7 Ways Parents Can Put an End to a Child's Pestering

Daughter pestering/begging mother
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“Please, Mom? Can we?” Those words repeated over and over again can wear down even the most resolute parent.

But whether your child is begging you to stay up an hour later or he's repeatedly pestering you to go to the playground, all kids pester their parents at one time or another.

The way you respond to pestering and begging is key. If you're not careful, you may inadvertently encourage it to continue.

If your child whines, begs and pesters until you can’t take it anymore, these discipline strategies can help you teach her that "no means no."​

1. Never Give In

Most kids learn from a young age that annoying their parents into submission is one of the best weapons they have. But, each time you cave into your child's pleading, you'll reinforce that pestering is a good way to get what she wants.

Make it clear to your child that pestering won’t work. If you’ve said no, tell her that begging won't change your mind. Going back on your word will only increase behavior problems over the long-term.

2. Stay Calm

Losing your cool reinforces to your child that she has the power to upset you. The more frustrated you become, the more likely you’ll be to blow up or say something you regret.

Take some deep breaths, walk away, or repeat positive affirmations. These actions are just a few ways to stay calm when your child misbehaves.

3. Ignore the Ongoing Protests

Ignoring attention-seeking behavior is one of the best ways to stop annoying habits. Simply, turn away and don’t give your child any attention as long as she’s pestering you. When she realizes that her attempts to gain attention aren't effective, she'll eventually give up.

Sometimes, behavior problems get worse before they get better. This is especially true when you withdraw your attention. So don’t be surprised if your child raises her voice or becomes more frantic to gain your attention.

If she's upset by the fact that you're not responding, take it as proof that ignoring her is an effective deterrent—she’s not getting your attention and she's working harder to get you to notice. Eventually, she'll grow tired when her efforts aren't successful.

4. Provide a Single Warning

If your child’s behavior crosses the line into something you can’t ignore—like she’s yelling loudly in a public place or she begins grabbing onto your clothing—provide one warning. Use an "if...then statement" and be prepared to follow through.

Try saying something like, “If you don’t stop yelling, then we will leave without the item you asked to get." Just make sure you pick a consequence that you're prepared to use. 

5. Follow Through With a Consequence

If your child doesn’t comply, follow through with a negative consequence. Don't offer repeated warnings or insist that you're serious.

Instead, place her in time-out, take away a privilege, or use a logical consequence. Make it clear that when pestering crosses the line, it won’t be tolerated.

6. Be Consistent With Your Discipline

Consistency is key to extinguishing nagging and pestering. If you give in on days when you're tired or when you're frustrated, you'll undo your efforts.

Each time you give in, your child learns that pestering is effective. And she'll be more likely to pester more often and she'll pester you longer. Make sure that you approach the behavior the same way each time, regardless of what kind of mood you're in.

7. Teach Your Child Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Kids pester parents for two main reasons—they want to get their way and they don’t want to feel bad. So in an effort to avoid feeling sad or disappointed, a child may pester you to get you to do whatever they want.

Teach your child how to deal with uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, sadness, and anger. Emotion regulation is an important skill that will serve your child well in life.

Proactively teach your child healthy coping skills that will help them manage their feelings in a socially acceptable manner. For example, teach them to color pictures when they feel sad or teach them to write in a journal when they're upset. Once they're better able to control their feelings, they'll be less frantic about trying to control other people's behavior.

Prevent Whining, Pestering, and Begging

If your child has a bad habit of whining, pestering, and begging, you may want to take a step and look at your overall parenting practices. Take steps to foster gratitude and teach your child to be grateful for what she has. Then, she'll be less likely to insist she always needs more.

Also, make it a habit to talk about needs versus wants. When she understands that while food is a need, ice cream is a want. Make it clear that she can live without a lot of wants and pestering and begging won't change that.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.