How to tackle pester power?

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Parenting columnist Ian Munro has a few ways on how to deal with pestering.

How did you manage Easter? By that I mean the pestering for the eggs. And now the school holidays when the pressure's likely to be on again ... "I'm bored. Why can't we ...?''

Then there's Christmas, Halloween, fireworks, a range of birthday parties, foods, toys, supermarket checkouts, peer pressure, events, fads and fashions to be negotiated.

Pester power. The combination of whining children and parental guilt is very effective in getting the plastic swiping for the commercial sector. And they know how to manipulate it.

How do you say "no''? How do you explain that your purse or wallet is not bottomless and your plastic has limits?

Firstly, children need to be taught the value of money; that you have "x'' amount of dollars to spend and then spending stops. Of course, if you also succumb to the adult version of "pester power'' - peer pressure and status - then your own example may undermine your lessons.

Secondly, if you inevitably give in after a concerted attack then the attacks will continue. If you say "no'', mean it. A youngster has little to lose by keeping on at you and a lot to gain when you eventually relent to shut them up.

Thirdly, when you say "no'', explain why. They mightn't want to hear and may want to debate the point. Be firm. Give your reason and leave it. Don't debate as nine times out of 10 they'll "out-lawyer'' you.

Eventually they get the message, although if they're already used to getting their own way, they may well try several different approaches before backing off, or before something else takes their attention.

Fourthly, the latter is often what happens. Much of what they must have now is a passing craze, something specifically designed to make money quickly before fading.

Fifthly, if you say "no'' ensure that their other parent is in the picture and in agreement. Don't let them play one of you off against the other.

Sixthly, be focused when you take the children shopping. Know what you want, where you want to go, what you intend to avoid. If you are inadvertently put on the spot, try stalling with: "I'll think about it.'' But then you will have to do this.

Finally, in some cases a compromise might be in order. Older children may be in a position to earn money to pay the difference, for example, between the "non-label'' version and the "label'' version.

A lack of pestering makes both sides happy. Children who are used to getting what they want through pestering, always want something more.

When they get used to waiting for non-essentials, they're usually more appreciated and more special.


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