On Demand Culture = Demanding Kids



For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about how to raise kids in a culture where music, TV, movies, toys, books and…mommy are offered on demand. How do you help your children learn patience, portion control and restraint when they can request any show or movie whenever they want it? When they expect life to be available to them on their terms? Or rather, how do I temper their wants after giving them the option?


Daughter threw a tantrum last night because she wanted to watch Wonder Pets. But, it wasn’t offered on Nick on Demand (where or where is Noggin?) and I hadn’t Tivo’d it. Since she is used to watching what she wants when she wants it, she rejected my statement that I can’t control what’s on television and she’d have to wait until 5 o’clock.


How did I get into this mess? More importantly, how do I unweave a temperament that expects the world to deliver her what she wants when she wants it? How do you teach patience to children in a world that demands less and less of it?


Okay, okay. Before you berate me for setting this situation up for myself by allowing her to request songs in the car, TV shows she prefers at that moment, and snacks of her choosing; let’s explore her world today vs my childhood.



Back Then

Kids come home from school and I ask “What would you like for snack? Peanut butter on graham crackers? Cheese and crackers? Sliced apple?


Kids come home from school, open cabinet and choose for themselves

I came home from school and my mother gave me a snack. I ate what she gave me. It wasn’t cookies or candy.

Kids watch what they want to watch on TV when they want to (within time limits I set)

I watched Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers or Zoom when they were on or if my mother let me watch TV at that time. (I recall a certain amount of personal trauma when dinner time happened at the same time Zoom was on.)

Kids shout out song requests while I’m driving and I shuffle through CDs or IPOD to find it.

Mom may have turned on an AM station in the wood paneled station wagon but I don’t recall.

Son wants an IPOD Touch for his 6th birthday because we’ve given him ours to watch TV shows and movies on when he’s

  1. Waiting for sister to finish gymnastics class
  2. On a long car trip
  3. Sitting at doctor’s office


He doesn’t understand why this wouldn’t be a six year old gift.

When I was in the car or a waiting room, I waited. I learned to entertain myself by:

  1. Daydreaming
  2. Bothering a sibling or Mom
  3. Being fidgety


For my 6th birthday, I wanted a new bike or a Barbie doll.

Activities to choose from include:

Soccer, Ballet, Karate, T-Ball, Kids U, Bounce U, Cooking, Acting, Drawing, Violin or other instrument lessons, and  more

Pre-K and K activities didn’t really exist. We came home from school and played with siblings or outside.

Son attends four birthday parties in a weekend

Kids had parties with their families


Now, let me state that I do appreciate the modern conveniences that many of these options provide the 21st century mom. Portable DVD players in the car and airplane are tremendous. Facebook – wonderful. Oh, yeah, that’s for me.


Anyway, every few months or so, Husband and I realize that we need to course correct  when the kids’ wants and demands have gotten totally out of hand. This course correction entails:

  1. A strategy session -  where we vent how the kids’ behavior is driving us nuts
  2. Brainstorming – ideas for how to get us all back on track – well, really, for how we parents can take charge again
  3. Specific plans – to change our behavior so that the kids will change theirs


And that’s the truth of the matter: Our kids do what we allow. Period. First, we have to change our parenting behavior. This, in turn, will help steer our children towards healthier, more rewarding behavior. And we’ll all live harmoniously ever after. Until…. we let our guard down and we allow demands and tantrums to creep up again.


Want specifics? Okay, our specific plans for the upcoming weeks are:


  1. Insist on personal responsibility before activities. E.g. Please clean your room (pick up what’s on the floor and straighten bed) before school, we go to karate, or you watch TV. When they dawdle, we say “We’re leaving in 10 minutes (when the big hand gets to the 6). If you’re not ready, we won’t go (or we’ll be late and the teacher will be mad, you’ll miss the beginning of the show, you’ll miss the bus, etc.)


  1. No mercy for unacceptable behavior. This means a time out or leaving the situation for hitting, really bad words/attitude, etc.


  1. No negotiations/over explaining/attention to tantrums. This means when we say No, we leave it at that. When a child tries to cajole and negotiate, we don’t participate. When Son or Daughter freaks out and throws a tantrum, we ignore them. Yes, it’s easier said than done and one of the hardest behaviors to maintain. But when we’ve tried it – it really works.


The unavoidable truth is that giving in to bad behavior only perpetuates it. When we refuse to allow it, our kids change their behavior.


The technique of ignoring tantrums comes from a great little book called Whining. My sister in law passed it along and the three step philosophy it describes is very helpful. I’ll write more about it in my next post.


At this point, Husband and I are open to any and all ideas to help our kids be less demanding and better prepared to thrive as patient, civil people in our on demand culture. Got ideas? Please comment at the bottom of this post.


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