Most children are demanding in one way or another, especially when they’re still learning about the world. They want what they want, and if they don’t get it, tantrums often follow. Some kids are more demanding than others, though. Their demands can become repetitive (“I want a drink!” “I want a snack!” “I need a hug!”) or unreasonable (“Let me play on your phone!” “Give me the keys to the car!”). Coping with a demanding child isn’t easy.
What causes some children to be more demanding than others? Often, it comes down to temperament. Some children tend to be more intense and sensitive than others. They may have a harder time regulating their emotions and may be more prone to anxiety and frustration.
In addition, kids who are used to getting what they want may develop a habit of making demands that aren’t easy to break. If you give in to your child when she demands candy at the checkout counter or insists on playing with your phone at dinner, she’s going to keep doing it — even if she knows that her demands make you angry.
Types of demands
There are two types of demand. One is the “everyday” kind, like the need for food or water. The other type is when your child wants something he doesn’t actually need, like a toy or a treat.
The latter can be tricky to manage and it’s important to find a way to meet your child’s demands while maintaining discipline and setting boundaries.
The main thing to remember is that demands are just a part of being a child. Kids are self-centered and have no idea how their behavior affects other people. They’re just doing what comes naturally, so try not to take your child’s demands personally.
Having a demanding child can be draining. One of the biggest challenges can be that we don’t know how to respond effectively to our child’s demands.
Dealing with a demanding child
When we don’t know what to do, we might respond in a way that unintentionally reinforces our child’s challenging behavior. For example, if we immediately give in to our child’s demands because it’s easier than arguing with them, or because it stops them from getting upset or worse, we run the risk of teaching our child that this is an effective way to get what they want.
On the other hand, responding firmly and setting clear limits without giving in might make things worse in the short term – for example, your child might get more upset. But it will help your child understand that there are limits to what they can have or do. This will also help them learn important coping skills for dealing with difficult emotions so they don’t need to use tantrums or aggression to get what they want in future.
Remember: responding calmly and consistently helps your child develop self-control and self-regulation over time.
Here are some tips for dealing with your child’s demands:
- Recognize that demanding behavior is different from normal whining and complaining, which are part of childhood development.
- Do not react emotionally to your child’s demands and try not to get angry.
- Give your child more time, attention, love and affection so that he feels secure and does not have to demand for things.
- Give your child alternatives for what he is demanding — this gives him a choice and makes him feel important.
- When your child makes a demand, ask him why he wants it or needs it. You may be able to find a solution without meeting the demand.
- Avoid labeling your child as ‘demanding’ or ‘spoiled’. He will only pick up this behavior if you display it yourself!
Learn more at raising balanced children