Tired from a day of cleaning, Patti winced as her youngest begged for a treat, for what seemed like the 57th time. It was 4:30 p.m., she hadn’t started dinner yet, was hungry herself, but had no idea what to prepare for dinner.
“I already told you ‘no’,” she said.
“Puhleeeeeeze,” she whined. “I’m starving.”
She couldn’t take it anymore, “Oh, alright. You can have one cookie. But only one. We’re going to eat dinner very soon.”
Happy now, she ran toward the family room, munching on his cookie. Soon her other littles came running in, begging for a cookie. Patti handed them each one, reminding them that dinner would be soon and she expected them to eat it.
A few years later, Patti waited in the carpool line to pick up her kids from school. As they climbed into the car, her oldest daughter asked about going to the mall the next day with some of her friends.
“No,” Patti said, “you know Daddy and I aren’t comfortable with you being at the mall alone.”
“But, Mom,” her daughter replied, “ALL my friends are going. Their moms trust them. Why can’t you trust me? Please, Mom. I’ll be okay. And I won’t go anywhere but the mall. You can drop me off and Tammy’s mom will pick us up and bring me home. C’mon, Mom. Pleeeeaaaaase.”
On and on and on she went until Patti finally gave in.
“Okay, I guess it will be okay for a couple of hours.”
Her daughter winked at her siblings with a sly smile.
Mom never meant it when she said ‘no.’
My littles figured out very quickly that whining got on my nerves, and used this knowledge against me.
Until one day.
Quietly, while we were enjoying a cup of tea, my mom asked me if I was aware that every time my littles whined I gave in even though I already said “no”. My youngest was especially deft at this technique.
“You have to figure out a way to not let the whining get to you. If you’ve said ‘no’, you need to keep your word.”
I was embarrassed and admittedly a bit angry that my kids knew how to play me this well.
My husband and I brainstormed ideas to change my behavior. Here’s what we decided.
- Say ‘yes’ as often as possible. Up until that point, my default answer was ‘no.’ If my only reason for saying ‘no’ was because it was inconvenient, then my answer had to be ‘yes.’ By saying ‘yes’ as often as possible, my littles learned that if I said ‘no’ there was a good reason why.
- ‘No’ means ‘no’. I had to keep my word. If not, I was teaching my children that persistent nagging brought their desired results. Not what I wanted them to learn.
- Whining after receiving a ‘no’ had immediate consequences. It could mean loss of privileges, a time out, or some other creative form of discipline. But one thing whining wouldn’t accomplish was a change of heart. Remember, I had to have a good reason to say ‘no.’ (See #1)
This was one of those times it was tough to be an adult. However, I learned a valuable lesson about keeping my word; my littles learned a valuable lesson about integrity.
“The oldest, shortest words—‘yes’ and ‘no’—are those which require the most thought.” Pythagorus
How well do you keep your word with your littles? What are other ways you’ve learned to not get bushwhacked by whining? I’d love hear your ideas in the comments below.
Each day is a new opportunity to let your ‘yes be yes’ and your ‘no be no’.
Live your legacy today,
Kirsten D. Samuel
Aftershock Recovery Coach
8-week Program, Custom-paced Coaching, Remote or In-person Sessions