Ever had trouble at the toy store, saying no to the toy your daughter pleaded for, with tears in her eyes? Or cringed in embarrassment when your son screamed for ice cream in the supermarket? Do not fret – you are not alone, thousands of young parents face these situations. Read on to equip yourself with tips to deal with pestering in children.
What is pestering? Why do children pester?
Pestering means that a child will constantly ask a parent for something he wants until the parent gives in. Though it happens at home quite frequently (demands for untimely snacks, extensions of television
time), the most problematic situations for parents are those that happen outside home, in full public view.
It is useful to examine why a child resorts to such behaviour. For a child, the world is a new and unexplored place. When he sets his eyes on something desirable in a shop, he immediately wants it. This is because, in children below the age of six, the skill to delay gratification (to resist temptation
of an immediate reward and wait for a later reward) is still developing.
Sometimes, the child may feel that he is not getting enough attention from parents, or may feel side lined by siblings. In such cases, the child may resort to pestering as a means of attracting attention to himself.
Should pestering be discouraged?
Yes. However, understanding why your child pesters does not mean that you give in! In fact, you may be doing real harm that way. When parents give in to pestering, the child will feel encouraged
to repeat the behaviour, thus setting up a pattern that is difficult to correct later. When the parent lets the child negotiate or threaten him, it leaves the parent feeling used and manipulated; which is not a
healthy sign in a parent-child relationship. Even more worrisome, is that the child may use pestering in other relationships, with adults at school and peers, damaging those relationships too.
Besides, children should also learn that one does not get everything that one desires; and that sometimes, what appears interesting and a must-have, does not, at a later date seem as enticing.
Different kinds of pestering
- Yelling, kicking, screaming
- Sulking or crying
- Saying “Please! Please! Please!”
- Threatening or negotiating
Tips to tackle pestering
Before you head out for shopping, tell the child what the planned purchases are. Give a healthy, small snack before you take him grocery shopping. Discuss the sort of behaviour you expect from him. Be firm and show that you are serious.
If the child behaves well at the shopping centre, then praise him: “I’m very proud of the way you behaved while we were shopping!” Once the child realises that he gets attention with positive behaviour, the instances of pestering reduce in number.