Written by: Cally Worden
No parent wants to imagine their child is a brat. But deep down we all know that sometimes our kids behave like one, not matter how sweet they may be most of the time. Personally, I’m not a fan of the word ‘brat’. It’s literal definition is that of a child who is ‘ill-mannered and unruly’. But it’s taken on more of a deep meaning in real life and smacks of deep irritation on the part of the parent, and a sense of the child being beyond help.
All children may exhibit bratty behaviour from time to time, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a brat. It makes them a child who is lost in their emotions and frustration, and in need of guidance. Here are some typical behaviours associated with a ‘bratty’ child. If you see any of these in your kids take a step back and ask yourself why. Look beyond the behaviour to find the need in your child. Address this need, and you’ll generally find your child changes their subconscious MO. They are not a brat – they just need you to understand them better.
- Crying when they want something
- Throwing a tantrum and hitting when they don’t get their own way
Don’t Give In
These behaviours are all about frustration, and as a hassled parent it’s the easiest thing in the world to give in and let them have what they want, simply to get a little peace and order. Problem is, if they see that these behaviours deliver results they will keep on using them. Look at your own behaviour here. Are you backing down too often for a quiet life? Remaining strong while acknowledging their frustration is hard, but do it a few times and you’ll see these types of behaviours drop off.
- Refusing to share with other kids
- Always wanting what others have, then losing interest when they get it.
This is all about a sense of entitlement and selfishness. All kids are born with an innate sense that they are the centre of the world and as good parents meet their needs they develop a sense of entitlement too. The trick is to help them learn as they grow that there is a world filled with others outside of their own little universe, and that while they have rights and needs, so do others. Helping young children to develop an attitude of gratitude will help. Encourage sharing, and when they do acquire something they have been mithering for help them to show appreciation.
- Refusing to go to bed
- Being rude to adults and other kids
- Ignoring you when you talk to them or ask a question
When children behave like this they are seeking to gain some control in their world. Kids are forever being told how and when to do stuff. They have limited say in what happens to them each day. So it’s inevitable as they grow that they will want to feel a little more in control. By saying ‘No!’, expressing how they really feel (which can come across as rude!) or flatly ignoring you they are simply opting not to play by your rules for a change. It’s understandable (and right that we acknowledge that need) but they also need to learn that being disrespectful is not okay.
Model the behaviour you want to see from them. Give them the words that they could use instead. And above all show them that respect is a two-way street, by being receptive to their need for some control and helping them find it in other, more acceptable ways.
- Making a mess and never tidying up, even when you ask
Taking Things For Granted
As a child’s sense of entitlement grows we tread a fine line between making ensuring they understand their absolute rights in the world, while simultaneously teaching them not to take things for granted, or to expect those things that are given by choice. When we start, from a young age, to insist that our children help out around the home we are showing them that giving is as important and rewarding as receiving. We are helping them learn to respect their environment and their material possessions. And we are helping them to understand how to live in harmony with other people. All essential life skills.
Doing Too Much
If we are forever doing stuff for our kids we not only fail to pass on essential skills for independent life, we also risk damaging their self-esteem. Encourage children of any age to take responsibility for themselves and their surroundings, and they will learn to understand that the world and other people in it do not exist to serve their needs. It’s a collective approach that makes the world go around, and even the very youngest child can learn to participate.