Miss Manners believes that to raise well-mannered children, every time they ask for anything you reply 'Well, I was going to get it for you as a surprise, but it wouldn't be any fun now that you asked for it.' and then watch their crestfallen faces all the way back to the car. What lessons are our children learning? Yes, they are learning that you are absolutely unwavering in giving them anything for which they ask. Shortly, they stop asking you to buy them anything. They are now at your mercy and have learned that their desires are intolerable.
I once read an article (I don't remember which magazine or when it was) that lamented Americans inability to negotiate. I remember there was some story that went like this:
We should not allow our children to forget that they can be influential and if that means occasionally I give in to the 'gimmes' and get requests when we're at the store, then I'm willing. The lesson I want to teach my children is to ask for what they want, be persistant and they just might get it.
An American is visiting Egypt. He sees a wonderful horse being held by an Egyption merchant. The American tells the Egyptian that he'd like to buy the horse. The Egyptian relays a marvelous history of the importance of the horse and how special it was to him and his family. The story ends with the Egyptian saying that he couldn't bear to be parted from the horse. The American says 'OK' and walks away. The Egyptian shouts after him, 'Hey, I thought you wanted to buy a horse!'