No More Begging – The True Story of a Chocolate Lollipop, a Whining Child, the Pacific Ocean, and a Father Who Just Loses It
Summary: Kids beg because you teach them to beg. So don’t teach them.
I grew up in a house with a few simple rules, one of which was “no means no”. So if you ever wanted something, don’t keep begging or you’ll surely doom your chances of ever getting it. My mom never wavered on this rule so I grew up accepting what my mom said as the real deal.
However, in elementary school, my best friend next door had a different dynamic. If his mom or dad said “no” he went into full begging mode. Why? Because in his house no meant “keep asking and if you beg in just the right way, and you whine and whimper a bit more, we may change our mind”.
That wasn’t stated explicitly, but that what he was taught – and that’s what he heard – every time his parents gave in.
One day my friend asks if I can have a sleep over at his house. I said I don’t know so let’s go ask.
So we go into my mom’s room.
“Mom, can I have a sleep over tonight at Peter’s house”
“No. Not tonight.”
“Ok. let’s go”.
My friend stops me in the hall and tells me to ask again. I tell him no. If my mom says no it means no. She’ll get angry if you keep asking.
Peter wouldn’t have it. He goes back into the room.
“Please Mrs. Butler, please.”
“Please, just this once, I swear…”
“Pleeeease, Mrs. Butler, pleeeease!”
“I said NO! If you keep asking then it will never happen. Now you need to leave and go outside.”
So we start to head outside.
“Wow, your mom got really angry.”
“I told you not to keep asking. No means no. There’s no way she’s going to agree to another one anytime soon after what you did, so don’t bring it up again.”
So that’s the way I grew up. My mom made very few demands on me. And because my mom didn’t sweat the small stuff and didn’t punish honest mistakes, I was able to do a lot of things right out in the open that other kids had to sneak around and hide to do. However, when she laid down the law, it was best to take it seriously.
The concept of “no means no” is so important that behavioral experts will tell you it’s better to just give in right away, or just always say “yes”, if you can’t backup your “no”.
The math works like this. If you say “no” and then say “yes” later after your child asks five more times, she learns that you need to ask five times to get the answer you want. If next time you hold out until your child asks ten times, they then learn you need to ask ten times to get the “right” answer. Each time you cave later in the game, you reset your child’s begging clock further out. Eventually there will be no limit on the times they will re-ask the same question. In other words, you’ve taught your child to completely blow you off and treat you as fool.
So personal experience and common sense convinced me that begging should not be tolerated if you expect to be taken seriously by your child – and especially if you want to raise a child that doesn’t drive everyone crazy with their manipulative behavior.
Which brings us to the true story of a chocolate lollipop, a whining child, the Pacific ocean and a father who loses it.
When my daughter was about four we would frequent Elizabeth’s market at the top of Pleasure Point. My daughter had a very specific agenda which included a quesadilla, a side of beans, and a treat of her choice. We would finish off with some playtime on the beach.
“I’m going to pick out my treat now.”
“Ok, I’ll order the food.”
“This is what I want.”
“A chocolate Tootsie Roll lollipop huh. Are you sure? No ice cream or popsicles?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I want this lollipop. Chocolate’s my favorite.”
“Yeah, it was always mine to. Ok, give it to me.”
“No, I want to hold it and put it by my food and then have it when I’m done.”
“Ok, but you need to eat well, or I’m taking it back.”
So, we get our food. She sets the lollipop carefull next to her plate.
I eat all mine but she just picks at her meal. This is unusual as she’s always been a big eater.
“Is that it? Is that all you’re going to eat?
“That’s fine. You should stop if you’re full but you don’t get your treat. If you are too full for food, you’re too full for candy. So I’ll take the lollipop and you can have it another day.”
“No, I want to hold it. I promise I won’t eat it.”
“I know you truly believe that but I know you will keep picking at it and playing with it until it ends up in your mouth. So no, I’m going to hold it.”
I put the lollipop in my pocket and we walk out.
‘Let’s go check the waves and see if the tide is low enough for a walk.”
We walk along the cliff but she won’t let it go.
“Just let me hold it.”
“I won’t eat it I promise!”
“Just let me hold it for a little bit.”
“Just a little bit. I won’t eat it.”
“No! now don’t ask again!”
I keep walking and now she starts picking at my pant pocket try to get it. I keep moving to the side to thwart her advances but she’s really determined to get at that lollipop.
After a few more tries I swat her hand away and then stop dead in my tracks.
“Oh, you want this?”
I pull out the lollipop and show it to her.
“Here you go…go get it!”
I then throw the lollipop as hard as I can off the cliff. It makes a majestic arc and touches down lightly into the breaking surf.
“That’s what happens if you beg. Now you will never get to eat it.”
My daughter’s jaw is wide open in utter disbelief. I’ve never seen such a profound look of shock on her face.
“Ok, we’re going home now. We’re done.”
The whole ride home she doesn’t say a word. Total silence. After we get home she stays silent for a long time. Later on I break the ice and we have a long talk about what happened.
It’s been three years and she still remembers that day vividly. In fact it’s one of her favorite stories and she loves for me to tell it when we have company over. Go figure.
So did it help with begging? Yes.
However, I still have mixed feelings about it because my daughter really learned two lessons that day.
No means no, so don’t beg. Which is good.
And dad’s a wee bit crazy. Which is not so good.
File Under: How to Stop Your Child from Begging and to Start taking Your Decisions Seriously – An Unorthodox and Slightly Wacky Way to Teach a Child Not to Beg – Kid Won’t Stop Begging