Putting up with the pain of pester power
You’ve either seen it, commented on it, or been part of it. It’s pester power – the small child who wants something right now, and won’t take no for an answer. It usually ends in meltdown for either child or parent, and it’s commonly seen in shops and supermarkets across the UK.
The problem appears to be that items in shops these days scream out for attention. Brightly coloured packaging, catchy adverts and product placement on TV all catch a child’s eye. The world is full of things that your child would like, and the sparklier or noisier they are, the more they seem to get their attention. Even as adults we find ourselves tempted, so it’s hardly a surprise that our children are too. It’s just that they don’t yet have the life experience to control their temptations like we do, so imagine how frustrating that must be for them.
Of course, you could pack everything in and relocate your family to a remote island without TV or shopping malls, but that’s a little drastic, so let’s look at some ways to deal with those cries of “But I want it!”
1) Set boundaries
It’s normal behaviour for a child to test their boundaries, and in many cases, it’s how they start gaining their independence. Don’t feel bad by setting limits. By setting clear boundaries, you’re telling your child that you’re still the one in charge, and the one responsible for keeping them safe.
2) Find an alternative
The alternative doesn’t have to be another toy, or a smaller packet of sweets. Half an hour of colouring time with mummy, or the chance to help make dinner, can be just as much of a reward for some children.
3) Thinking time
Buy yourself some time by telling your child that you’ll think about it. It’s quite likely that by the time you’ve left the shop, the child will have moved on to think of something else, especially if you can lead conversation on to a different subject to take their mind off it.
4) Have an allocated time for treat purchases
If your child has pocket money or birthday money that they’re allowed to spend, choose a particular day to visit the shop when they can choose what they want. On any other day, remind them that they can look, add any desired item to a wish list, and come back on treat day to purchase it.
Before you leave home, offer your child a reward if they can get through the trip without pestering you for something. This way, you’re in control. Again, this is a great time to offer the alternative treat – a trip to the park, an ice lolly from the freezer, or a craft activity.
Remember that you’re up against a strong adversary. Manufacturers and retail outlets are motivated to get you to spend money, and they know all the psychological tricks in the book. They’ve invested heavily in the best way to tempt your child. It’s down to you to be stronger than their tactics, and make them, and your child, play the game your way.