How do you ensure your child grows up knowing right from wrong? How stern should you be? Should you spank the child? Do you play good cop or bad cop? How many chances – or choices – should I give my child?
Raising a child in today’s word has become increasingly complicated, especially since parents are constantly under scrutiny, whether in public, or on social media.
Dr Foo Koon Hean, psychotherapist and author of Negotiation Parenting: Or how not to raise a brat in today’s complex world, writes that many parents these days devote themselves to their children and hope that their children will return the favour when they are older and need their support.
“My research shows that few children return the favour,” he adds.
He also notes that because of this method of parenting ― which he calls “filial parenting”, kids turn out “self-centred, disrespectful, impatient, have unrealistic expectations, need instant gratification, and hold a sense of entitlement ― these are the qualities of a brat!”
“It’s completely natural for a kid to test the limits, but when it becomes patterns of behaviour, this crosses the line into brattiness, and it’s up to you to do more than just dismiss it as a tantrum or a phase.”
Dr Foo recommends that parents are the ones who need to make the informed decisions, and that “children’s input is not needed, until they are ready or capable of contributing cognitively and emotionally”.
So, how do you know whether your child is on his or her way to becoming a nightmare? Start by examining the way you parent. Here are six things you’ll need to stop doing to prevent your child from becoming a brat.
#1 Ignoring his tantrums
So, junior is at the supermarket, and while you’re waiting to pay at the checkout counter, he picks up a chocolate bar and asks you to buy it for him.
“I would probably ignore it, to teach him that throwing a tantrum is useless,” says Rachel Tay, mum to Kelvin, 3. “But I’m also realising that I need to do more, to teach him why throwing a tantrum is not the way to go.”
Indeed, many parents dismiss tantrums, or even make excuses when their kids act up ― saying that “they’re just tired”, or that “it’s just the Terrible Twos”. But pointing out what’s wrong with the behaviour is just as important.
“It’s completely natural for a kid to test the limits, but when it becomes patterns of behaviour, this crosses the line into brattiness, and it’s up to you to do more than just dismiss it as a tantrum or a phase,” says Elaine Rose Glickman, author of Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault.
#2 Giving in to his whining
So, junior wants to watch that YouTube video ― when you say no, he immediately goes into a litany of “But I want to...” and “Why not?”
He follows you around the house, continually pleading with you for the iPad, even though you’ve already said “no” a dozen times. Then, you realise that you need to prep dinner, and just to get him off your back, you hand him the gadget and tell him that “next time, cannot!”
“So, yeah, whining is working out quite well for your kid. And he’s certainly not going to change the behaviour just because it’s rude or bothersome or bratty,” Glickman writes.
Glickman adds that it’s completely harmless to deposit him in his room and let him know that you’re ready to listen to him when he uses his “nice” voice. “You will actually hurt your kid far more by engaging in him when he sulks and fusses ― by rewarding inappropriate behaviour and teaching him that being obnoxious gets him results,” she says.
#3 Putting him first all the time
Kids definitely need attention ― but too much of it can turn your child into a monster!
When you constantly work to fulfil all your munchkin’s needs at a moment’s notice, you’re also teaching him to expect it. What results is a child who expects to be the priority, or the centre of attention all the time, and he may misbehave when he doesn’t get the response he wants.
So, when you’re having a conversation with your spouse at the dinner table and junior says, “I want more meatballs”, place your hand on his, and tell him that you’ll get to him in a minute. This teaches your child not to interrupt as well.
“Teach your child to delay gratification. Wanting and not getting is a good thing,” say Betsy Brown Braun, author of You’re Not the Boss of Me.
#4 Never letting him get upset
As adults, we know that things don’t always go our way, and there’ll be times we get upset. We’ve learnt to cope with them, either by brushing them off, or trying to put a positive spin on things.
Kids aren’t always able to do this, hence, they may lose control of their emotions and feelings. Instead of dealing with their tears, many parents pull out all the stops to help them feel better.
“Don’t worry that your children never listens to you, worry that they are always watching you.”
It’s nice to let your child feel happy all the time, but you’re preventing him from learning how to deal with his feelings.
Braun says, “Help your child to learn to tolerate disappointment. Don’t ‘fix’ everything, whether it is replacing a broken toy, or offering a substitute activity.”
#5 Tolerating rudeness
One of the most telltale signs of a brat is the way he speaks to others. Junior should always be respectful when he communicates with anyone, whether it’s to you, his grandparents, his teachers, friends, or even strangers.
Simple phrases like “So, what?”, “Whatever…” and “I don’t care” coming from your young child’s mouth can make your blood boil.
“I got a big shock when I heard my 4-year-old tell our domestic helper, ‘I’ve finished changing. Pick up my clothes to wash,’” says Aryana Besson, a mum of two. “We never speak to our helper this way, so I don’t know why he was doing so.”
In such instances, you’ll need to correct the rudeness ― don’t just excuse it and move on. Make sure that you make it clear to your child from a young age that rudeness is not tolerated in your family.
#6 Being a brat yourself
Robert Fulgham, author of Everything I need to know I learnt in Kindergarten once said, “Don’t worry that your children never listens to you, worry that they are always watching you.”
If you are kind to the “auntie” who clears the table at the hawker centre, your mini-me will learn to speak kindly, too. If you talk down to others, or use rude words to talk behind another person’s back, chances are, your child won’t think twice about swearing or gossiping about others in the near future.
Always remember that you are your child’s first, and best role model. Everything that you say and do will likely be reflected in their behaviour. So, if you tend to act like a brat, let’s just say that the apple won’t be falling far from the tree.
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