Written by: Marcus Adams
“I had a tough upbringing, partly due to our deprived financial circumstances, and partly due to my parents’ strictness. Christmas and birthdays were the only times we got presents, and sweet treats were something grandma would sneak us while mum and dad had their backs turned.
I was determined not to give my little girl a similar upbringing, but now it seems to have backfired. She gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and its spiralling out of control. Plus, I’m a busy working mum, and sometimes it’s easier to give her the chocolate bar or the teddy bear – anything to stop the terrible screaming tantrums and destructive behaviour.
Because of this, she’s got me over a barrel, and her behaviour is getting worse. I just can’t say no to her, and she knows that if she turns on the waterworks, she’ll get her own way. And most worryingly of all – she’s now behaving like this with other people.
I’m starting to think that I’m raising a brat – how can I keep her feet on the ground, reign in the bad behaviour and not spoil her, when my best efforts are met with a tantrum of gargantuan proportions?”
Responding to the behaviour
If you don’t tackle bratty behaviour from the outset, you’re in for an unpleasant time as a parent. However, if you’re the parent of a two-year-old, this bratty behaviour is perfectly normal – it’s part of normal childhood development. It’s when those Terrible Twos carry on into the Terrible Fours and Terrible Sixes that things need to be changed.
Brat Syndrome, as it is known, is typified by the following traits:
The children are never happy.
They make everybody around them miserable.
Temper tantrums are frequent.
Adults who set limits are seen as mean and unfair.
They cry, scream, manipulate and threaten.
They are never satisfied.
And, most frustratingly of all, their behaviour doesn’t seem to improve, even after a scolding or punishment.
This is often because spoiled children are behaving as they have been taught to behave, and it’s usually the fault of the parents. And as a result, that spoiled, ill-behaved child may also have trouble functioning properly, and making friends.
But here’s the good news
breaking bratty habits can be easy:
A united front -You, your partner, and your child’s caregivers must follow the same set of rules when it comes to standing firm. If mum always says no, and dad always says yes, a child can become confused about what she can and can’t have. This can lead to the oldest tactic in the book – playing the parents off to get what she wants.
Don’t care what other people think
For some kids, screaming in public is a surefire way to get what they want, and quickly. A parent will buy a chocolate bar or a toy, simply to shut them up and avoid stares from strangers. It’s best to remove yourselves from the situation as rapidly as possible, and allow the child to calm down. Detailed explanations as to why they can’t have the chocolate will only fuel the fire.
Avoid the hot spots
If your child always throws a wobbler in the toy aisle at the supermarket, then try to leave them at home, with a friend, or with a babysitter while you shop. Eventually, the behaviour patterns will be forgotten, and you can start your visits on a new footing. Avoid hotspots when you are tired – this applies to both parent and child. It’s easier to give in to a demanding child if you’re fatigued, and tantrums are more likely in children, is they’re not well-rested.
Before you go shopping or visit the party, use pre-emptive positive reinforcement. Say, “I know you can be a good girl today while we’re out shopping,” and if she succeeds, make sure you sing her praises when she gets home.
The gradual approach
The de-spoiling process can come as a shock to the system , so take it slowly. For instance, if you routinely let your child grab handfuls of sweets at the shop, gradually wean them off this behaviour, until they learn they can only have one.
This is an exceptionally helpful tool – say things to yourself like “it’s ok if she’s angry now. By depriving her of what she wants, it will help her to become a responsible, mature and popular adult…her being angry is the best way for her to learn about anger management…it will be okay once things calm down.”
Lead the way
Lead by example as well – if your child sees you stamping your feet when you lose out to a bidder on eBay, how will she ever learn any better?
With determination, practice, courage, and willpower, you can change the bratty behaviour of your child. It can be a slow process, but it’s entirely possible – and it’s perfectly within your reach.