Carla badgers her mother. Over and over again she asks the same question. Mom says no to each request because she doesn’t want to give in to the badgering. She explains numerous times to her daughter why the answer is no. Still Carla persists. Mom is tired of it but she hangs in there with her daughter to show her that she won’t give in.
Mom believes that she’s doing the right thing. In fact, refusing to give in is great. Unfortunately, responding to her daughter’s barrage of requests, arguments, and complaints isn’t working. In fact, giving reasons and arguing about the issue with her daughter seems to validate her dialogue.
Issue vs Process
Mom needs to learn this simple strategy: Leave the issue and move to the process. The issue is the subject of the dialogue. It may be the dirty shirt, the video, or the snack. The process deals with the way kids handle the situation, the arguing, badgering, or whining. The child who brings the same request over and over again doesn’t need more dialogue about the issue. The issue is closed. The child needs to be called on the way she’s treating her mother.
Mom might say, “Carla, I’ve already said no to you about this request. Do you see what you’re doing? You aren’t accepting no as an answer and you keep pressing. That’s the wrong thing to do. So, if you ask the question again or try to engage me about that issue I’m going to discipline you.” Mom is refusing to talk about the subject of their disagreement and instead is pointing to the faulty approach of her daughter.
Knowing When to Stop
Here’s what’s happening. As an adult, if you go to an authority and ask for something and receive a no answer, you usually have the freedom to ask one more time to clarify yourself or to further understand. However, if you receive a no answer a second time, then pushing further would be considered rude, crossing a socially appropriate line.
Some children don’t even know the line exists. They just keep pushing and pushing and parents get frustrated, often ending the dialogue with an angry response.
Use “Why?” as a Signal
You’ll teach your children a valuable lesson about life if you’ll leave the issue and move to the process. Instead of answering the “why” question over and over again, you may use the “why” as a signal that your child is being demanding.
“You’ve already asked that question and received an answer.” It’s hard to correct a child for a desire to go over to a friend’s house, but you can correct a child who is mistreating you in order to manipulate the situation. That’s the process. Children need to understand that the process is just as important as the issues of life.
By moving from the issue to the process you can teach children many things. You can teach a child to stop whining when unhappy, or teach a child how to appeal in a wise and honoring way. You can help kids dialogue about conflict instead of using sarcasm or hurtful comments. You can motivate children to do a job with a good attitude.
Too many parents focus on the tasks, getting the job done with little time spent on how we’re getting those things accomplished. Focusing on the process opens up new avenues of teaching with your child.
God is Concerned with the Process
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul gives advice to the church that is excellent advice for the family as well. He says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” And then a few verses later in verse 14 Paul continues, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” God is concerned with the process as well.
When a child is tempted to hurt others because of the issue, moving to the process and valuing the people involved may be just the solution.
This parenting tip comes from the book Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.