the Line
Unfortunately, many children don’t know when they’ve crossed the line from persistence to demandingness. That line is crossed when children value their issue as more important than the relationship. When a child yells at a parent or says unkind things because he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s crossed the line.
Parents who use simple behavior modification in their approach to demandingness often use distraction to help children change their minds. As a discipline strategy, distraction offers something equally or more attractive to the child to motivate the release of the original request. This approach often works and can even be a good part of a parenting routine, but if it’s the only response then children start evaluating options based on their desires instead of learning how to accept no as an answer.
Sometimes parents who overuse distraction as a parenting strategy end up with children who continually want to play “Let’s Make a Deal” or the whole experience feels like negotiating with a terrorist. The reality is that sometimes children need to accept no as an answer because the answer is no. It’s the ability to live within limits. Contentment is a godly quality and it’s taught at home.
What Demandingness Looks Like
A child’s demandingness has many forms. Badgering, arguing, whining, dramatics, the silent treatment, and passive resistance can all be ways to change a parent’s mind using inappropriate tactics.
Sometimes badgering is simply an attempt to gain attention and lots of it: question after question after question. Some children seem to have the strategy down to a science. But parents can be just as determined. One mom tried so hard to resist her son’s badgering that he finally threw his hands up in frustration and said, “Mom, you can be so stubborn.”
Any parent who has a child who badgers feels the unending tension in the relationship. Parents may want to hide, or even look for ways to avoid their son or daughter. Some parents say that they cringe when they see the child coming into the room with those eyes of determination. The tension in the relationship has become a real irritation.
Raise the Awareness Level
If you have a child who doesn’t know when to quit, you’ll first need to point it out so that your child becomes more aware of the problem. You might say, “Son, we’re back in the badgering routine here. I want you to stop now and not ask me for anything else for the next hour. We can continue to talk and be together but no more permission questions for awhile.”
Sometimes older children will ask questions or make statements to try to convince you to bend rules. One favorite questions is, “What’s wrong with it?” A young person may come to Dad and ask to go hang out at the mall, or at a friend’s house after school, or attend a party on Friday night. What’s wrong with those things? Nothing necessarily. The wise parent knows, however, that it’s often in those situations that bad things begin, but the child just can’t see it. It doesn’t seem reasonable.
It takes a pretty committed parent to stick to a no answer in a questionable situation and many fail. “Well, I guess you could go to that party, and hang out after school at your boyfriend’s house” and… pretty soon things happen that change the course of the child’s life.
“What’s wrong with it?” is a question that misses the point. It’s like creating a soup. We’re not just throwing things into a pot. We don’t say, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with this dirt. It’s actually clean dirt so we’ll throw it into the soup.” Rather, we hand pick the ingredients to make the soup nutritious.
Manipulation Damages Relationship
Don’t allow your children to convince you to make changes you know aren’t in their best interest. Furthermore, don’t let them use manipulation to get what they want. Patterns of manipulation over time damage relationships. Many adults are manipulative. It’s time to address this dangerous area now in children before it develops into life-long patterns.
Being able to accept no as an answer is a spiritual skill all people need to learn. A lot of temptation is out there and children need to learn to say no to themselves in order to stay within appropriate boundaries. Salvation provides a framework for us to know what to say no to. Titus 2:11-12 shares these helpful words, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
Sometimes as a parent you have to take the difficult road of saying ‘no’ because you know what damage a ‘yes’ might do. Furthermore, your hard work now will provide your children with needed character as they get older.
See Dr Turansky Facebook live video here: