Best Parental Practices for Eliminating the Nag Factor by David Bredehoft


  • The nag factor is the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers' messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items.
  • According to a 2018 study, kids greatly influence, or kidfluence, family spending, and the nag factor and pester power influence these decisions.
  • Tips for eliminating the nag factor include making rules ahead of time, being clear and consistent, and not giving in.

Parents need help to eliminate the nag factor and reduce child pester power especially since kids have a significant amount of influence on family spending, and social influencers have a direct line of communication with our children.

"'The nag factor' is the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers' messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items" (p.298).

Some Startling Facts About Kidfluence

According to a 2018 Viacom Study, kids have a tremendous influence on family spending, and undoubtedly "the nag factor" and pester power influence these decisions. Parents, keep in mind the following statistics from the 2018 Viacom Study. Marketers certainly do.

  • 3 in 4 parents say kids influence family purchase decisions. Children in single-child, urban, and households with two full-time working parents have the greatest influence.
  • 60 percent of of kids are aware of the household budget.
  • 87 percent of parents identify what they need to buy, then discuss it with the rest of the family.
  • 87 percent of kids remember TV commercials.
  • 77 percent of parents say their kids ask to buy products advertised on TV.
  • 73 percent of parents say they've purchased the requested products.
  • Parents spend 60 percent more when their kids are involved in the purchase decision."

Children and Social Media: A Parental Challenge

Source: Clark SJ, Schultz SL, Gebremariam A, Singer DC, Freed GL. Sharing too soon? Children and social media apps. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, University of Michigan. Vol 39, Issue 4, October 2021. Used with permission.

recent national poll conducted for the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan highlighted the challenges parents face when monitoring their children's use of social media. The national poll surveyed a random stratified sample of parents. This report is based on 1,030 parents who had one or more children aged 3-12 years old living in their household. 

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The Results From the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital Poll

  • Half of the children 10-12 years and one-third of children 7-9 years are using their devices to engage with others on social media apps.
  • Two-thirds of parents expressed concerns about their child sharing private information through apps.
  • Parents also expressed concern that their child may encounter adult predators through social media apps.
  • 1 in 6 parents are not using any parental controls for their child’s social media apps.
  • 1 in 3 parents say their child has been taught in school about the safe use of social media apps.
  • As for the reasons that parents give for not monitoring their child's use of social media apps they say: 1.) it's too time-consuming, 2.) they don't know how to set up parental controls and, 3.) kids figure out ways to circumvent parental controls.

Ways Mothers Deal With the Nag Factor

Henry and Borzekowski’s (2011) research with mothers qualitatively identified ten strategies used to deal with the nagging pester-power of their children. Some strategies had greater success than others. Some strategies relinquished power to the child, while others maintained more parental control. Some strategies were proactive occurring prior to the nagging incident while others were basically reactively occurring at the time of the incident.

Graphic based on Figure 1, Henry and Borzekowski (2011), p. 313.

Source: Bredehoft

Best Parent Practices for Dealing With the Nag Factor

The following are my nine best parent practices for eliminating the nag factor. They are grounded in research, theory, and experience. 

  1. Make your rules ahead of time. From experience, you can anticipate when your child will turn on the nag factor. So, it is important that you tell your children exactly what you will and will not buy. You can establish a set of rules before you go shopping. It is important to review them every time before you enter a store. "No whining allowed" may be a helpful rule for younger children who whine when they don't get their way. "No negotiating, I've made my decision" is a helpful rule particularly with older children who try to manipulate you to change your mind. You may also want to establish rules about online purchases and about requests for special things like birthdays and holidays. It is good to write your rules down so all parties know and understand them.
  2. Be clear and consistent. This applies to things you are and aren't willing to buy as well as things you are or are not willing to let your child do. Be straight and honest. Above all be consistent! Remember, "What you stroke is what you get."
  3. Ignore the inappropriate nagging behavior. I know this is extremely hard to do especially if your child is throwing a fit in a public store, or you are dead-dog tired from working all day, and now you have to deal with your nagging child. If you call attention to the nagging behavior, you will get more of it down the road. Remember, if you ignore the inappropriate behavior and wait until your child calms down and then point out his calm demeanor, guess what? You will teach him to calm himself. Something all children need to know how to do.
  4. Don't give in. If you give into nagging you are reinforcing nagging behavior and will be paid back with more nagging behavior down the road.
  5. Don't yell. It doesn't work well and it models behavior I suspect you don't want your child to learn.
  6. Stay calm and be consistent. Again, staying calm under difficult circumstances is hard to do, however, it is a parental trait that can be learned. If you think you are going to lose your cool, remove yourself and your child from the situation. Give yourself a "Stop and Think" to cool down, then respond with consistency. Perhaps you have a previously agreed-upon rule you can revisit?
  7. Avoid the environment. If you can, avoid taking your child to places where they might be prone to nag. There are some environments that Just spell trouble; for example a store checkout line. Stores intentionally put impulse items right at your 5-year-old's eye level! If this situation triggers nagging, you may want to leave your child at home while on a shopping trip. This strategy may not always be realistic.
  8. Limit exposure to advertising. Advertising works. Limit TV commercials by keeping them busy during commercials. Put limits on how much TV time your child can watch. Limit and monitor screen time. Place parental controls on social media apps. Take the TV, computer, and phone out of your child's bedroom, especially overnight. Marketers find your children. If your child does a google search for something the next thing she will see is a product placement tailored specifically for her right on the screen even though she didn't ask for it.
  9. Explanation. Use the situation as a "teachable moment". Tell your child why you made or did not make a purchase. The explanation might include such things as price difference, nutrition facts, as well as the difference between needs and wants. Henry and Borzekowski (2011) found that "Mothers often provided explanations not only in the store, but when their children were viewing advertising, as a proactive strategy." (p. 311)

Practice Aloha. Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2022 David J. Bredehoft


Viacom. (2018, March 26). Kidfluence: How kids influence buying behavior. Retrieved on 10.17.21.

Henry, H. K. M., & Borzekowski, D. L. G. (2011). The nag factor. A mixed-methodology study in the US of young children's requests for advertised products. Journal of Children and Media, 5(3), 298-317, DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2011.584380

Clark SJ, Schultz SL, Gebremariam A, Singer DC, Freed GL. Sharing too soon? Children and social media apps. C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, University of Michigan. Vol 39, Issue 4, October 2021. Available at:

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2024;