Dealing with pester power

6min read

It can be tough when your child keeps demanding things they want, especially when they see their friends with new toys or clothes. Knowing how to manage their expectations, reduce this type of behaviour and help them to understand the value of money can relieve a lot of stress.

Key Points:

  • Set clear boundaries and ground rules so children know what to expect
  • Give praise and positive rewards when children are helpful
  • Help children to understand the value of money and help them to save for bigger items

Pestering and why children do it

Pestering is when children repeatedly ask for something in a challenging way. Younger children can be attracted to toys, sweets and fast food when out shopping and are easily influenced by clever marketing. Older children and teenagers can feel pressured by their peers and want to fit in, often wanting the latest fashion and electronic items and to go to parties, festivals and sleepovers.

It can be hard to say no and hold firm, and it’s easy to feel pressured in the moment, but if you give in, your child will learn that pestering works.

Minimising the demands

Set some boundaries and rules before you go shopping so children know what to expect. You could let them choose a couple of items such as the family’s cereal or a dessert so they feel they have had a say in the buying. Stay consistent and strong and try to remain calm.

Offer lots of positive praise and attention when your children behave well at the shops and remember not to pester you. You could think about offering non-material rewards such as spending time together with a family movie night or a trip to the park. Try to limit the amount of advertising in your home through all types of media. 

Help children to understand the value of money and encourage them to save up birthday, Christmas and pocket money for bigger items. You could suggest your child saves their pocket money for so many weeks, then you will match the amount saved to buy what they are hoping for.

Talk to teenagers about finding ways to earn money such as babysitting, washing neighbours cars and paper rounds plus part-time jobs when they are old enough. Help them to set up a savings account with a debit card and show them how they can keep track of spending and budgeting.

When teens are pestering you to go out to parties and sleepovers and wanting to stay out late, try to talk through with them beforehand what your expectations are and be prepared to negotiate and compromise with them.

How to respond to pester power and stay strong

Remind your child of the boundaries and rules you discussed with them.

No means no. Stay firm and don’t give in or you will be giving your child the message that pestering works.

Try to stay calm and give a clear explanation why they can’t have what they’re asking for.

If your child is disappointed, try to give empathy and focus on the positives, such as reminding them of how close they are to saving for the item they want.

If younger children start becoming distressed when you say no, try to distract them with something else, i.e. have some small toys and games handy or point out an item you need to buy and encourage them to help you choose. 

If you find yourself feeling flustered, stop and take a moment to take a few deep breaths before responding to your child. With teenagers, it can help to let them know you need some time to think about their requests and come back to them when you’ve had time to consider or talk things through.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.

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