PARENTS

Should You Give In To Pester Power?

03/09/2012 17:07 | Updated 22 May 2015
Should you give in to pester power?Alamy

We've all been there: you get to the supermarket checkout and your kids start pestering you for sweets or comics. Maybe you dread the adverts on children's TV because they plead with you to buy the latest must-have toy. Or perhaps they beg to have the new trainers/video game/scooter so they can be just like their friends.

If you're tired, busy or just plain embarrassed by your child's loud, public demands, it can be hard not to give in to pester power.

But the Government's austerity measures mean that we've all had to tighten our belts and there just isn't as much spare cash for unplanned treats.

That said, some treats are relatively affordable and every parent knows that spending a couple of quid on a comic can buy you an hour or two's peace and quiet on a rainy afternoon and your child's immense gratitude - so it's worth every penny.

But while we all enjoy treating our kids when we can, sometimes you have to wonder if they have us wrapped round their little fingers.

According to the 2012 Kidfluence Report from Opinion Matters, in conjunction with First News, 43 per cent of kids say that they keep mentioning something if they really want it, with seven- year-olds being the worst offenders.

And their persistence pays off: 62 per cent of children say that, if they keep asking their parents for things, they will get their own way some of the time.

As a result, 29 per cent of parents say that their kids manipulate them - and the same amount admit that they give in to their children's demands too easily.

And although around half of parents give in because they want to reward their child, almost a quarter admit that guilt plays a part - usually because they worry that they don't spend as much time with them as they should.

"It's terrible, but I usually give in when I'm under the hammer," says Sally, a mum-of-two from Letchworth.

"Sometimes I need to buy myself a bit of peace and quiet, especially if I need to make a phone call. And if I've been working away, I'll always buy them a present when I get back home, to make up for it."

"I give in when I'm up to my eyes in stress," agrees Marina, a mum-of-two from London.

"But mostly I do it when I'm in a good mood, just because I feel like treating them. I'm much more inclined to treat them if they've been behaving themselves."

But are we making a rod for our own backs if we give in to their pestering?

"Whether or not to give in to pestering is a parent's decision to make, based on their values and their budget," says psychologist Dr Claire Halsey, co-author of Ask a Parenting Expert (Dorling Kindersley, £14.99).

"The most important thing is to stick to your guns - so take a minute to think about their request and, once you've said no, don't go back on it. If you give in later, you're just teaching them that persistence pays off."

Claire says that there's nothing wrong with rewarding children for good behaviour - but this doesn't mean that you should bribe them with expensive gifts.

"It's important that children work well and behave nicely for self-satisfaction rather than external rewards," she explains. "It's better to reward effort rather than achievement, but you can do this with a fun, family activity rather than a present."

"Alternatively, give them weekly pocket money so that they can save up for the things they want. This has the added benefit of teaching them to be responsible with money and helps them to understand how much these little treats really cost."

But she does have a few words of warning: you're asking for trouble if you only give in when you're having a bad day.

"It's only human to give in when we're feeling tired and distracted. It's no problem if you only do this occasionally, but if it becomes a habit you're establishing a destructive pattern.

"For some parents, public pestering is so embarrassing that they always give in. If this sounds like you, it's far better to give in straight away before the situation escalates.

"Better still, plan ahead and tell your children that you will let them choose some sweets at the end of the supermarket shop as long as they behave themselves.

"Pestering for bigger things requires some negotiation. Encourage them to start a birthday or Christmas list or get them involved in chores so that they can 'earn' the money to pay for things themselves. This helps children to learn that they can get what they want in a planned way, without resorting to pestering or tantrums."

This is the tactic that Anita, from North London favours. She says: "I don't tend to give in, but fob them off by telling them to put it on their birthday list. In most cases, they have forgotten about it by the time their birthday comes around. If they haven't, then I know that they really want it."

But before you say no to the latest over-priced battery-operated toy or logo-heavy T-shirt, take a minute to think about things from your child's perspective.

"Sometimes it's important to enter your child's world and try to see through their eyes," says Dr Halsey. "It's perfectly natural for them to want to fit in with their friends and going some way to helping them to do that is a good thing.

"Just don't feel that you have to give in every time they ask for something new."

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