Some children demand constant attention and will not take “no” for an answer. Just as children need to learn the importance of saying “please” and “thank you,” they need to learn how to appropriately make requests.

If you’re the parent of a demanding child, rest assured that this is not a new problem and there are many, many people in the same boat. Demanding behavior from children is common—most parents have to deal with it to some degree.

Remember, though, a demanding child provides a parent with an opportunity to teach.

Here are some helpful tips to coach your child to become less demanding and more polite when making requests.

  1. Sit down with your child and discuss the difference between demanding behavior and polite, respectful requests. It’s appropriate for a parent to let that child know that he or she is being demanding and need to rephrase or change their voice tone when asking for something.
  2. Let your child know that they are going to get some of their requests met with the answer “yes” and some met with the answer “no.” It’s okay to say “no.”
  3. It’s important for parents to model appropriate requests when interacting with others. Parents who demonstrate demanding behaviors in front of their children only promote and reinforce this behavior. Talk to your children in a manner that you want them to speak to you.
  4. Teach your child the manners of “please” and “thank you.”
  5. Be calm and do not appear to be surprised when your child becomes demanding. Then say, “Is there another way that you can say that?” Sometimes children do not know that they are being demanding.
  6. Do not give in to your child’s demands.
  7. Ignore your child’s demanding behaviors. Respond to your child’s polite requests. Over time, responding only to polite behavior will reinforce the behavior expected.
  8. Communicate with the other parent or adults in your family when your child’s behavior takes on demanding tendencies. This will prevent the child from going to others with their inappropriate demands.
  9. Make sure that your child gets your attention when he or she is acting appropriately. Demanding children often display this behavior to get the parent’s attention.
  10. Before bringing your child to the store or mall, review with the child your expectations of this trip and what you expect of them. It’s okay to let the child know “that we do not have the money to buy you a game on this trip to the store.”
  11. Let your child know that it’s not appropriate to make demands of you in front of their friends or in public. Make a rule in your house that says, “When you make demands of mom or dad in front of your friends, the answer to the demand will always be ‘no’.”
  12. Do not use physical force in response to your child’s demands. This may only influence the child to become more physically demanding on you later in their lives. Remember… stay calm.

Related content:
Narcissistic Children and Teens: Does Your Child Act Entitled?

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Denise Rowden is a parent of two adult children and has been a parenting coach since 2010. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

Comments (8)
  • Good Enough Momma
    My 11 year old is exactly as described and he is demanding of my time to the point of attempting to control what I do by making my immediate environment so unpleasant in hopes that I will do as he wants to make the chaos stop. I am honest withMore myself and I have never given into him when he does this, I'm suspecting it is control issues, punishment for not letting him have his way and problems regulating emotions. Do child or family psychologists offer behavior modification that could help with this? He does not respond to rational talk because he becomes so angry and once he is calm he doesn't want to discuss it and I am so worn out and drained I don't know how to approach it effectively. Other than this he is a good kid with a lot of good qualities but I'm so worried he won't grow out of this behavior and it will get worse and become directed at a future romantic partner which is why I have such a hard time with this, I had an ex who was very controlling and demanding when I was younger but I still have PTSD and this triggers me. I don't know who to turn to about it. I will try these steps out and hope they help, I have tried before but eventually I give in to his attempts to fight and it's not constructive at all. It's as if he's controlling the house and my space I need a positive way to get that control back.
  • uttra
    my child is 9 years but she is very demanding n often gets scolded because of that as she becomes loud pre asume what we ll say n keeps on repeating the same thing which really bugs us.in front of others she is very well behaved but at home sheMore shouts complains n dosent want to listen to us .plz help me .
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. It can be so frustrating when you have a child who is constantly arguing and shouting in order to get her way. It’s actually pretty common for kids to act one way at home, and then act completely different in other environments. In aMore way, it’s a positive sign that she is well-behaved in front of others, because this shows that she has the skills to manage her behavior appropriately. Now, it’s more a matter of applying those skills at home. You might find some helpful tips on changing this pattern in Arguing With Your Child? Five Things You Shouldn’t Do and Angel Child or Devil Child? When Kids Save Their Bad Behavior for You. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Preethi
    My daughter is 3.4 years . Doesn't listen to me. It's so frustrating when I have to tell the same things again and again. May it be to have food , for a bath or for anything. I get really tired .When I'm in hurry she doesn't co operate. IMore have told in all ways.she contently tests my patience I'm so sad and upset. What should i do.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I hear you. It can be so frustrating when your young child refuses to follow directions and cooperate with you. As challenging as this behavior can be, it’s also quite normal for this age. Part of this stage of development is testing boundaries and developing a senseMore of self as an independent person in the world, and what this can often look like defiance and inappropriate behavior. This doesn’t mean that you are powerless, however. One step in changing this pattern will be to do your best to remain calm in your interactions with your daughter, as you have the most control over your own actions and responses. You might find some additional tips in Defiant Young Children and Toddlers: 5 Things Not to Do. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your daughter. Take care.
  • thank you!!

  • Shirley
    Hello. I am 73 yrs old and still hope for a better tomorrow
  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor
    Scott, thanks for these helpful tips. I think the idea of remaining calm and not reacting to your child's demands is critical, especially when done before asking them to restate the question in a more polite way. I try to do this with my son, and have seen his mannersMore improve, bit by bit, even though he still forgets himself sometimes. (Well, more like half the time, but at least it's a start! :))
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