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Is it ever a good idea to 'give in' to your child, or is it a slippery slope that sends the wrong message?

(55 Posts)
Earlybird Sat 09-Aug-08 17:04:27

We've all heard of 'pester power' and how giving in to a child's demands/requests can be fatal to one's parental credibility/authority.

Do you ever give in to your child to defuse an escalating situation or just for an easy life? Are there other reasons/situations where it is OK? Specific examples would be helpful.

Would also like to hear from parents of primary/secondary school children (not just toddlers).

Earlybird Sat 09-Aug-08 17:10:23

The incident that prompted my post arose this morning when I asked dd to give something a go before asking me to do it for her. She refused to even try, and I refused to do it for her without some initial effort from her. The entire situation turned into a battle of the wills, and escalated into a major situation - both of us stubbornly refusing to budge. It was ludicrous really.

ThatBigGermanPrison Sat 09-Aug-08 17:14:03


I have been known, with my 5 year old, to go back on a "No".

usually because it was a "no" that I hadn't thought about. I don't think anyone who doesn't have a 5 year old could believe how many frigging demands they can make in a day "can I have an icecream can I go on that ride can I have an apple can I have Macdonalds for tea can I have some sweets can I have a drink can we go to the play area for lunch can I have some gellibaff can I can I can I"

Spot the one I should have said yes too? Well, none of them if he didn't follow up with please. I should have said yes to the apple - but in a stream of "canIcanIcanI" the apple gets lost. I would back up on that one, (and tell him off for nagging)

ihatebikerides Sat 09-Aug-08 17:15:30

Behaviour stuff, NO, NO, NO. You're just digging a grave for yourself. Example: went to collect DD (10) from a friend's recently. Friend + siblings asked if DD could sleep-over. Absolutely not on, for a variety of reasons, so I said no, and explained why not. DD was fed up, but left it. Her friends, however, all went on and on and ON about it (please, why not, go on, please, just this once, please, why not, go on......). I was both irritated and amazed. They just would not take no for an answer, but then have seen their mother on countless occasions say "no, no, oh alright then." In the end, I had to say, "look, I've said no and I'm not going to change my mind. Accept it."
But then, who am I to lecture? Have just let DD have her ears pierced after years of being adamant that it wasn't happening until she was 14! But I then allowed myself to be persuaded by her godmother over a couple of bottles of wine to let her treat DD to it as a birthday gift. DD knows this was a one-off and was so thrilled, that I am officially the best mother in the world!

tots2ten Sat 09-Aug-08 17:16:03

I have had trouble with ds1 he's 4, and up until 17mths ago he was the baby. He refuses to try to do anyhing for himself, i think partly because i would just get on with things, biggest thing was getting his to wipe himself after going to the toilet, as he will be going to school full time in september, so just in case he needs the loo, he needs to be able to do it for himself, otherwise the school will just phone. but his answer to this was 'its ok mummy i will just wait to go to the loo until i get home' hmm how do you argue with that grin

unfortunately he is very much like me in that he is very stubborn and wont back down either.

moondog Sat 09-Aug-08 17:16:24

Well, do people sometimes 'give in' to yuo? If so, reasonable fro a kid to expect same.

juuule Sat 09-Aug-08 17:16:25

Try not to get to the battle of wills situation in the first place.

In the situation you describe, I would probably have weighed up what mood dd was in. If not very receptive, I might have said something like " If I help you (do it for you) this time will you promise me you'll try to do it yourself next time?" and then reminded her next time.

WideWebWitch Sat 09-Aug-08 17:18:03

Depends. I'm a great believer in picking my battles (and am a lazy cow too) so I do give in sometimes but only if it's something

a) not dangerous
b) not strongly held conviction
c) no big deal

so for example if ds (who is nearly 11) said "can we go out for pizza for supper?" and I said "no because we've got chicken ready to cook" then I wouldn't give in as a result of pestering. But if he said "couldn't we have that tomorrow" and I wanted to go and it actually wasn't a bad idea then I might say "Ok, let's" - I think it's ok to change your mind sometimes. What I DON'T think is ok is to teach them that pestering and going on means you back down on important things.

