How NOT to raise a brat

Respectful Kids

You know the deal. You're on line in the supermarket and ugh, the screaming, the bickering, the kicking (and that's just the couple from down the block - kidding!). When you see a little Johnny or Jane acting out, face it, it irks you. No worries, it gets under our skin, too. But what happens when the bratty behavior is YOUR little precious one? *Gasp*! After taking a deep breath to face the situation head-on there are ways to keep them in check so they're the ones getting a lollipop in the bank.

Bratty Girl

Stacey Kaye knows this first-hand. When her feisty toddler handed her lemons, she made lemonade and now has a book series to prove it. The author of two new parenting/picture books, Ready for the Day! A Tale of Teamwork and Toast , and Hardly any Foot-Dragging and Ready for Bed! A Tale of Cleaning Up, Tucking In, and Hardly Any Complaining, says parents need to let go of the idea of controlling our kids. "We can't control our kids but parents can set expectations up front."

To market to market

Going grocery shopping? Tell your child exactly what you're going to purchase such as, "We're going to the grocery store to buy three things: milk, eggs and yogurt." Or, Kaye says, tell them you have to be quick today so you'll use the regular shopping cart and will use the truck grocery cart next time (seriously though, those carts are too massive!).

Next, she says it's important to empower your child to give them choices. Sticking with the grocery store example, ask your offspring if they want to sit in the front of back of the cart, do they want to buy green or red grapes today? Cheerios or Honey Nut Cheerios? You get the idea…

As for routines around the house, experts like Kaye recommend making children feel important. "Give choices, validate feelings and encourage children to participate in bed time, bath time and clean up routines." For instance, ask them if they want to fly like an airplane to the bathroom or gallop like a horse. Do they want to wear princess pj's or flower jammies?

The glass is half full

"Encourage all positive behavior instead of criticizing the negative behavior – look for the good," she recommends. After all, you want them to repeat the behavior and make them feel good. "Whoa – look how quickly you got ready for bed tonight. We have time for an extra story!"

Plus, it helps having a creative flair. Kaye recommends fun tips like telling your child, "Let's see how many toys you can put away in one minute…on your mark, get set, go!"

So once you have all the tools in place the question is determining a discipline method that's effective in your household. It all boils down to communication. "What really works best is cultivating a respectful and positive relationship with your child," notes Kaye. Parents need to be reminded that the word discipline means guidance, not punishment. It's our job to teach them right from wrong and they don't need to feel bad during the process."

Don't be that gal

As for some of the things you shouldn't do? "Parents often do not follow through. "If you are going to resort to a threat such as, 'Johnny if you do not remain seated in this shopping cart, we are going to have to leave the store.' Only make the threat if you plan to follow through. It only takes one time of not following through for a child to learn that you are not serious."

Moreover, it's okay for your kid to deal with being disappointed; after all, it's an inevitable part of life. For example, in the grocery store some parents may toss a box of junky cereal into the shopping cart just to get their child to stop screaming. Sure, you'll get them to stop making a scene but they'll immediately know that's the way to get your attention (and whatever they want).

Remain calm, cool and collected

Above all, kids love to push our buttons, especially in public. Her advice? "The next time your child throws a fit in a store, let him. Of course, if you're in a library or other place that warrants quiet, take the child outside gently, not with a forceful/angry voice and simply stand there. Let him get it out, get down on his level, try to validate his feelings and show you care."

She adds, "Be calm, remain strong and tell yourself this will pass, count to yourself if you have to. When you get angry or upset, it fuels his tantrum and make it last longer. Don't be embarrassed. Passersby will be wowed by your ability to remain calm and in control and they will be shocked that you are actually showing empathy instead of anger." Bravo to you!

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Comments on "How NOT to raise a brat"

nicole in roseville August 03, 2012 | 7:16 AM

I can appreciate all of this sound advice. However when it comes to having multiple children, I don't think the same rules are applicable. When one acts up they all do, and I just can't seem to figure out how to keep them peaceful and not resentful.

Heko April 23, 2012 | 9:56 AM

Good advice, in the article AND in the comments section. You can have expectations for the children's behavior -- it won't ALWAYS work, but it will MOSTLY work, and children who are expected to learn self-control will learn self-control; I've seen in in the most obstreperous kids I've known. And can I put in a personal request to get rid of "Johnny, use your words ..." The next time I see another INEFFECTIVE parent on their knees begging Johnny to use his words, I'M going to have a meltdown right in the store. :)

Laura April 16, 2012 | 12:52 PM

Rosie, I completely agree with you. I thought the article was pretty good until I read that very last part about letting your child throw a tantrum - I was shocked to read such a terrible piece of advice. Letting a child throw a tantrum does nothing but show them that they are allowed to be brats whenever they want to. When I was little, at the first sign of me acting up, my mom quickly put a stop to it by letting me know that such behavior was UNACCEPTABLE. She didn't lose control or get angry, she simply let me know that I was not the one who called the shots. As a result, I quickly learned to handle my emotions and not lose it just because I didn't get my way. Like Rosie said, the only time a child should ever scream is in case of real danger. Not only does this teach your child respect - not to mention manners - but passers-by will appreciate not being deafened by a yelling child.

Amanda March 18, 2012 | 8:43 PM

The biggest mistake I notice a lot of parents making is trying to be their kids' "best friend", and that's what these books sound like to me. It needs to stop, because you are their PARENT. Parents are there for children to learn from, not to stand by, hope the kids figure out proper social interactions on their own, and be ready with reinforcement prizes if and when they do. Manners are not a game show; they're vital aspect of getting through life successfully. Your child will not hate you forever for laying down the law, no matter how often they may threaten you with just that, and if they are saying that often, they need a bigger attitude adjustment than you think. Can you be their parent AND their friend? Yes, but you cannot put more value on the friendship than the parenting unless you're okay with your children having no respect for your authority or wisdom. If you're just like any of their school friends, they're not going to believe you know more about the world than they do. Children should not be encouraged to think they rule YOUR house, or even have an equal stake in it. They don't, not by default. They do not pay the bills. They do not feed the family. If behavior is a problem, I'm betting they don't do chores. Being allowed their own choices in what the family buys should be a reward for good behavior and helping out, and not just a given for existing. It should be earned, like anything else that's worthwhile. Children do not learn the value of anything that's handed to them, but when they feel they've earned it? It carries the importance it should, and it will be remembered. Children don't need "empowerment", they need guidance from the people they look to for their answers: their parents.

Rosie April 11, 2011 | 9:03 PM

I beg to differ about the advice to let the kid throw a tantrum in a public place while you stand there and stay calm. Passersby will NOT be impressed. They will be annoyed. I lost count of how many times I'm shopping with my well-behaved kid near a tantrum-thrower, when some stranger comes up to me and starts talking about how that screaming kid could use a good beating. (creepy....) We taught our kid, "you don't scream in public for fun, or just because you're unhappy." Basically, screaming is only for real danger. Zero tolerance policy from day one. "When you start misbehaving, we leave." Even when he was a baby. We'd sit in the car until he was calm, then go back in. This worked really well, my kid is great in any public setting, and I was never the annoying parent with the screaming kid.

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