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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.

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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.