Please, Mom! Can I please use your iPhone? Please? I’ll give it right back when time is up. I love you. Please. Please. Please. Please. Please! iPhone! Please can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Just for a little while. Please.
All right, honey, but just for 5 minutes.
After one of these wearing down sessions, do you feel like a pencil that has been sharpened so much that it’s now only an inch long? You know what kids are better at than grown ups? Stubbornness and single-mindedness and stick-to-it-ness…about the things that they want and don’t want. Their pleas (and pleases) follow us from room to room. They think to themselves, “If I just ask enough times, she’ll get tired of hearing it,” or “If I just use my manners, I’ll definitely get what I want,” or “If I just yell for long enough, she’ll have to give in.” Their success often lies in their ability to be more stubborn than we are.
Over my years of teaching, caring for kids and working with special needs kids, I have found that putting my focus and energy into my own stubbornness has been invaluable to me. Sounds a little unfeeling, doesn’t it? Let me explain.
Being stubborn is really just the same as following through. It’s difficult to listen to continued entreaties from your kids without starting to having questioning thoughts: Should I really be saying no? It’s only a little piece of candy. I could just make her happy by letting her have it. Am I being too mean? The same is true when a child is asked to do something and your request is met with tears (and maybe some yells) about how unfair you’re being. The natural question that we ask ourselves then is: Am I being unfair? Is he right? Am I interrupting something important?
The problem with being stubborn is that it implies that one doesn’t care about whether they are in the right or not. Stubbornness for stubbornness sake. And while parents are not infallible, sometimes sticking to your word is more important than being fair or “right.” Showing your child that you mean what you say, no matter whether it is occasionally unjust, is — in my opinion– one of the most valuable lessons to impart.
I am someone you can count on, even when you don’t want to count on what I’ve said I’d do.
In the same vein, when you say no to something, be prepared to stand behind that no. If your child is asking for your iPhone and you’ve already said no prior to his myriad of appeals, don’t don’t don’t change your mind after the whining has begun simply because a) you’re worn down, b) you want the whining to stop, or c) you second guess your answer of “no.” You have to dig down a bit and find some stubbornness in you to either wait it out or be ready with an additional consequence. “If you continue to ask me for the iPhone after I’ve said no, you will not be able to see it for the rest of the day.” Short, sweet, shows that you mean what you say and that you can be as hard-headed as he is.
If you want to change your answer to “yes” after you’ve said no, you have to figure out a creative way to do it. And it should not be directly after or during your child’s play to get what they want. If they stop whining and find something else to play with for 10 minutes, you can “reward” their change of heart by giving them what they initially wanted. Be careful when doing this. Make sure that there is distance between their theatrical display and getting what they wanted, but this is one way for you to “give in” if you think you’ve given the wrong answer while still showing them that you can stick to your guns a bit.
It’s hard to be hard-headed, but we all have wonderful models around us. So take a page from your kids’ books and be a little stubborn yourself. After flexing your stubbornness muscles for a little while, you might just find that you save yourself some headaches simply by being harder-headed.