Parents have options when confronted with a nagging child. Depending on what actions parents take, nagging will be temporarily quieted, become inflamed, or be permanently discouraged.
A child’s nagging can be extremely frustrating. At minimum, parents want to stop the noise. One quick fix is to give in to the child. This will make the current nagging stop, but it will also ensure that it will recur. The child has learned that it works.
Also, the child has learned that parents do not mean it when they set limits. So, this solution is short-termed and, although pleasant on the ears and nerves, it fails to solve a likely recurring problem.
Another ineffective action parents take is yelling. Understandably, a child’s nagging can create enough frustration to blow a parent’s cool and yelling may frighten kids into attention. However, this is fleeting.
The lesson learned is that enough harassment and parents blow. This may not imply any understanding that nagging brings the unpleasant consequence of yelling. It may just teach them that their parents get enraged.
Yelling likely leaves kids with residual feelings of apprehension and stress that carry over to other interactions. So, this is a potentially problematic solution that is more about parental reactions than about discipline.
Especially for sensitive children, yelling can create enough stress to overwhelm them. Yelling or otherwise releasing frustration at kids will likely spark a temper tantrum or meltdown. This ensures crying and screaming that is more painful on the ears and difficult to resolve than nagging.
Another potentially inflammatory reaction is to ignore the nagging. The child who is ignored will likely escalate to the point of desperation. Often, at this point, parents are so frustrated they snap. If they give in, nagging is reinforced. If they snap, nagging morphs into an altercation.
A child who is ignored when nagging likely interprets the silence as parental re-deliberation of the request. They also probably feel hurt about being ignored. They will likely continue to nag with greater intensity until they get an answer.
Dealing well with nagging requires parents to discipline. First decide if nagging is acceptable. If not, adopt strategies that reflect zero tolerance. This means swiftly putting an end to nagging every time it arises.
Ending nagging can be as simple as letting your kids know when they are doing it and that it needs to stop. If this is not enough, apply a negative consequence. Let them know that continuing to request something after limits were set will result in a loss of a privilege.
So, a child who nags to stay up at night can be told that they will lose 2 minutes off their current bedtime for each repeated request that follows the initial reply. Explain it is their choice to either accept bedtime or shorten it with nagging.
Parents can also reward non-nagging. Teach kids to ask once and respect the answer even if they are unhappy. They need to experience how accepting limits can be positive, perhaps gaining 10 minutes before bed on the weekend.
Know that all children nag, to varying degrees, depending on temperament and what has been modeled or tolerated at home. A child nags because they foresee no other strategy to getting their way.
A child who continually nags does so likely because it has been successful or ineffectively handled. The more consistent parents are in holding to their limits, the less likely they are to be ruled by nagging.
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