A dad recently asked me how to respond when a child doesn't stop asking for new toys, games, or trips. "They go to bed begging and wake up begging! What do I do?" I encouraged him to try a parenting skill called "Grant in Fantasy". This means that you acknowledge your child's desire and you empathetically pretend you can give it to them and more.
For example it could go something like this, "I hear you want every Hatchimal you see on Youtube. If I could, I would give you the entire Amazon Warehouse of toys to play with all to yourself! But, we don't have extra money to buy lots of Hatchimals right now. We can come up for a plan for you to save up for a new pack."
Granting in fantasy creates connection as you acknowledge your child's desire, which is not inherently bad. It shows them that you understand their wish, but it also gently shows them the boundaries of reality. Brainstorming a plan to earn the toy can motivate the child to work towards a goal as well.
For example, a child tells their mother they love swimming at the pool so much that they refuse to go school in September but instead want to be homeschooled so the mother can take them to the pool every day. While the mother may be irked by this demand, she knows she can be silly and Grant it in Fantasy. "Oooh, you love swimming so much you want to swim all day instead of going to school. But you must go to school! What if you went to go to Pool School instead? I'll email your teacher and see if she can get some goggles. I could get you a waterproof lunch box and a submarine bus. How does that sound?"
By playing along you engage your child in fun rather than engage in a power struggle. Sound like a goofy plan? Give it a try.
"Can I get a horse?
"Oh man, I would give you a whole horse ranch if I could, but we don't have money saved for a horse right now."
"Can I skip the doctor's appointment because I'm afraid of the shot?"
"If it were up to me I would destroy all germs so you never needed to go to the doctor again. But since I haven't figured out how to do that yet, you still need to go to the doctor. You can squeeze my hand if you're scared."
Can I get a new Lego set today?
I wish I could get you all the Lego sets, but no, not today.
Granting in fantasy allows you to connect with and validate your child's desires, avoid power struggles and whining, and maintain your boundaries. Children often keep up the begging and whining because they believe you didn't really get how much they wanted the thing. If you communicate that you get it, and that you would give it to them if you could, the annoying behavior goes away. You can't buy happiness, but connecting and playing creates joy for free.