How Often Have You Been a Victim of "The Nag Factor"?

Advertisers constantly attempt to manipulate consumers into wanting--and therefore buying--the advertisers' products. That often doesn't work, so, more and more, advertisers have turned to manipulating our children. This is the essence of the scientifically proven and continually refined process known as "The Nag Factor". Have you been overrun by the Orcs of Nag?

"But mom, all my friends have one!!! I just gotta, gotta, gotta have it!"

"You know, dad, if you get me that cell phone, then it will be much easier for you to know where I am, and for me to get in touch with you if something bad happens."

If you have ever given in to such demands, you have been a victim of the Nag Factor. Lucy Hughes, who is director of strategy and insight for Initiative Media, has helped develop a scientific breakdown of the the ways that children nag their parents to buy things. Nags are broken down generally into two categories: The Whiny Nag ("all my friends have one") and The Logic Nag ("I would be safer").

Hughes claims that as much as 40% of everything parents buy for their children is as a result of having been nagged into it, whether the nag was an emotional outburst or an attempt to use the potion of overpowering logic.

I was surprised, as I sat down to write this article, that 4 of my 5 kids (the other one was in bed at the time) think that they are very unsuccessful when it comes to nagging.

"Do you feel like you're successful when nagging us to buy you something?" I asked.

"No," came the immediate refrain.

"Not even sometimes?" I pressed.

"No." The response was just as immediate.

"If we were successful, then I would have an X-Box and a four-wheeler, and we'd have TV," my 11-year-old stated.

Although our victories as parents in the nagging war aren't the 100% that our kids think they are, we have been pretty successful. Here are some of our strategies.

Don't Watch TV. Television is the main battleground in the nag wars. It is from television that children get most of their ideas for what they "need". Since we don't bring broadcast television of any sort into our home, our kids don't have nearly as much ammunition in the nag wars. Instead we watch a fair amount of DVD movies, 20% of which must be documentaries. Advertising in entertainment movies exists and is very profitable, but it is much less in-your-face than is commercial advertising on TV. When we watch TV at a cousin's house or when we're at the hotel on a family trip, my head starts to ache at all the lighting-quick scene changes and psychedelic colors in commercials aimed at children.

Teach the value of money and budgeting. At present, we have no debt. A position of no debt makes it much easier to teach the children that we must save up before we buy something. Our children receive a monthly allowance, which they must figure out how to stretch out to fill the whole month. Some of them are good at this, and some are not. Out of their allowance each month, each child must give 10% as tithing to our church, as well as 10% more into their savings account.

How successful have you been at fending off the Orcs of Nag? What are some of your successful strategies?


  1. We do much as do you, although, we're not completely TV free. (We're close to it, though.) We also do the 10% tithing/10% savings thing.

    We sometimes cut deals with our kids. When they want something very badly, we will sit down and draw up a plan. If it is something that we agree with, we will come up with an equitable cost sharing plan. We might put in as little as a buck or two. We might go as much as 50%, depending on a variety of factors.

    Sometimes during our negotiations, we remind a child of a previous frivolous purchase that has resulted in their having insufficient funds for them to purchase the item they now deem so important. This helps them learn.

    We also have kept a structured family budget since the early days of our marriage. We have a certain amount in the categories from which 'nag' expenditures might be covered. Our children are actually pretty good about understanding our budgetary limitations. Of course, they've had this drilled into them since birth.

  2. One word: No

    Of course, my oldest is only 7, so we haven't yet felt the full force of the nag orc brigade.

    At first, I was anti-allowance, fearing that paying my kids to do chores would make them expect money every time they did something. But I soon changed my tune, realizing that kids having money is a great teaching tool. So even our young children earn a little money and save up for things they want. My son has already learned that pumping quarters in the neighbor's soda machine means there's no money for things he really wants.


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