Press release: A third of parents in Northern Ireland say 'pester power' regularly gets the better of them

Friday 16 November 2018

  • 33 per cent of parents in Northern Ireland report that caving into pester power has caused them to go overdrawn or take on new credit
  • Half (46%) feel guilty when they have to say ‘no’ to their children
  • The Money Advice Service is encouraging parents to talk to their children about money this Talk Money Week

A third of parents1 (37%) in Northern Ireland say that pester power regularly gets the better of them, according to new research.

The findings come from new research by the Money Advice Service during Talk Money Week – a public awareness campaign held from 12th to 18th November, which is designed to improve people’s money management skills and financial wellbeing.

Pester power is the ability children have to convince their parents buy something, by asking for something repeatedly2, and one in 10 (13%) parents with children aged 2-18 in Northern Ireland report that they have to deal with this behaviour continuously (e.g. on a daily basis). Women are more likely than men to experience pestering (61% vs 54%).

When it comes to those products children pester for the most, topping the list are snacks - such as sweets, chocolate, crisps and sugary drinks (53%), while 51 per cent pester for toys and games. But children also pester for big-ticket items such as game consoles (29%) and holidays (15%).

Although many families are currently feeling the pinch, 39 per cent of parents in Northern Ireland say they cave into pester power because they feel guilty for not being there for their children all the time. Equally, half (54%) say they don’t like being asked the same question over and over again and 40 per cent feel tired and fed up when their child pesters them for money.

Worryingly, 33 per cent of parents in Northern Ireland report that caving into pester power has caused them to over stretch their finances – meaning they’ve been overdrawn or taken on new lines of credit to pay for the extra expense. According to parents, the run up to Christmas is the worst time of the year for pester power.

While many parents in Northern Ireland find pestering hard to say no to, three in five (57%) say that when their child pesters them for money or things to buy, they think it’s a good opportunity to explain to their children the value of money.

The Money Advice Service has found in separate research that teaching parents to talk to their children about money helps children understand why they’re saying no. It also builds on other insights that have found that giving pocket money improves children’s financial habits, as it provides them with the experience and responsibility to make spending and saving decisions at a young age.3

Interestingly this research finds that even giving very small amounts of pocket money is linked to improvements in financial behaviour, suggesting that it is having responsibility for money that is important, not the amount.4

Sarah Porretta, UK Financial Capability Director at the Money Advice Service commented: “Although a child pestering may seem harmless, our research suggests that many parents in Northern Ireland are struggling to cope. Some are even dipping into their overdrafts and using credit to pay for this expense, which is worrying.

“All of us parents know that it can be difficult dealing with children who set their minds on having something, but there are ways to make it less stressful.

“For example, you can make a list before you go out shopping. This way you are getting your children actively involved in money discussions and decisions and they can learn the importance of sticking to a budget when out and about.

“Also, remember that it’s perfectly okay to say no to your children when they ask for things. It’s important they know the difference between needs and wants. Just make sure you explain why – take this as an opportunity to teach them that we have money for certain items, but not always for sweets or toys.”

With Talk Money Week in full swing, here are some top tips inspired from the Money Advice Service’s Talk Learn Do course content on how to get your children engaging positively with money:

1. Through Play

For younger children, play is a great way to keep money fun and engaging. For example, children love playing shop. So why not make it as real as possible, adding price tags to items to show that things cost money? Start by showing them the difference between coins and how many you need to buy an item. Explain that two 1p coins equal a 2p coin and how that can be used to buy something they want. One of the benefits of using real coins is that it helps children get used to handling money in everyday situations. You can also use this as an opportunity to explain that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ – and when it’s gone, they have to save up to get more.

2. Around the Home

If your children are watching television, watch it with them and use the opportunity to introduce them to money topics. Be open and frank. Explain to them how adverts try to get them to buy things. If your children have some of their own money to look after, think about having a safe place for your child to keep money like a moneybox or piggy bank. And don’t forget to talk about why it’s important to keep money safe. For older children, you can talk about bills, budgeting and where money goes – or why not ask them to help you find the best price by comparing prices in shops or online?

3. Out and About

Being out in the ‘real-world’ is a great place to give your children hands-on practical experience. For example, the next time you are in the supermarket, let your children pay. It’s also good to give your child a small amount of money to buy something they want. Help them see what they can afford, show them how to pay and how to check the change. Children also love a challenge – can they help you save money? Make a list with them and have them help you stick to it.

4. Give pocket money

Pocket money is a great way to give children responsibility for money. The amount you give doesn’t matter – even the smallest amount of pocket money can help children learn how to manage money. Parents can decide whether pocket money is given in exchange for doing chores at home, or whether children are given an allowance each week – the main thing is that they get a chance to practice with their own money.

- ENDS -


1 In this research, 204 parents in Northern Ireland with children aged 2-18 were surveyed via omnibus polling.

2 We defined pestering as occasions where a child has repeatedly asked for an item or money hoping that the parent says yes

3 Money Advice Service; Griffiths, A. and Ghezelayagh, S. (2018) “Children and Young People and Financial Capability: Needs Analysis

4 Money Advice Service (2016) Financial Capability of Children, Young People and their Parents in the UK 2016


Opinium conducted online research on behalf of the Money Advice Service from 25th to 31st October. The research was among a sample of 4,003 nationally representative UK adults (aged 18+). The sample was boosted to 500 adults in Northern Ireland adults from 25th October to 6th November. The sample was then cross broken for those that were parents of children aged 2-18 in Northern Ireland, which totalled 204.

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About Talk Money Week
Talk Money Week is a new public awareness week from the Money Advice Service to help encourage more open conversations about money. Held from 12-18 November, the week is designed to increase financial wellbeing among Britons by encouraging them to discuss personal finance issues including savings, debt, using credit, financial education and retirement. During Talk Money Week, the Money Advice Service and its partners will be hosting events and activations across the UK designed to encourage more money conversations, provide tips and ideas for saving, budgeting and increase financial wellbeing. Talk Money Week is a key initiative of the Financial Capability Strategy for the UK.

About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money guidance online at or via free phone on 0800 138 7777. It also manages the delivery of Debt advice across the UK, which is provided through a variety of partners. The Service was set up by Government and is paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority. Its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding and knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system); and to enhance the ability of members of the public to manage their own financial affairs.