Is it normal for your child to act like a brat? Or is it due to some mistakes you have made as a parent that encourages bratty behaviour?
If you’re a parent then you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of your child throwing a massive tantrum in the middle of a shopping mall, on the MRT, or at the playground where you feel like the whole world is silently judging you.
But what if this sort of behaviour seems to be happening quite frequently every single time your kid doesn’t get his own way?
Or he talks back to you rather rudely and easily gets into a huff over the smallest thing?
Perhaps you have also started to notice some friends are cancelling playdates, or other kids steer clear away from him, and even your own parents have commented that junior seems to be a little spoiled.
You may not want to admit it, but a tiny part of you wonders if your child is just an out of control brat, or maybe – just maybe – you as a parent have done something wrong?
All those judgmental eyes glaring at you and audible tut-tutting of annoyance as junior is rolling around on the floor of a toy shop kicking and screaming just because you won’t buy him yet another toy truck, they can’t be wrong… right?
Radio DJ Shan Wee who is a parent of two and has faced some challenges when trying to discipline his first child, points out that parents should not always be blamed for their kid’s outbursts or unruly behaviour.
“If I see a difficult child causing headaches for the mum or dad, my reading is simply: That’s a difficult child. Over time, he may grow out of certain traits or mature in some respects, but right now, I can see, he’s a difficult child”, he says.
Although it’s normal for kids below four-years-old to act up and kick up a fuss every now and then, there does come a point when parents must also realize that their little angel seems to be sprouting tiny red horns and perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate things, especially when he or she is old enough to reason with.
No one wants to hear that their child is bratty, but no good parent would want their kid to grow up as a spoiled brat either.
Here’s a list of 10 mistakes some parents make that actually encourage bratty behaviour and could be damaging in the long run.
1. Rewarding bad behaviour
Picture this — your child just ate a slice of chocolate fudge cake for dessert but now he also wants an ice cream sundae.
You’re telling him “no” because you feel he’s had more than enough sugar for one day, which sets him off screaming like a pontianak (banshee).
All eyes are on you now as junior is banging his fists on the table and sobbing loudly like it’s the end of the world.
You’re not done with your meal yet so you can’t just run out of the restaurant and head back home away from murderous glares, but no matter what you say or do your child is still yelling his lungs out!
So you eventually give in and order a second dessert for him just to keep him quiet while you try to finish your steak in peace.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: By giving in to your child’s demands especially during tantrums only makes him learn that mummy and daddy will cave as long as he screams and cries hard enough.
Clinical psychologist Dr Vasco Lopes, says that this is a learned behaviour, which becomes a conditioned response.
“Even if it only works five out of 10 times that they tantrum, that intermittent reinforcement makes it a very solid learned behavior. So they’re going to continue that behavior in order to get what they want”, she explains.
Your child knows that he just has to keep on wailing long enough before you will crack and give him whatever his heart desires.
2. Over-protecting them from the real world
As parents we naturally feel it’s our duty to keep our child out of harm’s way and we do all we can to protect them.
Some of us might even go a little overboard and are one step away from piling on layers of bubble-wrap around our little one so as to prevent “anything bad” from happening to them.
Do you make all the decisions for your child without listening to his opinion? Or swoop in to rescue him whenever things go wrong? Maybe you go out of your way to make sure he is so well protected from the harsh reality in the real world?
It can also lead to bratty behaviour and impairs their ability to thrive after facing challenges.
3. Making empty threats
Let’s say your child is drawing and decides it’ll be fun to scribble all over the walls, floor, and coffee table.
You remind him to create art on paper instead and tell him that if he continues to vandalise the house, you’re going to take away all his crayons.
But he chooses to ignore you and keeps drawing all over the living room wall.
You contemplate taking the crayons away from him, but end up just sighing and letting him continue with his graffitti because you’re too tired to argue or deal with him crying when he doesn’t get his own way.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: He probably won’t take you seriously when you’re trying to discipline him in future because he knows that you won’t follow through with what you tell him.
According to Dr Hansa Bhargava, a pediatrician at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (USA), “Toddlers and preschoolers can easily pick up the difference between an ’empty threat’ and actual punishment. We really love our children, and we want what’s best for them, but it’s really important to follow through (on punishment).”
Bhargava also warns parents that if this keeps up, your child eventually might not look at you as a figure of authority, and when he grows up he could turn elsewhere for guidance.