So for eg, if dd (4yo) won't do a wee before we go out I might say "that's fine, we won't go then" and in that example I won't back down as I want to be sure of no accidents for example (less relevant now but especially important when she was 3 ish).

So I think there's a big difference between changing your mind, which is perfectly ok and sensible and allows children to have their opinions and GIVING IN, which is teaching them that whining gets them what they want.

I do pick my battles with dd, who is highly strung. She gets inordinately upset if I use a tone of voice she doesn't like so it's MUCH easier to say "I am sorry you didn't like my tone, I was just upset that you did xxx" than to say "well, I'M CROSS".

So my children know that I will sometimes change my mind but as a result of reason and discussion, not because they moaned at me. As dd said to me when I was moaning about something the other day "well, you don't always get what you want and bad behaviour doesn't get you what you want" - so the message is obviously ingrained!

ThatBigGermanPrison Sat 09-Aug-08 17:18:53

I think giving in occasionally teaches persistence, and that cannot be a bad lesson to learn wink

frogs Sat 09-Aug-08 17:19:03

Sometimes I do (and I'm a pretty tough mummy on the whole).

I absolutely won't listen to anything that sounds like a whine, a demand or a complaint though. If they can pull themselves together enough to present me with a sensible argument, then I think it's reasonable for me to take that seriously. If they've made a good case, and it isn't something that I feel v. strongly about, then I will sometimes change my mind.

I've had to do this particularly with dd2, who will never, ever back down, and is quite emotionally volatile. She's still quite capable (aged 4.5) of chucking herself on the floor screeching over which pair of knickers to wear, or which fork she's given at the table. Very very slowly she's learning that if she can muster the self-discipline to say "Please mummy, I would really really like the blue plate" (even if I've already dished up the food on the red plate) then I will try to accommodate that. It works both ways though -- the times when I can't give in she will now listen to my side of the explanation, which a year ago she wouldn't have been able to do.

I also always told ds (8) that he'd get a Nintendo "when Hell freezes over". He'd given up asking, but we got him one for Christmas, because I thought it would be a good tool to help him organise his time ('finish your homework and music practice, make your packed lunch and then you can have an hour on the DS'). It's worked pretty well.

I think it would be very dispiriting for a child to feel they could never ever change their parents' minds (actually thinking about it that was very much my experience as a child). As long as you know what you're doing and aren't being taken for a mug, I don't think it's a problem.

WideWebWitch Sat 09-Aug-08 17:20:18

I think my approach is pretty similar to Frogs.

quickdrawmcgraw Sat 09-Aug-08 17:21:49

The trick is never to say No until you've thought about it.
You can say 'I'd prefer if you didn't' or
'Give me a minute to think about it' or whatever. Once you've said 'no' you're kind of commited to following though.

frogs Sat 09-Aug-08 17:22:34

The incident in your 2nd post is the kind of thing that would happen all the time with dd2. I've learned not to entrench myself in any position that I don't feel strongly about, tbh.

I'd probably just have made light of it -- 'oh well, you'll never know if you don't try, what a shame' and then got on with it myself. No point in letting yourself in for a battle you can't win, specially when it doesn't really matter that much.

ThatBigGermanPrison Sat 09-Aug-08 17:25:02

This has reminded me of visiting a friend when I was about 8, and she asked her mother if we could have some money for the sweet shop. Her mother said no.

And she did not attempt to change her mother's mind! And this was utterly alien to me! She just accepted it, and I was gobsmacked.

Nagging worked on my mother. She hated the sound of a naggy voice and would eventually explode one way or another, either smacking my arse (a risk worth taking) or shouting "Oh for Christ's sake, go then! Go out, if it means that bloody much to you!"

