There is very little more frustrating in life than a child—or a hoard of them—following you around whining and crying as you try to accomplish something. Often our responses are ambiguous: "Not now." Let me think about it." "I don't think so." The list goes on and on. Many times, we make these replies on the run without even stopping to make eye contact.

Here's a tried and true method of resolution that resulted in much more peace in our home ... if we did it consistently:

  • When a question is asked, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. (This may seem like a time-consumer when you have eleven thousand things to get done, but the time it will save you in the long run, not to mention the feeling of importance you are placing on that child, is priceless and worth the investment.)

  • Give them your answer.

  • Allow them to ask if this is an answer the two of you can talk about. (You have just established an important tactic that gives them a voice on things that might be negotiable; believe it or not, if you allow them this little indulgence, it actually gives more validity when you say "no" a second time.)

  • If you don't feel like this is something negotiable and are firm, tell them "no" and remind them that the second "no" is final. If they persist, simply walk away.

  • If you feel that perhaps your "no" is something that warrants further discussion, tell them "Yes, we may discuss it. Tell me your thoughts and then I'll make my final decision." Discuss, and give your final answer.

Here's an example of the method played out:

  • "Mom, can I go to Sarah's to do homework?"

  • "No." (Note the glaring lack of child-frustrating ambiguity!)

  • "Is this something we can talk about?"

  • "Sure, tell me why you want to do homework at Sarah's."

  • "We're project partners and she has some notes and I have others and it would be so much easier and wouldn't tie up the telephone or computer if I just went over there to work."

  • "All good points. Will you show me your project when you get home?"

  • "Of course."

  • "You may go. Be home at 5:45."

  • "Thanks, mom."

And the alternative ending:

  • "Sure, tell me why you want to do homework at Sarah's."

  • (Explanation)

  • "All good points. Unfortunately, the last time you worked at Sarah's you came home late and didn't have anything to show me. So, the answer is no."

  • "OK. I understand. Maybe next time."

We laid out this plan to the children (a blended family with 5 of his and 4 of mine) on the family home evening, one night a week we set aside for family only. It was all explained and questions were answered so that it was no surprise how things would play out in the future. There was some adjustment when the final answer was "no" and they wanted to continue to badger me, but I simply walked away and, if necessary, went to my room as a refuge. It wasn't long before the method began to work beautifully. They were appreciative for the opportunities presented themselves to discuss a "no" and much more accepting when a discussion led to the final "no."

As I mentioned earlier, this is an investment in time, to stop what you are doing and hold a pow-wow. But in the end, your children learn that they are worth your time—and they respect you in return.

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