4. Giving them a sense of entitlement
We all love our kids and try to build up their confidence by showering them with praises and making sure things go well for them.
We want our little one to know how special he is and every tiny task he completes (like putting his plate in the sink after he’s done eating) is celebrated with much fanfare.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: Amy McCready, author of The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, believes that parents play a major role in this problem with children of this generation.
“None of us intends to raise an entitled child, but often in our loving attempts to do the best for our kids, we over-parent. We over-indulge, over-praise and mow down any obstacle in their path with ninja-like swiftness. And when we do? We rob kids of the opportunity to do for themselves, learn from mistakes, or overcome adversity”, she explains.
5. Letting your kid be the boss
You refer to your little one as “your royal highness” and wait on him hand and foot, catering to his every need and command.
You don’t mind letting junior boss you around like this and just want him to be happy — even if you secretly disagree with his choices.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: As fun as it is for your child to have a personal slave, he needs you to be an authorative figure and make big decisions for him.
Elaine Rose Glickman, author of the book Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault: Nip the Attitude in the Bud—From Toddler to Tween, says, “Just as you feel better knowing that someone trained and knowledgeable and trustworthy is in charge of things outside your area of expertise, your kid will feel better knowing you’re the boss.”
6. Allowing them to walk all over you
Have you become your child’s doormat and let him talk to you rudely or treat you poorly?
When he is upset about something, does he shout at you, pull your hair, kick your shins, call you names, and just generally take things out on you?
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: You should let your child know that violence is not the answer and encourage him to express his feelings in a better way.
It’s never ok for junior to hit mummy and daddy, and the longer this bad behaviour goes uncorrected, the more likely he will grow up to be aggresive towards others.
7. Pushing blame elsewhere
Your child can do no wrong and you are quick to defend him whenever someone accuses him of something.
If the teacher says he’s not paying attention in class, you automatically blame her instead for being boring and not conducting a fun lesson.
Or when your kid gets into a squabble at the playground because he doesn’t want to share the slide with his friend, you are quick to jump in and scoff at the other child for trying to ruin your little one’s fun.
Maybe you come home to discover your preschooler has managed to break the DVD player so you scold your domestic helper for not keeping a closer eye on him, while he gets away scott-free.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: If you think your child can do no wrong and it must be everyone else’s fault when a situation arises, you’re only doing him more harm than good.
He’ll never learn that there are consequences to his actions and thinks he can get away with everything.
When he grows up he might also continue to put the blame on others whenever things go wrong in his life and never admit that it’s actually his own doing.
8. Being more of their friend
You want to be the “cool parent” and become best buddies with your child.
So you act like his pal rather than a fuddy duddy mum or dad, hoping that he’ll be more willing to form a close bond with you.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: Your child has enough friends in his life to play or goof aroud with, but what he really needs is you to be a responsible adult and a good parent who helps to guide him and teach him right from wrong.
Veteran social worker Janet Lehman, MSW, says, “Our role as parents is really to teach, coach and give our kids consequences when they misbehave. If you slip into that friend role, however, it’s virtually impossible to lay down the law and set limits on your child’s inappropriate behavior.”
9. Coming up with excuses
When your child is acting cranky and kicking up a fuss, you try to figure out what could possibly be causing this outburst — perhaps he’s just sleepy? Or hungry? Or just bored?
There must be reason why he’s throwing a tantrum, right?
Nevermind that he’s seven years old and still lays down on the floor in the middle of the bus interchange because he doesn’t feel like going home yet.
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: After the age of four, frequent tantrums could be a cause for concern.
As your kid grows older, he will start to mature and you should be able to reason with him.
The longer you are in denial, the worse his behaviour will get through time.
10. Not nipping it in the bud
You think that your child is still young so you just brush it off and accept his negative behaviour.
Perhaps he’ll eventually grow out of it and stop being a brat?
Kids will be kids, right?
WHY THIS IS A MISTAKE: Studies show that children who are bratty will probably grow up to become spoiled adults too.
It can also cause them to:
- Lack in emotional maturity
- Have poor problem-solving skills
- Be unmotivated
- Become unhappy loners
So listen to that small voice inside you that says your child is possibly a brat, and help him grow into a better person.
Do you agree that parents can actually turn their kids into brats? Or is bratty behaviour something totally unavoidable? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below