3 Simple Words to End Child Nagging and Negotiating

Girl Pleading with Parents
Have you ever met a more persistent creature than a child trying to get what she wants? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t. There is no one with greater resolve or dedication than a kid on a mission to get their parent’s approval.

Unfortunately, this level of persistence isn’t always well-received by parents who are often forced into these hostage negotiations at inopportune times – in the candy aisle of the grocery store, in the toy aisle of Target, in the middle of trying to cook dinner, while trying to take a shower. It’s as if children can see we are vulnerable and try to pounce in our moments of weakness.

While it’s important to teach children gratitude to combat the pleading in the stores, it’s equally important to stop the negotiations before they get out of hand. From the famed “Are we there yet?” to this morning’s “Can I have ice cream for breakfast?” to this afternoon’s “Can I have ice cream for dinner?” kids are notorious for their one-track minds, and they will ask…and ask…and ask…just in case you’ve changed your mind in the last minute.

Why Do Children Nag?

As with any behavior, you must first understand the root of the issue in order to address it appropriately. As a positive parenting expert, I teach tools based on Adlerian Psychology which asserts a child’s behavior is not random.  

Child nagging is a learned behavior that children of any age can pick up. Children will continue to use it because once, in a moment of weakness, you caved and let them stay up an extra half hour after they asked for the eighth time. In short, the nagging worked–it achieved the child’s goal of getting an extended bedtime.

How Can I Stop My Child From Nagging?

Like any learned behavior, child nagging can be unlearned. The solution comes from Lynn Lott, co-author of the Positive Discipline series of books, and it works on kids as young as two or three, all the way through their teens.

It only takes three simple words: “Asked and Answered.”

The concept is simple. When seven-year-old Daniel begs to dig a giant hole in the front yard and gets “no” for an answer, chances are he’ll be back in five minutes asking again–this time with a “pleeeeeeaase” just so you know he really, really wants to dig the hole.

Join Amy for a FREE Online Class

Instead of repeating yourself or jumping into a lecture, avoid child nagging by getting eye to eye and following the process below:

Step One:

Ask, “Have you ever heard of ‘Asked and Answered’?” (He’ll probably say no.)

Step Two:

Ask, “Did you ask me a question about digging a hole?”(He’ll say yes.)

Step Three:

Ask, “Did I answer it?” (He’ll probably say, “Yes, but, I really ….”)

Step Four:

Ask, “Do I look like the kind of mom/dad/teacher who will change her/his mind if you ask me the same thing over and over?” (Chances are Daniel will walk away, maybe with a frustrated grunt, and engage in something else.)

Step Five:

If Daniel asks again, say, Asked and Answered.” (No other words are necessary!). Once this technique has been established, these are the only words you need to say to address nagging questions.

Consistency is key! Once you decide to use “Asked and Answered” with your nagging child, be sure to stick to it. If the questioning continues even after you’ve responded with “Asked and Answered,” simply walk away. Once your child sees you won’t even engage in the discussion, they will learn very quickly that nagging isn’t an effective behavior to achieve their goals.

If 14-year-old Emma is particularly determined to keep asking to get her eyebrow pierced, stay strong. Answering her question again–or worse yet, changing your answer–will reinforce to her that nagging works.

Although it’ll take some patience, your child will eventually connect the dots–and you’ll see results!

Amy McCready quoteParent as a Team

Make “Asked and Answered” a joint effort with your partner, and consider including any family or friends who may have to deal with child nagging and negotiating from your child. When Daniel and Emma realize they won’t get a “yes,” even after they’ve asked YOU five times, your parenting partner three times, and grandma twice, they’ll get the hint and retire this tactic.

Be sure all caregivers follow through and stay consistent. Before you know it, 20 questions will be a fun game once again and no longer a negotiation tactic!

Related: When Parents Disagree on Discipline: 8 Steps to Harmonious Parenting

Parenting Children with Autism

Speech and Language Pathologist, Stacy Pulley, reports this technique works well for children with communication challenges, particularly those with Autism. She suggests bringing a notebook or a chalk/dry-erase board into the mix and writing down a question once they’ve asked it more than once, keeping in mind their reading level. Or, draw a picture.

Then, when your child asks again, point to the board or notebook to remind them they’ve asked, and you’ve answered. Be sure to use as few words as possible and stay consistent in your language to help them understand the connection as they learn to listen to and respect your answers.

Final Thoughts

Adding this tool to your parenting toolbox is a positive step toward ending the child nagging and negotiating that can wear on even the most resolute of parents.

However, if you find yourself in the middle of other power struggles – sibling rivalry, bedtime battles, or backtalk, just to name a few – I’d love for you to join me for a FREE online parenting class.

I’ll show you how to finally get your kids to listen – no nagging, reminding or yelling required. With the right tools, you (along with thousands of other parents) can become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being.

What You Should Do Next:

1. Get Quick Actionable TIPS delivered to your inbox

Sign up for my newsletter for parenting tips to help you create a happier home and become the parent you always wanted to be. Plus, when you subscribe, I'll also send you a copy of our strategy-packed guide 10 Tips for Better Behavior – Starting NOW!

2. Unlock the secrets to easier parenting in my FREE CLASS

Register for my free class called How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. Classes run several times per week to accommodate your busy schedule.

3. Transform your family with the 7-Step Parenting Success System® Course

Join the hundreds of thousands of parents who have transformed their families with the 7-Step Parenting Success System® Course. Learn the tools you need to raise happy, respectful, responsible kids and create the family life you always dreamed of having.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.