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  • Dr. Roseanne Lesack

One and Done: How to Break the Broken Record Cycle

There are times when I accept that my sole purpose as a parent is to be the lazy-kid’s version of Google: Mom, why is it cold today? Mom, what are we doing after school? Mom, what’s for dinner? Mom, what kind of bird is that? Mom, do you like my drawing? Mom, why does my skin do this funny thing? And for the most part, I love it. I love that there is not much of a cognitive filter yet, so most thoughts spill out as a waterfall of questions and comments. I love that I am seen as an expert in random things and I am acutely aware that this perception of me will not last long.

What I do not love are the repeat questions. For many of us it sounds something like this:

Child: Can I have a snack?

Parent: You just had a snack, and dinner is in 45 minutes, so the answer is not right now.

Child: But can I please have just one more snack?

Parent: I said no, I don’t want it to ruin your dinner.

Child: But I promise it won’t ruin my dinner.

Parent: I said no.

Child: PLEEEEEAAAASSSEEEE??? Just one more snack and then I won’t have any more.

This interchange can go on for much longer and can span a number of topics. It also can escalate into a screaming match out of sheer frustration on your child’s side that you just won’t budge, and on your side that you have clearly stated the answer already. These verbal volleys generally occur when your child wants something and the answer is no. For children, the initial “no” is just the first offer on the table. It is the opening bid in an ongoing negotiation. Our children are excellent sales people. They know that if they can keep the conversation going, there is a chance, even if it’s a small one, that your mind could be changed. And the truth is, they have probably successfully talked you into changing your mind in the past (yes, something I am guilty of as well).

So if you are feeling like a broken record too often, you can take charge and break the cycle.

1. Be Sure of Your Answer

If you do not care if your child has another snack, say yes to another snack. There is no need to say no, just for the sake of saying no.

2. Answer the Question Twice with an FYI

Answer the question for the first time. When your child asks again, answer one more time and say, “I’ve already answered the question twice and I am not going to answer that question anymore.”

3. Move on From the Conversation

If your child asks the question again, do not answer it. You can talk about anything else and change the conversation, but do not answer that question again. You gave fair warning that you are not going to engage any longer so stand by your word.

It may be difficult at first for you as a parent to stop answering the repeat questions because it may seem that you are not responding to your child or meeting his needs. But ending the broken record cycle will help to decrease your annoyance and let your child know that once you answer a question, that is your decision, no matter how much they may disagree

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