Nancy Phillips

Today I want to give you a few tips for how to deal with your kids’ “wants” when you’re out there going through stores and you get stopped in your tracks with “mom, will you buy me this?”

This is a challenge that parents of young children have all the time in today’s world, and I wrote this Needs and Wants book when my son was two years old. That gives you an indication of why I did the research and came up with this story!

There are a few things in the book that will really help you deal with those highly emotional “want” moments when things can go south very quickly. As parents, we have to remember that all people are wired to react strongly to things that are highly emotional and when you want something, it’s emotional – especially as a young child. Their bodies go into the fight or flight response, and it’s a major physical and mental experience.

The tips in this storybook can help you speak to your children in a way that can potentially calm their reaction. It’s not their fault that they are getting tempted by hundreds and thousands of appealing ads and toys, and we can’t stop that marketing from happening because it’s everywhere. What we can do is help them deal with the “in the moment” challenge of the extreme emotional reaction, and show them how to calm it down – without getting upset ourselves. The key is how we react and what we say, there are ways to diffuse it and that’s what the story demonstrates.

One tool and activity, in particular, is extremely effective at showing your child you respect their request, and that it needs to be thought through – by them. This method simply and effectively puts the responsibility in their hands as to whether they want to commit the resources and effort to eventually obtain the item, it takes the stress off you. The wish list is basically a child’s goal list, and it helps them start to prioritize the things that they want to work towards. In the “moment” of emotion, they can decide if they want to put the item on their list, or if they’re just testing you to see if you’ll buy it. Having a way to express themselves and have their desires be heard is a key factor in their emotional response to the situation. We all know what outcome can happen if we just say a flat “no”, with no real consideration of their request. Yes, we’ve all seen or experienced a squirming child on the floor. For me, it was when I was eight months pregnant and my toddler wanted a candy from the shelf by the cashier. I said a flat “no, not right before dinner,” you can imagine the rest. I knew then I needed a new strategy.

The process of printing out their “wants” helps the child think through why they want the item, and it helps them learn to print because they’re very motivated to get it on their list! Over time they will scratch some things off and move other things to the top. This can become a very effective tool for them to see what they’re really interested in, and how their desires are changing as they grow.

If they really want something after thinking it through, they will begin to get motivated to save for it. Because of this simple process, this list can also be a fantastic holiday list, birthday list, et cetera, for you to use for gifts because it shows you what items survive on the list as they move things around and scratch things off.

I’ve found this to be an invaluable parenting tool because it’s helped teach my children how to begin making decisions that are based on what’s important to them and what’s a need versus a want, instead of continuously wanting to own everything they see marketed. There are so many millions of products now, it’s an endless loop and one that won’t bring anyone lasting happiness. Having fewer things they appreciate more makes everyone happier.

I hope you find this tool helpful, it’s in the Needs and Wants book.


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