Question #3:

“How do you deal with a tween who insists on getting their way (buying something, inviting a friend over, etc.) and refuses to accept “no” (or “need to wait”) as an answer?”

Children, of course, like all of us, do not like being told “no.” However, our role as parents is to set appropriate boundaries and rules, and therefore, saying “no” is often part of that. If a child is repeatedly resisting your answer of “no” to a request, it’s time to get curious about their behavior. Are they resisting your answer because they think they might get a different answer if they persist long enough? Have you ever given in to their request in the past or after repeated resistance? Thinking through questions like this might offer some insight.

If you have been inconsistent with your answer of “no” in the past, children may persist in resisting because they hope that you will change your mind. Thus, consistency on your part is crucial to overcoming this challenge. Once you have given an answer of “no” to a request, be sure you can persist with that answer regardless of how persistent your child is in trying to change your mind. Over time, this level of consistency will teach children that you stick with your word, and they will hopefully stop repeatedly asking.

Another aspect of your child’s behavior to consider is their temperament. One component of temperament is persistence. Although we usually think of persistence as a positive quality, it may seem more problematic in this context. If your child is temperamentally very persistent, their refusal to accept “no” for an answer might continue longer than you expected. Although you probably cannot alter your child’s temperament in this regard, you can encourage them to use their persistence in more positive ways. Discuss openly with them the fact that you admire their persistence but that your boundary is firm and will not change in this scenario. Suggest that they use this skill of persistence on endeavors that require it, like challenging schoolwork, complex strategy games, or learning a new skill (like a musical instrument or sport). 

Although it can be challenging to set firm boundaries with children and stick to them, ultimately, children will learn to respect and even appreciate these boundaries. Consistent boundaries help children internalize the values and habits we are trying to foster in them. With time and a bit of maturing on their part, they will learn to accept “no” as an answer a bit more easily.

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