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How to Stop 5-Year-Olds From Begging

5 Steps to Stop Your 5-Year-Old From Begging

Five is a magical age, isn't it? Your kid is more articulate and rational than ever, which means that the unreasonable arguments you had during the toddler years — things like, "YOU CUT MY TOAST THE WRONG WAY, PUT IT BACK TOGETHER!" — are a thing of the past. (Now they argue about things like plaid being a perfectly acceptable complement to polka dots: still frustrating, but at least mostly logical.) They can get themselves a drink, put on their own shoes, poop without assistance (I mean, if you don't mind finding a few skidmarks in their undies), and get dressed by themselves. The self-sufficiency is freeing for both of you.

On the flipside, all this new development has them feeling too grown for their own good sometimes, and they do something that the experts call "testing boundaries" — or, as we parents like to call it, "being completely annoying." They're seeing how far they can get with us, how much they can control, pushing more buttons than an octopus with a laptop. And one of the ways they do this is by begging for things: incessantly, relentlessly, grating mercilessly on every last nerve we've got. Oh, yay.

But we're the parents and they're the 5-year-olds! We're not gonna be manipulated by someone who has been in existence for less time than some of our jeans! And so we're going to assert our parental dominance by nipping that begging in the bud, using this handy five-step guide. It may take all of the steps, or it may take just a couple, but by consistently responding this way, they'll learn that begging does them zero good.

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Step one: address.

Sure, you could just ignore them right off the bat, but that's how things escalate. Before their request turns into pestering, acknowledge that you've heard and processed what they're saying. Yes, those cookies look delicious — I wish I could have one myself. This way, they won't get exasperated and whiny because you're not listening.

Step two: explain (ONCE).

It's frustrating for anybody to be told no without understanding why, especially a 5-year-old who asks "Why?" a bazillion times a day like it's his job. After you acknowledge, briefly explain — you don't need a lengthy spiel, just a few words. Yes, those cookies look delicious — I wish I could have one myself. But sorry, it's too close to supper time. Maybe for dessert.

Step three: shut it down.

You've acknowledged their request and given them a clear answer, so no more discussion should be required. But try telling that to a determined kid. This is why we resort to a shutdown phrase: a simple answer we repeat, verbatim, every time they ask again. Something like asked and answered, or we're finished discussing it, or my personal favorite, NOPE.

Step four: ignore.

By this point, it's OK to start pretending you don't hear them. If you've repeated your shutdown phrase a couple times and they're still harping on it (persistent little buggers, aren't they?), further signal disinterest by straight-up ignoring.

Step five: stand your ground.

This is perhaps the hardest step of all, but definitely the one you need to be the most consistent with. Because if you give in to their insistent pestering — even once — you're demonstrating that there's a crack in your armor, that if they bother you enough, you'll cave. It's a battle of wills, and you've got to emerge victorious. I know that when you're tired, and your patience is worn thinner than diet pizza crust, it's tempting to say "FINE!" and give them whatever it takes to stop their nagging. But even though that may offer a temporary relief, it will only exaggerate the problem in the long run and makes them 1,000 percent more likely to do it again. In their minds, it's pretty cut-and-dried: I asked, Mom said no; I begged, Mom said yes; so begging gets me what I want and I must use this method every time from here on out.

If you want to further reinforce the no-begging policy, keep in mind what they've asked for and reward them later, but only long after they've stopped mentioning it: Remember that cookie you wanted? You ate a good dinner, so you may have one now.

Five-year-olds aren't clueless chumps — they're constantly probing, testing, seeing how far they can push, trying to master the fine art of parental manipulation. It's totally normal, but you're doing them (and yourself!) a favor by not indulging their pleading ways. Besides, you've got better things to do than negotiate with a wheedling kid.

. . . Like argue that plaid and polka dots don't match.

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