How To Handle Bratty Children
You’re in the checkout lane at your local grocery store after a long day at work and your 3-year-old decides to swat you with a handful of magazines that are on display because you’ve told him he cannot get a king-sized candy bar. Yesterday, he flushed a large puzzle piece down the toilet, causing it to overflow. The list goes on and on, and you’re wondering how on earth your sweet baby boy turned into such a pill!
Don’t fret just yet. Once you have a better understanding of why kids turn to such negative behaviors, there are relatively simple strategies you can put into place to bring out their positive side instead.
Unless your child is dealing with some type of medical issue, the truth of the matter is that the main reason children act out is usually because they are desperately seeking your attention.
Although we are in our children’s presence much of the time, because of the fast-paced world we all live in today, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have our undivided attention. Here are 5 tips to cultivate the positive attributes that our kids really do desire to show us:
Tip #1: Remember The Golden Rule
When children are raised in a respectful environment, they learn respect. For example, if you’ve overslept on Monday morning and the kids are not moving as fast as you’d like, screaming at them angrily to hurry up is teaching them that you don’t respect them.
(It was you who overslept, remember!) If they know that you will treat them poorly under stressful circumstances, you shouldn’t be surprised if they cause a scene when they are feeling tense. The Golden Rule—treating others the way you want to be treated—models your love and respect for them and when practiced regularly in your own home, your kids will live it in their lives as well.
Tip #2: Handling Back Talk
Back talk and parenting go hand in hand, but it doesn’t have to be a regular scenario in your home if you can tune in to where your child is coming from emotionally. Is your daughter giving you flip remarks because she’s cranky, exhausted, or really hungry?
If you’ve just picked her up from soccer practice at the end of a long day, the reason she might have just snapped at you could be because she’s overtired, overscheduled, and just can’t hold it together any longer. Kids usually save their worst behavior for the people they love and trust the most—their parents.
This does not mean that back talk is ever Ok, but most kids can be quite good at it, especially if you respond angrily. Try to respond calmly but sternly by saying
“I don’t speak to you like that, and it’s not acceptable for you to speak to me that way.”
It’s best never to deal with back talk and sarcasm in the heat of the moment. Instead, wait until both of you are calm and then acknowledge that you understand she’s overwhelmed with balancing school work and sports and it’s Ok to be angry. But make it clear that it’s not OK to turn that anger into fresh back talk. Then, try and suggest some alternatives for this bad behavior such as, “How about you take a day off from soccer practice tomorrow so you can catch up on your homework?” She will see you modeling an appropriate way to handle anger and over time will begin to follow your lead.
Tip #3: Don’t Manipulate With Bribes
On those days when your child is testing every last ounce of your patience and sanity, don’t try to negotiate by bribing him with something to temporarily stop his pesky behavior. That only teaches him how to become manipulative. For instance, no matter how badly you want time for yourself to read your novel, don’t become so desperate you promise you’ll buy him a new X-Box game if he quits nagging you.
In my experience with my 8 kids, what they are usually looking for when they act out is a few minutes of my undivided attention, not a material object. The next time he’s getting on your nerves, try to stop what you’re doing and ask him if he wants to play ball with you in the backyard or play a game or read together. If it’s your teen, make a date to go out for pizza later that week and then maybe catch a movie. Make this a regular part of your week so that he can come to depend on you giving him attention because you want to spend time with him, not because he has to act like a brat to get you to notice him.
Tip #4: No Means No
Every parent has difficulty saying no to their cherubs from time to time, especially if they know how to push your buttons by whining and droning on so that you eventually cave and give in. We have to remember that kids don’t realize the difference between needs and wants. Your 7th grader may think she needs her own iPad because all her friends have one, but you lovingly remind her that she’s lucky to have her own laptop, so she doesn’t need the additional gear. It’s OK to be unpopular with your kids sometimes.
But this means you must be consistent with the word “no.” Give your child a reasonable explanation as to why you have said “no” and then move on.
Don’t over-negotiate the situation or your child will soon realize that every time you say “no” you aren’t always consistent, therefore she can try to wear you down so that eventually you’ll compromise and give in to some or all of her requests.
Tip #5: Spend Significant Time With Your Kids
What your children really yearn for when they act like pills is simply some quality time with you. They want to feel significant and that they matter to you. Help build their self-esteem and confidence by always taking a genuine interest in them. Pay attention to what makes them thrive from the very beginning of their precious lives. Some days you’ll have more time than others to spend building your relationship, but even on the days you only have 15 minutes, initiate conversation about how their day was, read to them, eat a yummy dessert together, and simply appreciate them for the unique persons that they are. Most kids who feel connected to their parents won’t feel much need to act out just to get attention, because more than anything they want to please you and want you to be proud of them.
By spending a little extra time interacting with your children and by always maintaining a consistent approach, you can spin their negative behaviors into positive ones.
If you have a question regarding anything in this episode, or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy topic, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on the Mighty Mommy Facebook wall. You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy and on Pinterest, too.
Enjoy a wonderful week with your family and as always and Happy Parenting!