How can I get my young child to stop nagging me?

At this age, it comes down to this: Feed good behaviors. Starve the bad. (In terms of emotion and attention, of course.)

With parenting, I often recall the famous line in the movie Amadeus: “Too many notes!” But instead I tell parents, “Too many words!” Say what you mean, very simply, and then stop talking. Look away. Convey by your body language that you’ve said what you’re going to say…and there’s no negotiation. Some parents feel somehow that it’s unfair to disallow negotiation with their children. But remember, a three-year-old really isn’t capable of negotiation…but she is capable of testing your limits and rules until you finally give in. Go ahead and give in, once in awhile, if it makes sense and works for you. But your overall message should be: Take what I say seriously. I’m in charge here. It doesn’t help to have a three-year-old feel like she can be in charge; instead, it makes her worry that nobody is truly in charge.

I know it’s maddening, but you really must avoid extended discussions about it, and show her by your actions that you don’t hear her when she carries on like that. Don’t get mad, take a deep breath, and expect a tantrum on her part. Also, expect the behavior to escalate for awhile, until she gets the idea that you mean business.

Then when she does behave well, and does calm down, praise her tremendously for being such a big girl. Praise and reinforcement of her good behavior is what you’re really striving for here. Don’t forget to praise her for even the smallest demonstrations of positive, nice attitudes and behavior. Eventually, she’ll get the picture, and quit testing you in this way.

Continue Learning about Parenting

Your Parenting Style Is Important
Your Parenting Style Is Important
Iman Shumpert, the Cleveland Cavaliers interestingly-coifed forward, has his own playing style. And he uses it to help create a smooth-working offense...
Read More
Why is it important to allow my children to make choices?
Lynne KenneyLynne Kenney
Choices are one of your child’s first introductions to responsibility. While choices appear to b...
More Answers
Embarrassing Questions You Wish Your Kids Wouldn’t Ask
Embarrassing Questions You Wish Your Kids Wouldn’t AskEmbarrassing Questions You Wish Your Kids Wouldn’t AskEmbarrassing Questions You Wish Your Kids Wouldn’t AskEmbarrassing Questions You Wish Your Kids Wouldn’t Ask
Every parent is going to face an embarrassing question they’re not quite ready for. Check out these questions you might hear and smart ways to answer ...
Start Slideshow
Why Should My Child Eat Healthy Fats?
Why Should My Child Eat Healthy Fats?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.