Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pester power

How to deal with the child that doesn’t stop nagging
Last weekend my family attended a local market which featured a large number of stalls selling baby items, girl’s accessories (hair clips, jewellery, etc) and toys, as well as the general bric-a-brac, antiques, plants, homemade cakes and so on.
Now before we had even got to the first stall on site, my six-year-old asked: “Can you buy me something please Mummy?”
My pitiful response was: “We’ll see”.
I say pitiful because it was all I could think of without using the “n” word, which I tend to use a lot these days with my cheeky toddler who loves nothing more than to eat playdough and draw pictures on the couch with a permanent marker.
But my response was not a lie because if I did spot something nice (and cheap) for my daughter, I would happily buy it for her.
So in we go browsing each stall and the nagging doesn’t stop. 
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“Mum, can you buy me something?”
“What do you want?” I reply, starting to feel agitated.
“I don’t know,” she ponders and points to random objects around us, “How about this? how about that?”
“No,” I say.
We’re standing at a stall selling antiques and I’m looking at knitting books from the 1960s that are sitting next to a Bessemer butter dish and ashtray.
Unless my daughter wants to take up knitting, baking or smoking (God forbid!), there is nothing here of interest to a six-year-old, but she is so keen for me to buy her something, she’ll take whatever she can get.
We continue on through the market and she continues asking me to buy her something. 
I tell her to stop asking, and that if I saw something suitable then I would think about it. But she doesn’t let up, and in the end, I can’t wait to leave and we both go home empty-handed. 
This is a classic case of pester power.
When a child is surrounded by desirable things at their eye level, it can be very hard to understand that pretty, shiny or yummy things are bad for you, or can’t be afforded. Why is Mum saying no when there are so many nice things here?

Pestering for some children is an effective way for children to get the things they want.
But pestering can create embarrassing and stressful situations for parents, particularly if a child has a tantrum in public, and this can really wear parents down to the point they end up giving in.
It’s also hard to say no when you want your child to be happy and you know that giving them what they want will bring instant gratification.
If a parent gives in to pestering, it sends the message that pestering and whining long enough will work and they will get what they want.
This power shift means that they will pester even more because they know it works.
Older children tend to pester a lot less than younger ones, but this is probably because they get better at asking for things and know how to get their parents to say yes.
Parents must teach their children that “no” means “no”, not “maybe”, so if you say no, be sure to mean it and stick to it.
However, even if parents simply said no all the time, the pestering doesn’t always go away.
But there are some strategies you can try to prevent it happening in the first place.
Before you go to a place that may set off the pestering, talk about what behaviour is expected and how’ll you’ll respond to any nagging. 
Praise your child for good behaviour and offer appropriate incentives such as a visit to the park or beach.
Make sure your child uses their manners when asking for something, and don’t say yes or no until you’re happy with the way you’ve been asked.
Be sure to listen to your child. If they have asked politely, take the time to understand what they are asking, show them that you have heard and understood.
Try not to say no immediately. Pausing briefly to think about your response lets your child know that you are putting some thought into your decision and then they are more likely to accept it.
If you decide to say no, give your child a reason first to help them understand, such as “we don’t have time for a ride on the merry-go-round, we’ll do it next time”.
If your child has used their manners and is accepting of your decision, give them lots of praise and perhaps offer an alternative. For example, “I don’t have enough money to buy that book, so let’s go to the library and see if it is there for us to borrow”.
Be aware of how much advertising your children are exposed to. Much of it is directed at your child, so if they don’t see it, the they are less likely to want it.
If your child does have a tantrum in a public place, don’t give in, stay calm and forget about anyone who is watching. It’s most likely they are full of sympathy as they’ve been through it all with their child too.


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