“Oh can I please – please – pretty please – with sugar on top!?”
Are children are natural born beggars? No, we train them to behave this way by giving in or letting kids have their way. When permission is up for discussion with children, the door is opened to pleading, demanding and arguing. As children becomes a teenager, it is not difficult for them to assume parents can no longer say “no.”Chelsey and Katie were around the ages of seven and three when I attended my first Parents Anonymous meeting. While I was there for other issues, I tucked bits of parenting wisdom away for future use. One tiny morsel of genius was from listening to other parents talk about their children begging and arguing for permissions.
Raven said her daughter would ask her permission to have a sleepover with a friend or to walk to the convenience store and when she would tell her “no,” her daughter would simply go ask her father.
Charlotte said her daughter simply does not listen to her and has her ex-husband wrapped around her finger; when she says “no,” her daughter calls her father and gets whatever she wants.
Poor Janie, she told us that she says “no” so many times that she loses count. Her three boys wear her down until she eventually gives in.
There were other parents who struggled with saying “no” to their children and then backing it up with actions. Listening to their stories was like climbing a steep, muddy hill. They might say “no” but their silver-tongued children had the finesse of Gloria Allred!
These kids sound like little dictators but we cannot blame them; by giving in even once, we are actually training them to be manipulative and persistent in order to gain permission or get things they want.
Thanking my lucky stars I came to Parents Anonymous is something I do every day! By listening to Raven, Charlotte and Janie, I decided on sticking to what I said. I gave Katie and Chelsey permission to ask anything of me. Once they ask, I would consider the request and then give them my answer.
You may think me an ogre but I’m not. I also give the girls permission to ask me to reconsider something if they felt I did not have enough information. After reconsidering new information, I would give them my final decision.
One example would be as we were checking out of the supermarket. Chelsey and Katie could ask for a candy bar or pack of gum. Sometimes I would say “no” and sometimes I would say “yes.” This was done more to seal the process than to give or deny permission and they learned well. The ‘sometimes yes, sometimes no’ rule taught Chelsey and Katie self-restraint and acceptance.
“Is today a day we can get gum, Mom?” Katie and Chelsey would ask.
“We did not get gum last week so… I think today would be the perfect day for gum,” I would tell them.
There was no begging and there was no arguing; the girls knew and expected the drill. I cannot imagine how I would hold my temper if they were to beg and argue like so many children did. I owe much to Parents Anonymous and the other parents who attended.
Final thoughts: If getting permission from parents only means begging until children get what they want, doesn’t that mean parents have switched roles with children? When a parent gives in after saying “no,” they are only raising the bar for the next time.
How did you handle begging with your children? Do you have an established process in place for children to ask permission?
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her at her contact page.