When my daughter Andrea was about three years old, she would always cry and throw a fit whenever she wanted a toy from the mall,” reveals Rose, mom to six-year-old Andrea. “The only thing that stopped this behavior was when we told her she could buy a toy on her birthday,” continues Rose. “Andrea didn’t know when her birthday was, but she just took it that way. She was slightly disappointed, but knew she was eventually going to get a toy.” And so, each time their family would go to the mall, Andrea would ask if it was her birthday, and when her parents would say no, she wouldn’t make a fuss anymore.
Rose tried to stay firm, even when Andrea asked for the Barbie doll she wanted badly. “I’d always tell her we would get it next time,” she says. “(I think) I said that too many times during our mall visits, that once, she just stood in front of the Barbie shelf and didn’t move at all.” Andrea didn’t budge even when Rose kept calling her. And just like any parent, Rose’s heart melted when she saw tears in her daughter’s eyes, so she gave in.
Nipping it in the bud If you’ve experienced having your child beg, cry, or throw a tantrum after refusing to purchase something for him, you might wonder where this kids’ urge to buy whatever they see at the mall comes from. According to Ria Tirazona, associate psychologist of PsychConsult, Inc., “To some degree, this behavior can be expected of children. As a whole, it’s almost human nature to want all the new and attractive toys, gadgets, and the like.”
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Tirazona points out that this is not a sign of greed at all. “To some degree, we are conditioned by society to want things, and for children, this desire is greatly tapped into because they are highly impressionable. Walk them past a toy store, and they will definitely want something,” she adds.
Nathalie Galera, preschool director of Amerikids Preschool, says this behavior of wanting to acquire what they see is a phase that usually starts in early childhood, when children begin establishing their own independence. “They have discovered how it is to make their own decisions and choices, and they test how far they can push this independence by asking their parents to get what they want.”
Tirazona explains the cause of the tantrums and the tears upon refusal, “Young kids want instant gratification. They are not yet able to manage their emotions and thought processes to understand the concept of ‘next time.’ This is why if they see something they want, they will ask their parents to, ‘Buy me this’ at the moment they see it.”
This is mine! It’s a common sight in malls: parents desperately begging their child to let go of a truck or prying their little one’s tiny fingers off a stuffed animal. Parental excuses range from the usual, “Next time, next time,” to the more straight-forward “Wala akong pera ngayon,” to the amusingly creative “Sira ‘yung laruan,” or “Hindi ‘yan binebenta.” Of course, the question is whether these excuses are effective in controlling your child’s buying impulse. More often than not, the parents become frustrated, voices are raised, and more crying ensues.
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To understand this behavior, Galera says, “You must realize that this happens because they are at the age of ‘I, me and myself.’ “(Young children) think they are the center of the world and that everything belongs to them.” She adds, “The best way to deal with this is to explain to them that it is not theirs.” Tirazona explains further, “This is normal in young children. They do not fully understand yet the concept of mine and yours. Usually, toddlers and kids around three to four years old will behave this way. They don’t see it as stealing or anything malicious, they are just consumed by the desire to have this toy or thing. Around this age too, they begin to discover the concept of ownership, mainly by example.”