I love my children and grandchildren more than I can put into words, but I can't tell you the amount of times I have turned red with embarrassment in the supermarket because one of them started an Oscar-worthy performance in a movie that could be called "Pleaaaaase Mom," a story of just let me have a toy, I'll never ask for anything ever, ever again.
When kids begin to nag, especially in public, it's easy to give in. Why? Many times, it's because appeasing our kids instantaneously quiets the problem. The reality is, giving in to those situations is like plugging a hole in the Hoover Dam with your finger.
Many families use the excuse that it's just not worth the guaranteed fight when it comes to giving into the "nag factor," as I call it. In my experiences working with families, I discovered that the root of why parents won't say "no" can go much deeper.
One family having a tough time with their nagging children had actually gone into major debt just to appease their kids. I couldn't believe it. Surely telling their children "no" couldn't have been as painful as a having a conversation with their creditors. We talked through the issues and eventually got to the center of the problem: They told me that they would consider themselves bad parents if they didn't say yes to the kids. "Good parents work hard so that their kids don't have to go without anything," they said.
I was stunned. I explained that being good parents means that your children are provided with love, shelter, food, clothing, education and values. It also means teaching your kids financial responsibility. These ideas might not always be popular with the younger ones so you need to be tactful. Telling your children, "I'm teaching you to be financially responsible!" won't get through, so it's no surprise they'd rather have the coveted toy. But parents, you need to stay strong and you'll be a much better parent in the long run.
As you hold your ground, beware of the "fairness doctrine" counterattack: "Mommmm, it's not fair, it's just not fair." This is the standard first reaction from the kids. Cliché as it may be, life isn't fair, and I promise you'll do your children a disservice if you prolong the time they aren't aware of this.
Children will nag; it's in their nature. We parents feel bad not giving in, and that's in our nature. It's all OK. I'm sure we all wanted our parents to give into our requests when we were younger, but take comfort in the fact that, difficult as it may be, you have the foresight of your children in mind; they don't. You're not alone in wanting to be good parents in your eyes and your children's at the same time.
Nag me once, shame on you. Nag me twice, shame on me.
Here are three tips to help you avoid the nagging:
1. Create and stick to a shopping list.
Let your kids participate in the shopping experience. Start by creating a list with your kids. While you're still at home, remind them you will only buy the items you put on the list. Then assign each child an item that he or she will be responsible for remembering to get at the store. Make it clear that you won't add any other items to the cart when you are at the store.
2. Allow your kids to buy one item with their own money.
As part of my allowance system, I teach that a set portion of each week's allowance should be put aside specifically for instant gratification spending, which I call "quick cash." When my son Rhett would nag me for an impulse purchase that I thought was okay for him to have, I would ask him if he could afford it because he has to pay for it himself out of his quick cash. I would also remind him that he doesn't get any more quick cash until his next "pay day." Upon hearing that, he sometimes said, "I have to pay for that myself? Never mind, I guess I don't want it that much." I have some great stories about putting the power of the decision in our kids' hands and will write more in the coming weeks about how to get kids to understand and use quick cash in any household.
As parents and grandparents, it is our job to remind our kids to take their quick cash with them when we go out. It's as easy as putting the money in a plastic bag and finding some room in your purse or your child's backpack.
3. Just say no.
"No" is a perfectly acceptable word. Painful, I know, but effective. We have to say "no," and we have to mean it. Be brave enough to be able to endure an embarrassing scene. Also, consistency is key. If your children know that no really means no, they won't be as tempted to nag as they will know their efforts will be in vain.
Do you have a horror story about your kids nagging you? How about a funny one? Please share it with us below.