What is pester power & how to deal with it?

What is pester power & how to deal with it?

We've all been there, losing our will to live while shopping with a child constantly begging for toys, sweets or snacks. Pester power is the bane of many a parent's life, but you can manage it and even make it work in your favour. Here's how to respond when kids always ask for stuff.


What is pester power

Pester power refers to children’s ability to pressurise parents into buying them products, especially items advertised in the media, by asking for things repeatedly. Their constant nagging not only wears us down until we give in, but also manipulates parents into allowing behaviour they wouldn’t usually tolerate. 


Why do children pester?


Children pester for several reasons. Firstly, they learn from a young age that they can usually get what they want by nagging persistently. Secondly, children pester because they find it hard to delay gratification. So if they want something, they want it now and make a concerted effort to persuade parents to get it for them. 


If it's happening to you, you're not alone. A survey by Lambert, Plunkett, and Wotowiec found that "among children aged 12 to 17, a child will, on average, repeatedly request an item around nine times, until their parent gives in, with a. fraction of pre-adolescents asking more than 50 times for particular products.




Examples of pester power in different contexts

At the supermarket - when seeing sweets or small toys, kids know if they ask repeatedly, parents may give in just so they can have some peace while they get their shopping done. 


While watching TV - advertising encourages kids to feel they 'need' an item by creating a sense of urgency, hence constant pestering.


Online shopping - social media influencers, along with online ads and in-app marketing all contribute towards kids asking you to buy things they have seen.


Peer pressure - asking for items/brands their friends have and use, saying 'everyone has one' or feeling left out if they don't.


In a restaurant - when kids want to eat something unhealthy, and you want them to choose something more nutritious.


Wanting to go somewhere - teens often use pester power to convince parents to let them do something they aren't allowed to do, such as go to a party, stay out late, etc.

How to manage pester power

Pester power can be a challenge, but it is one that you can overcome by developing strategies and showing your child how to make wise choices.


Set boundaries

Let your child know what the boundaries are. For example, before you leave home, tell them they shouldn't ask you to buy them anything. Be clear about what items you mean, such as sweets, snacks, magazines and toys, and remind them of what you have said when they ask in-store.


Give them pocket money

Give your child their own money to save and spend. This is a great way to stop pester power. When a child asks for something, you can say, 'Why not use your pocket money to buy it'? This gives them the responsibility to choose whether they want the item.


Talk about advertising

Children/teens are constantly bombarded with advertising. So you need to explain what advertising is (online, in-store and on social media) and the tactics marketers use to make products seem desirable. 


Advertisers know how effective using children to advertise by proxy can be. Instead of bombarding parents with messaging, they show it to the child and allow them to do the pestering.




Create a reward system

This tactic works for all ages. For younger children, tie rewards to good behaviour, especially when you are out shopping. For older children, reward systems can be linked to chores and privileges. For example, you could offer to pay them for doing chores or allow them to stay up later if they do all their chores.


Educate kids about money & choices

Talk to your kids about family finances and give them a general understanding of how money works. Then, help them understand the difference between needs and wants and how to save for what they want so they can stop pestering you.


Be consistent in enforcing your rules

Hard as it is, be consistent about the rules. If you give in to your child once, they will learn that nagging works. So it's important not to give in, even if it's hard.


Explain your reasons for saying no

If your child asks why you are saying no, explain your reasons to them in a short, age-appropriate way. For instance, you can use pestering to discuss needs versus wants, "We need the bread and milk, but we only want the chocolate cake." This will help them to understand why you are making the decision.


Teach your child about the value of money

Allocating chores is a great way to teach your child the value of money. Helping them associate how much work they have to do to earn a certain amount of pocket money allows them to see the value of money when it comes to spending and asking for things.


Encourage your child to save up for things they want

When children learn to save money, they understand the value of delayed gratification and the importance of setting goals and working towards them. Learning to save money at a young age can also help children develop good financial habits that will last a lifetime. These habits can help them to avoid debt and build wealth in the future.


How can GoHenry help?

GoHenry is a prepaid kids’ debit card that can help in several ways. Not only does it give kids the independence to use a debit card in the real world, but it also helps them learn about the value of money and how to make smart financial decisions. It teaches them about money management and the importance of tracking their spending, and also allows them to set savings goals.




Written by Anita Naik Published Jan 8, 2024 ● 4 min. read