Research shows that children influence purchases like cars, vacations and electronics. And, of course, children influence food purchases.

  • Children influence food purchases proactively: One study shows kids put approximately 6 items in the cart.
  • Children influence food purchases by nagging: One study shows that some kids ask more than 50 times for particular products.

50 times? That’s one helluva parental headache!

Nagging comes in many guises, but it’s always a pain in the butt.

Kids nag by:

  • Repeatedly asking for items, whining, stomping feet, making fists, grunting.
  • Putting items in the shopping cart even when told, “no.”
  • Having an all-out tantrum.
  • Being manipulative, i.e. by professing love or hate for the mother, and by saying other children have the item.

You don’t have to take it. You can teach your way out of this problem. (After all, the chances are that you, inadvertently, taught your way into this problem.)

There are two ways to eliminate nagging:

  • Say “no” and mean it.
  • Say “yes.” (After all, if you’re going to say “yes” eventually you might as well say “yes” from the get-go and save yourself the fight.)

Don’t say no unless you mean it.

“No. No. No. Yes” actually encourages your kids to nag. They know that wearing you down is a strategy that works. They  just don’t know when it will work.

I can hear the protests now: “But my child continues to ask… even after I’ve said, ‘no!'” 

That’s also a strategy that kids learn. After you have said “no” once or twice—the second “no” is kind of like a short grace period— refuse to engage in the conversation (and I use the term conversation lightly).

  • “You’ve already asked and I’ve already answered. Asking again won’t change anything.”
  • “Even if I wanted to change my mind, now I can’t. I don’t want you to learn that nagging works.” (I LOVE this reply because it teaches the lesson explicitly.)

Then, ignore, distract, or use a time out. BUT, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, don’t ignore the intial request.

  • If you ignore the intial request you will promote nagging.
  • And don’t ignore your child without warning: “I’ve answered you and now I’m going to ignore your requests.”

Clarify the shopping rules before you get into the store.

Here are some ideas:

  • You may select one item to purchase that is not on my list.
  • You may (or may not) eat that item (or a piece of that item) while we are shopping.
  • If you nag me for a second item you will not get the first item.

And, afterwards, of course, “Thank you for behaving so well at the grocery store today.”

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Henry, H. K. M. and D. L. G. Borzekowski. 2011. “The Nag Factor: a Mixed-Methodology Study in the Us of Young Children’s Requests for Advertised Products.” Journal of Children and Media 5(3): 298-317.