Kids want a lot of things. Sometimes because they really like them, and sometimes because everyone else has them. Does that mean they really need all those things? More importantly, will having those things make their lives better and their childhood happier? Most of the times, it won’t, and parents are the ones who have to recognize that difference. Giving your kids everything they want can lead to them never learning the difference between wanting and needing something. It can speed up their childhood in various ways – from 6-year olds playing video games to 13-year old girls shopping at Victoria Secret. So, how can you prevent this – by learning how to say “NO” when you realize that “YES” would only be unproductive and harmful.

Start from Yourself

Children look up to their parents, and before you start criticizing them over their unrealistic desires, stop to think if you gave them a reason to think it is normal to get everything you want. So ask yourself, do you often buy things you don’t need, do you envy the lifestyles of celebrities, are you unable to control how much you spend when shopping, do you use shopping as a means of escape, do you use your stuff to impress others, do you speak often about the material things you want?

Differentiate Wants from Needs

Differentiating wanting from needing is just as important for adults as it is for children, only in the latter case, you have to make that difference for them (especially in their early age). They really need a roof over their heads, food, school supplies and clothes. Toys and the latest technology fads are a bit lower on the priority list. Even the first category has its variations. Although they really need clothes, they don’t need to have the most expensive ones. You should search for quality pieces and dresses at low price, instead of chasing for famous brands.

Show Understanding

You have to understand that wanting something they don’t need doesn’t make kids greedy and materialistic. Kids use those toys and commercial goods to bond with each other and ease their socialization. Toys, technology and commercial experiences (movies, video games, TV shows etc.) make them part of the world they are living in, so don’t rush to label your child as rapacious.

A Proper Way to Respond to Requests

It doesn’t matter if you want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to your children’s requests, you still have to listen to them, and pay special attention to the way they formulated their question. If the question is polite, praise them for their good manners; if not, tell them they should ask in a nicer way. Take a few moments to understand what they’re asking for and why, and show some empathy (“I can see why you would want that”). Take a brief pause to think about the request and only then make your decision.

How to Say No?

If your answer is ‘no’, you need to explain why you have made such a decision. It can be hard seeing your kid disappointed, but you should never turn ‘no’ into a ‘maybe’ because of a sad face. Stick to your decision or else you will have problems every time you face such demands. Offering a fair trade is a neat way to avoid tantrums, while still not compromising your decision. Maybe you can’t buy chocolate cake in the store, but you can make some brownies at home.

Prevention Is the Best Cure

‘No’ is a hard thing to say and even harder to hear. Solve that by reducing the need to answer kids’ questions with ‘no’. Set some ground rules, such as talking to kids prior to shopping (e.g. you can choose two items, but you can’t ask for the ones with two or more figures on the price tag). You can also try to negotiate. For example, “I can’t buy the big robot, but how about this book about robots?”

Children might be whining and craving for new iPads, talking dolls and sparkly stuff, but deep down, they are actually hungry for something that goes beyond material – love, attention and understanding.

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Tracey-ClaytonTracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She feels she knows a thing or two about raising happy, healthy and confident kids, and offers helpful advice in hers parenting articles. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”

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