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Verbal Battle

Q: What do I do when my four-year-old son informs me that he is having a cupcake for breakfast? I say to him, “No, you are not having a cupcake for breakfast,” and he says, “Yes, I am having a cupcake for breakfast,” and I say, “No, you are not having a cupcake for breakfast. They are not healthy breakfast food,” and that goes on until he leaves for preschool at 9:00. I finally did give him half a cupcake because he had eaten his regular breakfast while we were arguing.

A: HE WON ! That half a cupcake let him know that the battle is worth fighting!

Every time you give in and give him a cupcake, he will push harder the next time. Kids persistence is unbelievable. The fact is, if you say “no” to something eight times, and then you say “yes,” the next time he will ask sixteen times. Just say “no” and be done.

Do not engage in verbal power struggles with your child. It is never productive and usually leads to heightened emotion and frustration, which leads to anger. Sometimes we, as parents, think we need to justify and explain our decisions and we get engaged in these yes/no arguments that make us crazy and accomplish nothing. The bottom line is - Don’t go there!

Simply reply, “I will not serve cupcakes for breakfast, and I am not talking to you about this anymore. Cupcakes are not breakfast food.” If he continues to argue, ignore him or tell him you would like him to go in the other room because you will not talk about this any more. Quite literally, stop talking to him. If you do not respond, eventually he will stop because there is no reaction.

No matter how annoying he is, take a breath and say nothing. This calmly and clearly shows him that his nagging is fruitless and he gets zero attention so there is no motivation for him to keep it up.

Note: Don’t kick yourself for giving in. We all make mistakes. Do not be hard on yourself, be proud that you have noticed the problem and want to learn. Some kids are so good at engaging us in these battles that we are already in it before we realize what has happened. Just stop when you see what is going on and end the conversation.

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