How to Respond to a Very Demanding Child

Faced with the behavior of a demanding child, patience should be encouraged to set firm limits and evaluate their parenting.
How to Respond to a Very Demanding Child
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 12 June, 2023

In the following article, we’ll help parents understand how to deal with a very demanding child. But first, let’s think about the following scenario: A son asks his father for chocolate milk. The adult prepares it for him, but when it arrives at the table, the child tells him that it’s not the way he likes it. Then, the parent responds that the cup has warm milk, chocolate, and a spoonful of sugar, so he can’t see where he’s gone wrong. He then asks the little boy, to which he replies that his father didn’t whip the chocolate before putting the milk in and that he didn’t make it in his green cup.

How does the situation continue? There are those who will say that it’s a matter of the child’s taste and that there’s nothing wrong with giving him the whipped milk in his green cup. In a sense, there’s something to that. Now, might these short-term measures also teach other kinds of behaviors? Without realizing it, we may be encouraging the child to be very demanding. Below, let’s see what it is and what to do about it.

Characteristics of a demanding child

Here’s a list of some of the signs that could indicate that we’re dealing with a demanding child:

  • They want everything and they want it now.
  • There’s usually a low tolerance for frustration: When they don’t get what they want or things don’t go their way, they may feel angry.
  • They may be rigid about how to get things. For example, when they want something, they want exactly that and not something else, or they want it a certain way.
  • They may be quite critical of the behavior of others.
  • They’re never satisfied.
By reaching agreements with the child, they’ll not only know that not everything revolves around their desires, and they’ll also learn that they’ll have to do their part to get what they want.

How to accompany a demanding child?

Being demanding isn’t a negative quality, as it’s an invitation to improve and grow. However, when it turns into hyper-demanding, it’s usually negative, both for one’s own well-being and in relationships with others. Therefore, if you’re raising a child or a demanding child, you can apply some of the following strategies:

  • Teach the difference between request and demand. A request always leaves the door open for people to satisfy our demand, as well as not to do so. It implies respect and consideration for the other person. However, a demand corners others. The difference is even noticeable in the way it’s formulated and the tone in which it’s made.
  • Teaching them how to formulate requests. In relation to the previous point, it’s possible to teach children how to make requests. This also implies accompanying them in the development of social skills and empathy.
  • Establish limits. Limits indicate that not everything can be done at all times or whenever you want. It’s important that children learn to think about third parties and not to let themselves be carried away only by what they want. Setting limits is also helping to develop self-control.
  • Encourage attitudes of gratitude. We must teach them the value of things and the effort required to get them.
  • Teach patience. In the beginning, the concept may seem very abstract to them, so it’s important to accompany it with examples.
  • Reach agreements. Agreements work very well to regulate anxiety and not grant everything immediately. It’s possible to think of alternatives, such as allowing them to eat cookies when they finish a given task.
  • Let them work hard to get what they want. We must help them set achievable goals for them, but it’s important that from a young age, they learn the value of effort.

What should we avoid when faced with a demanding child

Sometimes, we don’t realize that it’s our own behavior that reinforces the child’s behavior. Here are some of the situations to avoid:

  • It’s not possible to give in to all their requests, even if there’s a tantrum. In any case, you should always try to resolve the conflict by managing emotions. For example, we can invite the child to express themself and explain why they want or don’t want such and such a thing. But our general response can’t always be a simple “yes”. This is counterproductive not only in the family but in all other areas in which the child participates.
  • We mustn’t lose our cool or answer in a disrespectful manner. We have to be a model or example to imitate. Limits must be set in a healthy way.
A mother scolding her child.
If we use to say “Because I said so” as an argument to achieve the desired behavior of a child, then the child will apply the same reasoning.

We must review our own behaviors

During upbringing, parents and adults are the role models for children. That’s why, when faced with a demanding child, it’s important to review the behaviors we have with them. For example, if from an early age, we have accustomed them to being spoiled and having all their desires met, it’s to be expected that they’ll expect the same with every request.

We should also review the explanations and manners we use when we ask them to do something. Many times, we ourselves may be the ones who do it from a demanding role.

It’s good to look for positive alternatives to make requests and give true explanations about why certain requests or permissions do or don’t take place. We should also ask ourselves how tolerant we are of mistakes. With children, we’re only separated by a distance of age. They’re just as human as we are and have the same rights, so we must get used to treating them as we’d like to be treated.

Education is a process

In short, parenting is a nuanced process. Sometimes it’s easy to take certain steps, but at other times, it’s chaotic. However, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that adults provide tools for the child’s development, which must be done from a place of support and respect.

Education isn’t something that is achieved from one moment to the next but is precisely the sum of interventions throughout a process. We ourselves must consider whether we’re demanding or not and adapt our measures according to that particular child and the life cycle they’re in.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Capano Bosch, Alvaro, González Tornaría, María del Luján, & Massonnier, Natalie. (2016). Estilos relacionales parentales: estudio con adolescentes y sus padres. Revista de Psicología (PUCP)34(2), 413-444.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.