A puppy-shaped purse. A personal fan. A toy cat that meows like a real cat…because I guess having three cats in your house isn’t enough?
These are all things that my kids have seen while we were running errands in various stores, and they insisted they just had to own them.
What do I mean by “insisted”? The sales pitch typically starts with whining, progresses to pouting, and sometimes crescendoes with truly spectacular temper tantrums. In those moments, it feels like my child always wants to buy something, and I worry that I’m raising entitled kids.
But thanks to one simple parenting trick, we no longer have to expend Herculean effort to escape a store without our child whining or begging for us to buy something.
What’s the Big Deal, Anyway?
This isn’t just a case of not wanting to listen to my kid whining. This solution is a simple way to give my child practice with something important.
Because as it turns out, a child’s ability to self-regulate – resist impulses, control emotions, and so on – is actually a bigger predictor of success in school than the child’s IQ. Plus, children who can control their impulses turn into adults who are healthier and have greater financial stability.
By teaching my child how to keep her impulses in check, I’m setting her up for a life of success and financial security, which I’m sure she’ll use to put me in the bestest, poshest old person’s home that money can buy.
A 3-Step Fix For When Your Child Always Wants to Buy Something
When one of our kids asks for something at a store, this is our surefire process to avoid a meltdown. If you feel like your child always wants to buy something, here’s what you do:
- Acknowledge the desire. This could be as simple as saying, “Yeah, that Crazy Cat Lady action figure† is really cool.” When I forget this step, the whole solution doesn’t work as well. (And hey, I have absolutely zero idea what I’d do with these egg holders I always see in Anthropologie, but my desire to own them has infiltrated every fiber of my soul. So I really do get it, kiddo.)
- Ask this question. “Do you want me to add it to your wish list?” This transforms the focus of the moment from wanting something RIGHT NOW to evaluating whether it’s something on par with the things on her birthday and Christmas wish list.
- Honor the answer. If she says yes, I pull out my phone, open the notes app, and add that thing to her running wish list right then and there. No matter how ridiculous that thing may be. Bacon band-aids? Of course! Who wouldn’t want those?
And that’s it!
Not only do we head off whining at the pass, we have a ready-made wish list when grandparents need gift ideas.
One Important Rule for Parents
Maybe this goes without saying, but an important part of this equation is: When your child always wants to buy something, don’t buy what they’re asking for.
Sure, it’s fun to see that look of joy on their grubby little face, but you’re actually confusing the heck out of your kid. They’ll continue asking for stuff because that one time, they asked and you got it for them. They won’t understand why this time you’re being such a meanie, so they’ll ramp up their efforts to convince you.
If you really want to surprise your kid, do it in a day or two. Let the moment of impulse pass – for your child and you.
But That’s Not the Best Part
Every month or two, we review the list with the kids. They see the toys they wanted on a whim right alongside their biggest desires like a new bike or a family trip to the beach. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to talk about how if you spend all your money on little stuff, you won’t be able to save enough for your big goals like vacations.
In almost every case, the kids change their minds and say they don’t want the impulse toys on their wish list anymore.
Which is awesome.
Because we don’t end up spending money on junky toys that will just end up as clutter in our kids’ rooms, and our kids learn the important life skill of impulse control.
Before You Go: A Disclaimer
In full disclosure, this trick doesn’t prevent begging every single time. But about 95 percent of the time, it works like a charm.
For the deepest of desires (those adorable egg trays will be mine!), you may have to use another parenting tip from your toolbox.
Here are a few expert-recommended tricks that work well for us: 7 Surefire Ways to Get Your Kid to Stop Whining.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What’s your best trick for when your child always wants to buy something? Share in a comment below!