I always figured it couldn't be that important to her if she would give in so easily.

ihatebikerides Sat 09-Aug-08 17:25:10

Actually, both my kids must have learnt a lesson about this somewhere along the line, because nowadays, if they want something that they're pretty sure I'm going to say no to, they get together to write a persuasive letter supporting their case.
So, as WWW said above, it still depends what it is they're after - an occasional McDonalds when I haven't got anything much in for tea might work. Can we have a dog.... sorry guys!
I keep all theses letters they write - some of them are hilarious.

frogs Sat 09-Aug-08 17:26:51

Sometimes these 'asking for help' situations are more complicated than meets the eye -- I remember a hideous battle with my mum when I was about 8 or 9 because she'd decided I had to do my own hair in the morning. From her point of view, I was just refusing to do something myself that took up her time when she was busy with the little ones.

But I still remember it to this day, because for me it was all about being devastated at losing the physical closeness of having my hair brushed (she was v. much not a cuddly mother) but I had no way of articulating that at the time. It's a terribly sad memory even now, and often lurks in the back of my head when I find myslef gettin annoyed about my kids refusing to do something for themselves.

ihatebikerides Sat 09-Aug-08 17:28:15

quickdraw.... that'll be the old "we'll see" ruse. Now, as kids we all took that to be a 'yes.' I think I use it as a "I'm going to say no, but I need to gather the strength first."

alvinandthechipmunks Sat 09-Aug-08 17:49:45

I always think that for every one time I give in to pestering, I end up with maybe 10 or more incidents of pestering until he learns it doesn't work again!
Not a price worth paying in my view.

I really try very hard not to give in.

maidamess Sat 09-Aug-08 17:52:59

I think if we all said yes a bit more the first time rather than no there wouldn't be any 'giving in' to do.

Sorry, just got back from holiday and am feeling all loved up about the children

blueshoes Sat 09-Aug-08 18:54:22

I try to do Frogs' or WWW's approach.

I loathe the idea of a parent who never or rarely gives in. There are rules, but at the same time, it gives me a warm cosy feeling to have them bent for me every now and then, with a kindly indulgent smile. That is a nice mother to have. Inconsistent no doubt, but being kind is more important.

I know I tend to say 'no' as a shorthand for being too busy, too tired or if it is inconvenient. It is lazy on my part. If my dcs can reverse my initial position (I must remember the tip about not entrenching my position too soon), then power to them.

But I do insist in dd's case (5) that she asks me in a nice voice and says 'please'.

ihatebikerides and thebiggermanprison, I do believe that some children are just innately more persistent than others. If a child just gave up on the first 'no' from her mother, I would think 'wow, what a mild tempered child' not, 'what a great consistent parent she has'. I have 2 children who have been persistent even as babies, so it is quite alien for me to witness that.

batters Sat 09-Aug-08 19:03:50

Same as Frogs and www and blushoes and I always explain the reason why for changing my mind too. dd is 10.

Frogs - your post about your mum and hair brushing has made me feel very sad.

sarah293 Sat 09-Aug-08 19:07:01

Message withdrawn

LittleBella Sat 09-Aug-08 19:09:30

I think a parent who never changes their mind is a nutter tbh. Because surely no-one can claim that they are always right, that their "No" has always been justified and rational? Sometimes, we are wrong, and I think it's a good thing for children to learn that we can admit when we are wrong, because we are teaching them that it's OK to back down too. OK I know the danger is inconsistency, nagging etc., but a parent who never changes their mind is as bad as a parent who doesn't know where to draw the line imo. It's a difficult balance and those who say you must never ever go back on your word are just trying to impose some kind of formulaic order on parenting to my mind. And as we all know, there is no formula, it's trial and error and sometimes we'll get it wrong but if we get it right most of the time, that's good enough.

Hecate Sat 09-Aug-08 19:10:57

I must be a nutter then, because I would NEVER say no and then allow tantrums and pestering to turn it into a yes.

LittleBella Sat 09-Aug-08 19:12:58

No I wouldn't allow tantrums and pestering to turn no into yes either Hecate.

That wasn't what I said.

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