You’re not alone if you have a child who is always asking you to buy them things! Kids ask for things all the time – not just once but sometimes dozens of times in one shopping trip. When ‘no’ doesn’t work, here’s how to respond constructively.
Why do kids always ask for things over and over?
Sometimes it feels as if kids are in constant repeat mode – endlessly asking for your time, attention, and, of course, for stuff! As a parent, it’s tiring and all too easy to let irritability get the better of you. Yet, understanding why kids keep asking long after you have said ‘no’ can help ease your frustration. Here’s what you need to know.
Firstly, kids of all ages are experts at what’s known as pester power. This is a child’s ability to pressure you into buying something by continuing to ask for it until you give in.
Five to seven-year-olds do it by simply getting over-excited when they see something they want and don’t understand why they can’t have it NOW, leading them to ask for it repeatedly.
On the other hand, elementary-aged kids have learned via their school friendships to use pester power to cleverly negotiate and argue for the things they want. They aim to wear you down with their negotiations.
Teens take this method one step further and use pester power with more sophisticated arguments that play on your emotions – like guilt.
Luckily, in the face of this onslaught of asking and wanting and needing, there are things you can do to diffuse the situation.
What to do and say when your kids constantly ask for stuff
Let your child know the rules about asking for things before you start shopping. This will reduce the number of times you need to say no. If they ask for something, say you understand but explain that none of us can always have what we want as money needs to be prioritized.
Listen to what they are saying
Always listen when your child asks for something (even if you are irritated), as this does two things. Firstly, it shows them that you have heard their request. And secondly, it stops them from asking the question repeatedly, thinking that you haven’t understood what they want.
Don’t rush into an answer
Easier said than done, we know, but stopping before you say no, gives your child the signal that you are considering what they have said and are taking the request seriously.
Talk about wants vs needs
Kids (no matter what age) always have trouble distinguishing between their wants and needs, so they often need you to remind them that money is limited and you have to prioritize the things you need – food and clothes, over the things they want.
How to say no to kids always asking for stuff in a way that sticks
Give your child clear signals. If you mean no, then be definite about it so your kid understands you mean what you are saying. Giving in after you have said no, or when they cry or scream, shows them your no is always up for debate.
Tell them why you’re saying no. Always give a clear reason. It could be something as simple as, "We don’t have money for that today."
Don’t feel guilty. As a parent, we want to give our children everything, but no’s are good for a child’s development as it teaches them that they can’t always have what they want.
Offer an alternative to work towards, such as, "I won’t buy you that today but when you get your allowance on Saturday, you can buy it."
Teach your child delayed gratification. Showing your child that postponing immediate gain in favor of a later reward helps them regulate their impulse control.
Show them how to save as a kid and build a plan to get what they want. If it’s a big-ticket item, talk about setting up a savings goal that will get them closer to what they want week by week.
How to stop kids from constantly asking for stuff
Set some ground rules. Make sure your kids know the rules for asking for things. This should help reduce the number of times you have to say no. For instance, before heading out, tell your kids that they can have a snack when they get home from the store or ‘don’t ask for anything while we are out.’
Give them a regular allowance. This is a powerful way to stop kids from asking for stuff, as it allows them to spend and save their own money and decide what’s important. This, in turn, helps to teach them the value of money.
Have conversions about wants vs needs. All kids, even teens, get confused about wants and needs, mixing the two up and feeling that their wants are their needs. The more you can talk to them about this subject, with real-world examples, the better they will understand.
Help them set savings goals. Get clear on how much your child should save too. Getting them to save for what they want helps them think about whether they really want it.
Help them improve their financial education so they stay on track. The more you talk to your child (in an age-appropriate way) about saving, spending, and financial priorities, the easier it becomes for them to understand why we can’t always have the things we want in life.
How GoHenry can help
GoHenry, the prepaid debit card for kids, is the best tool to use to help your child manage their allowance. Not only does it help them make their own decisions about buying and saving, but it also stops them from asking for stuff. Money Missions on the GoHenry app takes this further with quizzes and videos about everything from tracking spending to understanding savings goals, budgeting, and delaying gratification.