How to Talk to the Demanding Child: 12 Tips to Use Right Away

Posted February 27, 2009 by

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 as old as Socrates…and remember, 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • Teach your child the manners of “please” and “thank you.”
  • 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.
  • Do not give in to your child’s demands.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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’.”
  • 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.


Scott Wardell has been a school counselor and educator for 34 years. He is the creator of a parenting website devoted to assisting parents searching for solutions that lead to positive parenting outcomes while raising child, teens and young adults.

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  1. uttra Report

    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 front of others she is very well behaved but at home she shouts complains n dosent want to listen to us .plz help me .

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      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 a 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.

  2. Preethi Report

    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. I have told in all ways.she contently tests my patience I’m so sad and upset. What should i do.

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      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 sense 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.

  3. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    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 manners 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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