This article first appeared in the September-October issue of Smart Parenting magazine
We call them brats. They always want more. They expect to get their way. They have trouble sharing. And they don’t care about others, only themselves.
Spoiled kids have been overindulged and overpraised. Most kids display bratty behavior once in a while. However, parents must learn to distinguish between a bratty behavior and a certified brat.
Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., author of Too Much Of A Good Thing, says spoiled kids are often less able to cope with stress because their parents indulge their every whim. These kids assume that life is a bed of roses. Kindlon writes, “The body cannot learn to adapt to stress unless it experiences it. Indulged children can also be at risk of being self-centered, angry, depressed, spoiled, envious, overly competitive and driven or, on the flip side, unmotivated. They may lack self-control, and thus be more likely to get into trouble with drugs, alcohol and risky sex.”
What is bratty behavior? Lillian L. Juadiong, Ph.D., associate professor of Family Life and Child Development in U.P. Diliman’s College of Home Economics, helped us compile a list of kids’ bratty behaviors and how parents can deal with them as early as possible.
1. Tantrums What do you do when your child suddenly starts kicking and screaming on the floor of a shopping mall because you would not buy him a coveted toy? Talk to the child beforehand and set rules. Tell him, “I will bring you to the mall today but we are buying school supplies not toys.” If he still throws a tantrum in the mall, let him know you mean business when you say, “I will only talk to you if you stop your tantrums,” or “If you don’t stop that, I will leave you here.” Then start to walk away slowly. Just make sure he is still in your line of vision.
Juadiong says children are experimenting which tactics will work to get their way. If he sees that mom and dad intend to do what they said, the child will realize the futility and stop the tantrums. On the other hand, children who manifest tantrums through head banging should be brought to a child therapist as early as possible. Head banging is a matter that should be taken seriously.
2. Throwing objects First off, you must childproof your home. Don’t place expensive objects around the house within easy reach.
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When your child throws a tantrum, reason with him by telling him the functions of objects such as, “That vase is for flowers. If you throw that, you can hurt yourself with the broken pieces.” Explain the value of things: “You know what, this music box was given to me by your grandma when she was still alive. I would like to give it to you when you grow up.”
3. Frequent crying Check first if there’s a good reason for the tears. Something might be bothering your child, such as, he may be in pain. Ask him gently to tell you what’s wrong. Say, “I can’t understand you if you are crying and talking at the same time.”
4. Shouting Observe people around your child who might provoke him to speak loudly. Maybe his yaya shouts at him when you’re not home. Check yourself too whenever you feel the need to shout. Remind other adults in your household to watch their voices around him.
When your child talks or vents by shouting, lower your voice to counteract his loud one. Play music and turn the volume high or bang pots and pans together while talking to him. Now ask, “Do you think people can hear and understand each other with all this noise?” Record your child’s voice when he is shouting then let him listen to himself. Ask him, “Would you like me to talk to you that way too?” It is necessary to convey to the child that anger can still be expressed without having to shout. Make a habit of always listening to him when he talks. Shouting may be his way to get your attention.
Show him scientific illustrations about the throat. Explain about the voice box and how people can get hoarse by straining it. Let him feel his throat and see the difference in vibrations when talking normally as compared to shouting. Research together the effect of too much loud noise on people’s ears.
5. Foul language and cursing For very young children, saying foul words may just be a way to have fun. They don’t do that because they want to curse other people. They may have just heard something new and found it fun to say, so they say it repeatedly.
Break the habit by asking him if he knows what it means. Try explaining how it is something that should not be heard from a child’s mouth. Address other adults around the child not to laugh when he says those words even if the child sounds funny saying so. Introduce new words by reading a new book or teaching him poems, rhymes and songs.
6. Physical aggressive behavior (hair-pulling, kicking, hitting, throwing things at people) Explain to your child how his behavior is pushing others away. “You won’t have friends if you always hurt them,” is one way to tell him. Moreover, let him know that his behavior should not be repeated. A parent who is lenient about such aggressiveness or turns a blind eye sends a message to the child that it is okay for him to hurt other people.
7. Lying Sometimes kids lie because they don’t know yet what’s real and what’s not. A child might have dreamt of something and tells his friends about it, believing it was true all along, because he saw it in his dreams. Help him as early as possible to define reality and fiction. Play the Truth Game: “Mommy is a girl, true or false?” “True.” “Daddy is a girl, true or false?” “False.” “We own an airplane, true or false?” “True.” “Are you sure or you just dreamt that?” “Oh yeah, that’s right! False, we don’t have an airplane.”
For older kids, lying is a way to make up for things that he does not have. “We also have three cars!” a child might say, even if it isn't so. Make it clear to your child that it is all right even if he doesn’t have things other kids have. Provide lots of love and attention to give your child confidence and security even if lacking in material things.
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8. Spitting Let him know it’s not right to spit, especially on other people. Talk about hygiene and cleanliness: “Your saliva has germs. If you have a cough, your spit will carry those germs to other people.” Help him understand the effect of his actions, say: “If you spit on others, their clothes will become dirty. Would you like others to spit on you too?”
Too much parental indulgence Why do kids get to manipulate parents? Parents who don’t have much time for their child usually have feelings of guilt so they give in easily to whims. Take note though that it’s impossible to raise children well unless we spend time with them. Taking an active interest in our children’s lives, being willing to listen to what’s on their minds and participating in their activities are essential to good parenting.
A word of caution Juadiong cautions that the consequences of spoiling your child will have different manifestations as he grows up. Tantrums might be replaced with outright rebellion, taking drugs and running away from home. Lying may evolve into stealing money or shoplifting. Think about your motivations for giving in and ask yourself whether they are justified.
Being spoiled is not just a rich kid’s disease. By not letting our children take responsibility for their actions or by giving in easily to their demands, we can spoil children without spending money.
We need to prepare our children for the time when they should be responsible for themselves. We should help them develop the healthy attitudes and good habits that are foundations of character. They should be better able to cope with stress, effectively pursue goals and resist temptation. To accomplish that, we must stop overindulging them, both materialistically and emotionally.
When we overprotect our kids from failure, adversity and pain, we deprive them of the chance to develop a realistic sense of their strengths and limitations, and to learn important coping skills. We deprive them of a chance to build real character.