Excuse me, madam, but is that your child throwing everything off the supermarket shelves, ignoring you when you ask them to stop, kicking and screaming that they must have the new toy and telling you they hate you when you say it’s time to leave? Oh, that’s not your child? Must be mine. What a brat.
Every parent has their embarrassing days; some are just brattier than others. Tantrums are normal in two- and three-year-olds, however it’s important to know how to deal with them — otherwise you could end up with a brat on your hands!
We’re living in an age of increasingly child-centric homes. Whether both parents work and feel guilty for spending too much time at the office or they just can’t stand to see their children cry, permissive parenting (or indulgent parenting) has created a generation of entitled children.
Here, we have identified seven spoilt rotten behaviours and offer advice on how parents can take back control:
- When they constantly throw tantrums
You can expect nursery school-aged children to have frequent tantrums — some just can’t be avoided and need to run their course — but when fits erupt any time you set limits, it’s a problem.
How to handle: First, don’t have a tantrum yourself! Be empathetic and let your child know that you recognise they are angry, but that their behaviour is not acceptable. Help them find the right words to express their feelings and don’t be afraid to take away a privilege or give a “time out” if you feel the situation calls for it.
- When they hit, grab and act bossy
“It’s mine!” Why does it seem like children know how to use that phrase before their own names? Toddlers and young children have primitive impulses, like grabbing toys and hitting to express their feelings. They all do it, but when your child is the biggest offender in the nursery, you worry they’ll get labelled a brat.
How to handle: Stave off the stigma by holding your child accountable for their behaviour in an age-appropriate manner. If they freak out whenever a playmate wants to try their remote control train, have them help you put it away before friends arrive. When a tiff breaks out over the blue bucket at the sandbox, talk about sharing and ask children to take turns. Remember not to yell and that it’s okay if your child gets upset – they’ll forget about it in two minutes.
- When they whine from the moment they wake up
Forget wailing police sirens, pneumatic drills and fingernails on a blackboard: the sound of your child whinging is the most irritating noise in the world. Waiting in line at the bank or being dragged shoe shopping is boring for children and you can’t blame them for getting agitated. But most of the time that squeaky, drawn-out bleat means your child is trying to turn your “No” into a “Yes.” If “No” is truly how you feel, you need to stand your ground no matter how much you want your child to just be quiet already.
How to handle: Children learn really quickly how far they have to go to manipulate Mum and Dad. Inform your child: “I don’t like when you speak like this and I can’t understand you.” Tell them you won’t respond until they use their regular voice. Remember, an unhappy child is not an unloved child. In the short term it’s not pleasant (for you mostly), but children need to learn they can’t always get what they want. Try to ward off whinging with some preventive parental medicine. If you know your child will whine for ice cream each time you leave the playground and pass the Mr Whippy van, prepare them ahead of time and give them control over the decision: “We will see the ice cream van, but we can’t stop today. Are you okay with going to the park instead?”.
- When they act defiant and always answer back
A child can say “No!” — and they will in the most snotty tone — but that doesn’t mean you have to obey or accept that answer. The bratty child has a real intolerance to not getting their way. They don’t follow your rules and ignore when you say “No “or “Stop.” This usually leads parents to come up with a pay off. When your child is accepting more bribes than a corrupt politician, you’re cultivating a top-notch manipulator.
How to handle: Stop sweetening the deal and you’ll cut down on the defiance. Instead, offer your children rewards when they’ve exhibited good behaviour. The best prize? Sharing special time with you.
- When they complain of being bored
Parents would give anything to feel bored. Ah, the luxury of having nothing to do except sit and stare into your really messy family room. But the child who always complains they’re bored is probably the one who can never be gratified. They get one toy and immediately move on to the next item they have to have.
How to handle: Help teach your child the difference between what they want and what they need. They probably won’t really get it until early primary school, but you can start the process early. The next time your child insists they want a new toy, let them make the choice. Seriously. Choose two items at the shop you would be happy to buy them and ask them to select. They’ll feel empowered and proud of their decision.
- When they talk rudely to adults and are mean to peers
Grandma is probably sneaking your children sweets on the sly, so they have little reason to tell her off. But when her hugs and kisses start to feel smothering, the children might be tempted to tell granny to go away. A child that speaks or behaves rudely to an adult — especially a relative or a nanny — needs to be corrected.
How to handle: Tell your child they hurt Grandma’s feelings and they are not to speak that way or treat people that way. You can never excuse bad behaviour because it just shows you’re going along with it. Calmly pull your child aside and say something like: “that’s not a kind thing to say to Grandma. Please apologise.”
- When they seem to be controlling your life
Raising children is a full-time job, but Mum and Dad deserve to be just a wife and husband sometimes. Always putting your child first — above yourself and your marriage — sends a message to your child that the world revolves around them.
How to handle: Book that weekend at the spa. Have dinner with your spouse. Whether you get Grandma to come for the night or hire a babysitter, you need to plan a date night. It’s heartbreaking to have your child sob and ask you stay when you have one foot out the door and a 20:00 reservation, but parents are allowed to have play dates, too.
Get started with these 101 Low Cost Dates