I have been writing this blog for a long time, and over the years I have avoided the word “brat,” when referring to children.
I didn’t have a specific reason for that avoidance, other than the queasy feeling I get in my gut when unilaterally grouping a large number of misbehaving children into one label.
Lately, I have seen it popping up in articles and blogs for parents. The authors often have many good ideas and points, so let’s talk about brattiness for a minute.
You can read some of these yourself at these links.
- Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault
- Permissive Parenting – 7 Signs Your Kid is a Brat
- I Hate Entitled Brats (Including My Own Kids)
Research has shown that there is a wide variety of reasons that children don’t follow rules, whine, act out, throw tantrums and display obstinacy. Hmm…sounds like a brat, doesn’t it? But those actions can cover an entire spectrum of conditions, disabilities, learning differences, and other barriers to what we consider good behavior.
Setting aside disabilities, the autism spectrum, and any other conditions that may be uncovered by testing…what is the main reason a child acts like a brat?
Could it be us?
We know that when a child lacks security, they are likely to be anxious or fearful. We know that when a child is anxious or fearful, a natural outcome can be anger and aggression. We also know that the basic need of security is most often expressed in a child’s life by structure, consistency, and trust.
Why then, do we fall down so often in providing that structure and consistency that leads to trust?
As you will read in these articles I reference, it is because it is hard work to be consistent. It takes an effort to remove the emotion out of being challenged and questioned and defied, and to be the adult in a situation…over and over again. It takes courage to think through your rules, to make them logical and explainable at any age, and perhaps even to change your own paradigm as your child matures and has different needs.
Work, Effort, Courage. My gosh, I didn’t see that in the non-existent manual that no one ever gets when they have a child!
So, what do you do about it? How do you get to avoid that “brat” label for your kids?
- Start early if you can. Don’t make rules you cannot explain or consistently enforce. Think this through with your partner, and try to remember how incredibly annoyed and frustrated you were as a child when a grown-up simply said, “Because I said so.”
- If your child is already acting out, determine first if there is a medical or psychological reason for that and address it. This does not mean that you throw in the towel on making rules that make sense and enforcing them, but it does mean that you may need to approach that a little differently with a child who has disabilities or learning differences.
- If your child is already a teen and has morphed from bratty behavior to outright defiance and anger, you have a challenge before you. Talk honestly with your partner first and find your united front, and then talk with your teen. Create an emotional construct for things you see on the horizon, and try to keep the emotion (and your ego) out of the mix.
Communicate honestly at any age. Apologize if you have been wrong. Insist on the respect you deserve as a parent and caregiver. Be consistent from now on. If it sounds hard, it is because it is. Good and respectful parenting isn’t for sissies, but you can do it.
Your “brat” is counting on it.