Kids catch on to things quickly. We all learn that the first time we hear our sweet toddlers repeat a bad word they heard (ONE STINKING TIME . . . honest!). But of all the things they pick up, perhaps one of the fastest is the fine art of pestering. From a very young age, they do more harping than an orchestra. It doesn't take them long to learn when there's a prime opportunity, either. Ask Mum when she's not busy, and she's more likely to shut the request down. But try it when she's in the middle of something, and the magic happens: "YES! I don't care! Just hush up and let me finish what I'm doing!"
As much as I — like every mum ever — despise being pestered, I hate something else even more: the thought of my kids going out into the world unprepared to hear "no" . . . and lots of it. They'll be turned down by employers, romantic conquests, and banks. Their ideas will not always fly. Their attempts will not always succeed. And if they're accustomed to getting their way, it's going to be a major slap in the face. Tenacity is a good thing in the right circumstances, sure, but so is learning how to accept "no" and move on to the next big idea without throwing a fit. And how else are they supposed to learn this if it doesn't start now, at home, when their requests are simpler?
So around my house, I have a no-pestering policy. If I say no, they are not entitled to badger me into saying yes. Period. Don't get me wrong: my nerves aren't made of steel and my kids know exactly how to get on them, despite my no-pestering rule. There are times when they bug the crap out of me, even now, until I want to shove them out the door. They still test their limits and push to see how much I really mean by "NO PESTERING!" And once in a great while, I will rethink things after a knee-jerk "no" reaction and decide it's not really that unreasonable (cereal for dinner? Well . . . OK).
I definitely pick my battles — some things just aren't worth the hassle of arguing over. But the majority of the time, I dig in my heels, no matter how much they beg, plead, wheedle, and cajole. Because I know that giving in when they whine is not doing them any favours in the long run. Let's face facts: it wouldn't be doing me any favours, either. Relenting after a period of saying no sends them a clear message that all they've got to do is badger me until I break. If we ask long enough, eventually she'll say yes. And I've got enough on my plate without adding a houseful of children who think they can manipulate me into permitting them to do whatever the hell they want. Nope. Not today, sir.
Yes. It's uncomfortable to stick to your guns sometimes, like some sort of horrible test of your patience and stamina. There are moments when I'd rather give myself a bikini wax with somebody else's used gum than listen to another grating round of "Pleeeeeease, Mum? Mum? Can we? Muuuum?" But the way I see it, giving in to avoid the annoyance is actually kind of selfish: I'm missing the chance to teach them a crucial life lesson in order to save myself from being irritated. I might withhold the good stuff where, say, snacks are concerned (I mean, who doesn't have a secret stash?), but I like to think I'm a little more selfless when it comes to conveying the message of not being an entitled, whiny nag. Yeah, it's a drain on my momentary sense of sanity, but it's better for them in the grand scheme of things.
I'm not saying we should always tell our kids no. But if we always tell them yes, especially if it's just because they'll bug us if we don't, we're doing ourselves — and, most importantly, them – more harm than good. If I don't teach them now, they'll learn the hard way later, as young adults, when the world gives them a not-so-nice rejection. Then, instead of handling it and moving on, they'll come blubbering to me . . . and probably bring their laundry over when they do.