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4 Secrets for Raising Children Who Don’t Pester

4 Secrets For Raising Kids Who Don't Pestera

In the comments on a recent post, Vicki left this request:

Can you please write something about combating pester power in children? How do you teach them to live in a very consumerist society? My 4 year old is already asking for toys he sees in shops.

calico critter grandparents

I had to think about this for a bit, and at first I thought maybe we hadn’t really done anything to combat pester power.

But I think most of what we’ve done has been a little bit behind-the-scenes, and it’s really about the culture in our home and the expectations that exist in our family.

calico critter supermarket

So.   Here are four tips that have helped us limit pestering in our family.

1) We rarely buy non-essentials for our kids outside of special occasions.

We take care of our children’s needs, certainly…they have always been clothed and fed and provided for.

And given that they’re not eating beans and rice three times a day, and that they aren’t wearing bottom-of-the-barrel clothing, I’d say that some of their wants are covered under the “needs” umbrella as well.

But when it comes things that are seriously non-essential (toys, electronics, jewelry, fancy body care items, hobby items), we do not, as a rule, buy them for our kids outside of gift-giving occasions.

This doesn’t mean they live a life of no luxuries. Birthdays come once a year, and so does Christmas, and they receive gifts from us, from siblings, and from grandparents.

birthday presesnts in bags

Plus, if they want something, they always have the option of saving up their money to buy it for themselves.

Sometimes, especially now that we aren’t living on such a low income, we will surprise them and buy them something out of the blue.   But because they know that that’s not the norm in our family, they know not to ask or expect us buy things they want whenever they want them.

Setting this expectation early is the easiest way to go.   If your children have always known that you don’t just randomly buy stuff for them whenever they ask, the pestering will certainly be reduced.

2) We do not say yes to pestering.

Children have really great memories for some things. They have difficulty remembering to do chores, to be sure, but if you say yes as a result of pestering one time, they will remember it for AGES, and they will keep on trying to see if they can break you down.

Calico Critter dentist set

So, if you’ve been saying yes after being pestered, stop now, and stay strong. You won’t be doing yourself or your child any favors by responding favorably to pestering.

I’m not saying you can never buy something for your child, but don’t ever do it as a result of being pestered.

3) We are not afraid to say no, even to polite asking.

Pestering always equals a no answer, but even polite asking doesn’t need to guarantee a yes.

If our kids asked us for something when they were younger, we would say, “Oh, that is a cool gidget! You could put it on your birthday/Christmas wishlist.   Or maybe you could save your money to buy it.”

hamster calculations

(Sonia’s “Can I afford a hamster?” calculation sheet.)

No one wants to make their children sad, of course, but children do need to learn that they can’t have everything they want right away, even IF they ask nicely.   They need to learn how to wait for items, and how to patiently save until they have enough money.

Giving them whatever they want whenever they ask for it is a poor way of preparing them for adulthood because the hard truth is that few of us can have whatever we want whenever we want it!

I figure they might as well get used to that reality of life while they’re little.

4) We try to model waiting/saving.

When Mr. FG and I were living on a super lean budget, there was very little wiggle room for fun purchases, so we had to save up extra bits of money or wait for birthdays/Christmas.

pennies for coinstar

And even now that we have more wiggle room, we still try to be wise about non-essential purchases.

For instance, if Mr. FG wants a guitar pedal or some other non-essential, he considers whether he has enough money in his “fun money” account, and then decides whether or not to make the purchase.


I realize that some of you might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, man! It must stink to live in such a joyless household.”

But oddly enough, I actually think that operating this way makes our household more pleasant.

Zoe and FG

A lack of pestering = happier parents.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that pestering is miserable to listen to.

And a lack of pestering = happier children.

I don’t think children are actually happy deep down when they’re pestering, and children who are accustomed to getting what they want are rarely happy even when they do get what they ask for.

But when a child who is accustomed to waiting does finally buy or receive a desired item, there’s a great deal of joy involved. When you don’t get non-essentials on a regular basis, they are automatically more special.

opening birthday presents

Plus, my children all say that they feel a sense of pride and satisfaction when they save up and buy something with their own money, and I think that’s worth a lot!


I know we have lots of experienced parents in our midst here, so, would you all help Vicki out by sharing what’s helped you to curb pestering in your home?

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Jo's Country Junction

Friday 7th of April 2017



Saturday 23rd of April 2016

I have always given my children boundaries. I won't say they don't ever get special items unless it is a special occasion. On occasion I used going to pick out a special toy as a reward. In the grocery we follow a list. If they acted up then they stayed at home the next time and since going to the grocery usually involved a trip into town, a picnic and visit to the playground they just didn't act up. They also got to pick item at the store: cereal, snack, and lunch items. I made it easier for them to make choices for later. We always have crafting items and art supplies. At Christmas they get 4 presents and a pair of PJ's. Less "stuff" was also accomplished by rotating toys. What is old is new again.


Thursday 21st of April 2016

I totally agree with you. :)

Oddly enough when our budget was tighter, when the older kids were little, we bought more wants than we should have which was not a good thing.

I took my friends little girl to the zoo today and she wanted something and I said "Do you have your allowance? No, well it looks fun, but not today." She was really good about it and moved on.


Thursday 21st of April 2016

Kids pester for the same reason that adults play slot machines. Sure, you might lose most of the time, but every once in a while you might get lucky and hit the JACKPOT.

So my advice is to keep the NOs coming. Then the game just isn't much fun.


Thursday 21st of April 2016

Thankyou so much for responding to my original comment. And thanks for all the great tips added by everyone in this comments. Some great advice.

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