Q: I have a 5-year-old daughter who wears me down when she wants something that I’ve said “no” to. She begs and pleads until I yell or give her what she wants. What can I do to stay strong and not give into her demands? I think I’m becoming a real pushover parent.
A: How you discipline is often based on how your parents disciplined you, your culture, and your parenting style. It’s possible to discipline without yelling or giving in, but it takes practice and patience.
Here are some tips that might help:
- Consider what she’s asking for before you say “no”. If you decide she can’t have a second cookie, get down to her level and tell her, “No more cookies, but if you’re hungry you can have some carrots and almond butter.” If she continues to plead you can either ignore her or ask her to leave the room until she’s done begging. If you give her the cookie after you’ve said no, you’re reinforcing the idea that she doesn’t have to listen to you.
- Be proactive and set limits before activities like TV watching or reading stories. Discuss the rules and have her repeat them back so you’re sure she understands. “I’m happy to read you two stories, but after that I’ll need to start dinner.” This will also help you be clear and not fall pray to her demands for more books.
- Encourage problem solving in a situation she’s not happy about. “Since you’ve had your 30 minuets on the computer, let’s figure out what would be fun to do now.” If she gets angry you can ask her what the rule is, and repeat your offer to help her come up with an activity. If the cries continue, let her know you understand she’s disappointed or sad, but she needs to wait until tomorrow. If the yelling continues you can tell her she will lose her computer privileges for the next day. You can also give her a hug or distract her by doing something else. Be empathetic but clear. Over time she will beg less.
Nurse Rona is the host of Childhood Matters radio show, a nurse for 44 years, a temperament specialist, parent educator, and mother of four. To hear previous shows, go to www.childhoodmatters.org, and tune in Sundays 7-8AM on 98.1 KISSFM. She is also available to do individual temperament consultations and workshops.