Daughter won’t accept ‘no,’ harasses mom
by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero
THE PROBLEM: My eight-year-old daughter won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Every time I don’t give her what she wants, she starts negotiating with me. (She’s eight.) She’s never rude or whiny, and she doesn’t beg. She just follows me around, hammering with me all the reasons I should change my mind. The conversations are civil, but they always make me feel like I’m defending myself; she can be pretty aggressive with her tactics: talking fast, loud, not listening. I am embarrassed to admit, sometimes I cave in, just to get out of the conversation. Any ideas?
MARY SAYS: Congratulations. Your daughter has begun to master the art of negotiation. While her tactics may be those of a child (ahem, she is one), she knows how to show up with confidence. She is adept at using her voice to express her desires, which tells me she has never been silenced by the people she loves and trusts.
Way to go, Mom. You’ve raised your daughter well.
Now, for the next step. Truly skilled negotiators shouldn’t have to rely on aggression to get their way, even though it often works. Given time, this form of negotiating can turn into manipulation, which is how you’re feeling when your daughter hammers you until you say ‘yes.’
It’s time to teach her how to negotiate with the other person’s wellbeing in mind. Heart-centered negotiation involves listening, understanding, and compromise. At the tender age of eight, your daughter needs to be taught how to listen.
The next time she asks you for something you don’t agree to, gently tell her ‘no’ and tell her why. When she comes back around, ask her to repeat what you told her. If she resists, ask her again to do so. And again. Then again. Keep going until she can demonstrate she heard you.
But most likely, it won’t end there.
She’ll be up for many more rounds; in which case you must ask her EACH TIME to repeat what you said. Your job will be to discipline yourself to resist defending your decision. Simply ask her to tell you what you’ve told her as many times as it takes.
Your daughter has detected a weak spot in you, one that may show up for you in other relationships as well. We all learn from our children, and your daughter appears to be teaching you how to stand by your convictions. Once you implement this new technique, the ‘hammering’ will stop, and your daughter’s requests will turn into conversations, which each of you feeling comfortable expressing your own points of view.
ERIKA SAYS: My 6-year-old son has also been testing limits and pushing boundaries of late. I totally sympathize and understand; I’m exhausted by the constant badgering! I find myself over explaining my reason for each decision, rule, or consequence, as well as caving in and giving him what he wants, just so we can be done with what feels like a debate team competition. Part of me admires that your daughter, much like my son, is determined and brave enough to speak her mind.
Like everything else in parenting, figuring out the “why” is the key to finding a solution to your problem. This was no easy task for me, nor was it an easy pill to swallow, when I concluded that I was contributing to my son’s behavior. Here are some reasons why your daughter might not take “no” for an answer:
- Your daughter has figured out that if she pesters you enough, you’ll give in. Every time you cave, you’re teaching her that if she bothers someone enough, she’ll eventually get what she wants.
- You’re inconsistent when it comes to rules. If you set up a rule, stick to it. Consistently giving in teaches your daughter you don’t mean what you say.
- You’re saying no too often. Repeatedly saying no, especially without reasoning, may have your daughter feeling restricted and desiring a bit of freedom.
Here are some things I’ve been trying in my home:
- Once I make a decision, I offer an explanation—anything beyond that is over-explaining. I acknowledge why my son’s upset and offer empathy, but I also let him know my answer still stands and I will not discuss it further.
- When setting rules and boundaries, it’s critical that you respect them, too. I’ve learned this the hard way, as I often bend some of my own rules when I need to buy myself extra time to accomplish a task. For example, we have a 25 minute screen-time rule in our home. Sometimes, in fact, a couple times a week, I let my son go a little longer because it buys me time to get something done, which ultimately creates confusion and frustration for the both of us.
- It’s okay to say yes! It’s okay to give your daughter what she wants within reason. At times I find myself saying “no” because it’s easier to do so. For example, my son asking to play with Playdoh while I’m cooking dinner usually gets a “no” from me. Why? Because I feel like I have to supervise Playdoh activities, and if I’m cooking dinner, I can’t. However, I can, in fact, supervise playdoh activities. I can say “yes” and ask him to bring a few colors to play with in the breakfast nook while I cook.
Understand that if you have fed your daughter’s behavior up until now, you can expect pushback when you make a change. But be assured, this behavior is as easy to fix as it is to create. As long as you remain consistent, you’ll start to see improvement in your daughter. I’ve already seen changes in my son. Don’t lose hope and know that I am cheering you on!
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! email@example.com
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Mary Follin is author of the award-winning children’s book ETHYR and Teach Your Child to Read™, an online phonics program for children ages 3-6. She is mom to two grown kids. Follow Mary on Instagram at @advice_mom.
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.