Sunday, January 20, 2013


Stop, Drop and Roll is the Key to Extinguishing Nagging

 STOP thinking about other things.

            DROP what you're doing.

                      ROLL a toy 
                      (or engage the child in some way). 

Why do children nag?
Someone has trained them to do so.

How does one train a child to nag?
Ignoring a child when he is asking for something or denying the child the thing he wants.

How do adults reinforce nagging, to the point where it becomes the child's greatest skill?
Training the child to nag, having them nag for long periods of time and then giving them what they asked for in the first place.

What if I don't give in, and I stay strong and continue to ignore the child's request; what if I  "win" the interaction?
The child will feel like a loser...beaten. 

Won't I be spoiling a child, if I "give in" to ALL his requests?

Isn't spoiling a child a "bad" thing?
Not necessarily.

How can that be?
Let's look at it from an ADULT'S perspective.

Do you like to be spoiled, pampered, given what you ask for?
Let's be honest.  You know you do.
How many marriages would be saved if both partners concentrated solely on pampering the other?  "Honey, it's Friday night...time for your foot massage!"

In my opinion, spoiling and papering are important things to MODEL.  When spoiling and papering come from a place of respect, acceptance and love, the receptee of the spoiling feels special, cared for, listened to and loved.  How can there be anything wrong with that?

Won't I go broke, giving my child everything he asks for?
Most likely, but, remember that most times what the child is really requesting is a few minutes of your time.  This will usually not effect your bottom line drastically.

Responding to requests for things can be tricky, so I will explain the things that you can do. Sometimes it works out even better when the request for an object doesn't actually get fulfilled, yet the child has a related experience with you (which is a treat in itself), and the child walks away feeling special, spoiled, loved and heard :-)
*Please know that techniques get easier the more you practice them.

Problem:  Power-Struggles
The minute you say, "No" to a child's request you have entered into a power-struggle. Hunker down, because the bickering and wrangling are about to begin.  The line has been drawn in the sand, and someone is going to end up crying.

Solution: Become Power-Struggle Free


Instead of standing there nose-to-nose, GET ON THE SAME PAGE!  Become the child's ally and teammate.  Make his goal your goal, have the same feelings he is having, and don't forget to compliment each of his requests or ideas as being brilliant!

Setting: Supermarket or Retail Store
Trigger:  The child sees a Sponge Bob balloon floating in the air by the cashiers.
Reaction: The child reaches up toward the balloon and says, "Bah-Bahb" (which you know means "Sponge Bob").
Your Usual Responses: Ignoring, "No," "Not today," "Mommy doesn't have money," "We're in a rush", (or maybe you don't understand what he wants)  "What? Bah-Bah? Bottle? Your bottle's in the car. We'll be back in the car in a few minutes."


*The child's reach may function like a pointed finger and really mean "Look at that, Mommy!"

Try:  "Wow! What a nice Sponge Bob balloon! Thanks for showing it to me!" [Then change the subject and you head down an aisle, and the balloon is no longer in eyesight.] "Hey, let's go find those cookies that you love!  You know, the orange circle ones.  They are so good!  How many should we get; one or two?" 

*If the reach continues, and the child says, "Sponge Bob" over and over again with increasing urgency, then he wants the balloon.

Try: "Do you want the Sponge Bob balloon?  Me, too! Let's go get it and attach it to the cart.  That way Sponge Bob can be with us while we shop.  I'll take a picture of you with the balloon with my phone!" 

*When you're checking out at the cashier, slip the balloon back to where it came from quietly or say: 

"Thank you for coming shopping with us Sponge Bob!  We'll see you next time!  I can't wait to go home and tell Daddy the Sponge Bob balloon came shopping with us.  He will be so surprised to see the picture of you and Sponge Bob.  You are so lucky! You got to go shopping with Sponge Bob!"

*If the child gets upset remember to STAY ON THE SAME PAGE!  "I feel so sad, too! I wish we could take the balloon home, but we can't.  Oh, man!" [Then switch the subject] "Hey!  Do you want to watch the Barney DVD when we get home? Me, too!  It will be so fun to watch the Barney DVD!"

Try: "Oh, I want that Sponge Bob balloon!  I LOVE that balloon. It is so cool!  Do you have any money, so I can get it? Do you have any money?  No? Oh, man! Now I'm sad! I really wanted that balloon!  Next time will you bring money so we can get it? Please! Then I will be so happy!"

Try:  "Wow! I wish I had a balloon like that!  If I had a balloon like that I would take it with me to work.  What would you do, if you had a balloon like that?  Would you take it to Grandma's house?  Yes?  Oh, man! Grandma would laugh so hard if she saw that balloon.  She would think you brought the real Sponge Bob to her house.  She would think she lived in Bikini Bottom!  That would be so funny!  You have such good ideas!"

So, remember: 

Investing from 30 seconds to 5 minutes in a quick, fun interaction will save you from long periods of nagging, whining, crying or negative behaviors.

When a child asks for something, or is attempting to communicate something to you and you say: 
  • "No," 
  • "Not now," 
  • "It's not time for that now," 
  • "We're doing something else now," 
  • "Later," 
  • "We'll see"
or if you (in any way) deny the child or stall a positive response, then you are setting yourself up for either nagging or a negative behavior.
When a child begins the nagging, and you're going to END UP saying, "Yes" or "Ok," it's better to say, "Yes" RIGHT AWAY.  Otherwise you are reinforcing the nagging, and it's bound to continue and get more intense.

Before you say, "No" out of habit, stop and ask yourself, 

"Is this a big deal?" 

"So what if he wants to watch that video one more time?  He did ask me for it clearly and politely." 

"Do I want to reinforce the communication attempt my child just made, or teach him that his words get him nothing?"  

"Is saying, 'No' right now going to cause a chain reaction of negative effects that I'm going to regret 5 minutes from now?"

Is saying "Yes"  that important for children with communication delays or disorders?
Absolutely!  When you give a positive response ("YES!") you reinforce the child's initial attempt at communicating, which leads to more attempts to communicate.  

If you say, "No" when a child asks for something,  the child learns that speaking does not get his wants or needs met.  So, the child will be less likely to use speech to communicate.

Getting children to communicate more with words and less with negative behaviors is what I do every day.  Thinking outside the box, giving up the need to control, and being willing to play  24/7 gets children talking.  I am willing to "spoil" each and every one of them, and they are witnesses to the fact that I truly love my job.  :-) 

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Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C
Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist
Special Educator & Learning Specialist




  1. Brilliant strategies Noelle. After all my education at college, I have learned more from learning how to communicate effectively with my special child in a way that strengthens our bond and teaches him best about everything he needs to know, do and understand.

  2. HI Noelle,
    Great post, great how you suggest trying other things then saying no
    "love this
    "Grandma would laugh so hard if she saw that balloon. She would think you brought the real Sponge Bob to her house. She would think she lived in Bikini Bottom! That would be so funny! You have such good ideas!"
    I co-wrote a post called the try the "dont say no" diet(lol) for a day then 2 days then a week. See if you can do it!
    As a child psychotherapist I also suggest to parents that if your child is begging for toys and snacks a lot that means hurt feelings are lurking underneath that need to be addressed...ex I see you are begging for a lot of things..I wonder what happened today..did your friend take your toy ,did we not have enough time togethr to play today etc etc:)