Pester Power

Here’s how to handle your child’s classic case of “I waaaaaant!” and “Gimme! Gimme!”

Pester Power

“Pester power” is a marketing term that refers to a children’s ability to persuade their parents to purchase items they otherwise would not buy. According to studies, today’s kids have more autonomy and decision-making power within the family than kids in previous generations. Consequently, today’s kids are more vocal about the products they want their parents to buy.

Fancy A Dash Of Guilt To Go With The Nag?

According to the marketing book Kidfluence: Why Kids Today Mean Big Business by Anne Sutherland and Beth Thompson, kids use their “pester power” in two (2) ways:

  • Persistence Nagging. The child wears down her parents with a plea that is repeated over and over again to buy that special item.
  • Importance Nagging. This “tugs at the heart” and appeals to the parent’s desire to provide the best for their children. Kids may play on their parents’ guilt about not spending enough quality time with them.

Blame The Brain

Nagging for few things is usually manifested in kids aged 5 or 6. Younger kids do not usually care about how much a toy costs. As long as they are playing with something, they are happy.

Kid consumers, especially those below age 7 or 8, are easy targets because they aren’t aware that the intent of advertising is to get them to buy things. Until they are at least 6 years old, children don’t develop the cognitive capacity (known as “Theory of Mind”) to see that other people have their own beliefs, desires, mental states, and motives. Hence, they tend to take advertised claims about a product literally.

Developing brand loyalty is done subconsciously. According to a study done by the Center for a New American Dream, babies as young as 6 months can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots. Brand loyalties can be established as early as age 2, and by the time children head off to school, most can recognize hundreds of brand logos.

Why They Gotta Have ‘Em

There are three reasons behind kiddie demands: media, peers, and yes, even parents.

1. Media. Up to age 4 or 5, kids can’t spot the difference between advertising and regular programming. They watch commercials and TV shows with equal attention. Commercials aimed at this group often associate the product with fun and happiness, rather than talk about product facts. So, if kids see an ad for a new toy or a new food product, they feel that they have to buy it becuase it will make them “cool”. Toy tie-ups with hit movies or TV shows are even hotter tickets for preschoolers. They feel happy or excited if they are wearing a T-shirt of their favorite cartoon character.

2. Peers. Kids want what their friends or classmates have. They feel that they belong to a group if they have what the group also possesses. One teacher shared a story, “One day, I asked the students to bring their favorite toys to school and they were so excited. But the next day, parents told us na nagpapabili na ‘yung mga kids nila ng new toys because their classmates had them. A child even asked his mother to buy him a particular toy that very. day.”

3. Parents. Minsan, ginagawang bribe ng parents ‘yung toys so their kids will behave well or be motivated to strive for high grades in school. This creates a desire in the child to constantly own new things. Sometimes what the child wants is far too impractical.

Some parents simply cave in when their child throws a tantrum in public to get a new toy. It may seem easier to just give in para matahimik na, ‘di ba? But if you do, your child will conclude that throwing tantrums works, and will do so the net time he sets his eyes on something new.

With more purchasing power given to kids nowadays, experts advise parents to inculcate the correct consumer habits in their kids during their formative years. Otherwise, it will be hard to correct misguided consumer behavior later on. Do not underestimate your children. If you explain to them clearly why they cannot have a certain item, they can understand why.

  • Help your child determine whether or not she really needs the toy. Explain to your child that shopping is not a hobby. It is something we do when we need something important. Remind her of the times she went ballistic over a certain item then simply didn’t want to play with it anymore one day.
  • Acknowledge the desire. In children’s minds, a fancy dancing doll or a pair of cool new sneakers is a way for them to fit in with their friends or impress their classmates. Try not to be flippant when you say no, yet careful in acknowledging their desire for an object. Say, “Yes, that does look like a good pair of shoes,” while preparing them for possible disappointment, “But your sneakers now haven’t worn out yet. We need to spend on things that you really need. Maybe next time, when we have extra cash.”
  • Stay firm. Sometimes, it is hard to say no, but you have to stay firm. If your child finds that a particular tactic works, uulitin niya iyon, and you will get stuck with a whining child every time you set foot in a mall. He has to learn the value of waiting or working for something he wants.
  • Help them earn the item they want to buy. Giving children a few extra pesos for doing simple chores like cleaning their room or helping groom the dog trains them to work for something they want. With kids who aren’t in school yet, you have to set a specific goal — like when their money reaches a certain amount, they can buy the toy they want. That way, children see where the money they’ve earned is going.
  • Show the other side of life. Bring your child to places such as an orphanage where kids don’t have the privilege of owning toys. Let her share her old toys to help her appreciate what she has.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher about her new toy craving. Your child’s teacher can help reinforce the lesson you are trying to teach. Kapag naisip ng bata na kay mommy hindi puwede, and kay teacher hindi rin puwede, hindi nga talaga puwede.
  • Spend more quality time with your child. This will cut down on your guilt and dramatically lessen your child’s demands for toys.


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