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Pester Power: The Art of Negotiation

Children are born negotiators. They learn early on that with a little persistence (and pestering) they can eventually wear down their parent’s resolve. “Pester Power” is the power children have to repeatedly make requests until their parents give them what they want. Whether it’s cake for breakfast or wanting to go to a friend’s house, left unchecked, constant pestering can eventually lead to stress, negative feelings, and a change in you and your child’s relationship.


While you can’t stop them from asking you for something over and over, “pestering” you all the time, there are positive parenting techniques you can try to reduce the amount of negotiating you have to do.

Setting Clear Guidelines

Clear guidelines help kids learn about safety and limits, and can also help children build their self-esteem and feel secure. If you are having regular struggles with, say, bedtime, wanting treats before dinner, having upsets when play dates are over or more, try putting in place clear guidelines and reviewing them before the event is likely to occur. For example:

  • For older children who can read, write the rules on a chart and hang it up where it can be easily and frequently seen. Make the chart bright and colorful and use humor.
  • For children who don’t read yet, use pictures.
  • Use positive and specific language. Instead of “No you cannot stay up for 15 more minutes,” try, “Getting ready for bed is in 15 minutes. It will be time to brush your teeth, put on your jammies, and then we will read a book together.”
  • Give warnings: Many children struggle when it’s time to transition into a new activity, such as leaving a play date, going to bed, leaving for school. “In 20 minutes, the play date will be over and we will need to go home.” Give another at the 10-minute mark, “10 minutes until we head home. Remember our agreement about leaving play dates: When time’s up, we pack up our things and say goodbye to our friends.” Some children need another warning at the 5- and 2-minute marks in order to be more willing to cooperate.

To read the complete article, visit lanekids.org.




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