Is this what causes so many kids to be brats?
“It’s crap like this that causes so many kids to be brats and monsters, we need to be tougher on kids, not softer.”
Ever heard something like that? I got a comment here recently that said as much. Certainly it’s not the first time I’ve gotten comments like that and maybe this time it was just too early in the morning for me to read inflammatory things, but I was so annoyed.
Brats. Monsters. Jerks. A**holes.
This sort of us-against-them thinking is emotionally stunted and short sighted.
We are not raising brats or monsters or even angels.
We’re raising kids – whole human beings with a complex map of emotions, frustrations, desires and hopes. They can act like jerks sometimes – yes, agreed. And I have a dear friend to whom I occasionally vent to about such behavior. In fact, one reason she’s such a good friend is that she’ll let me have my frustration, let me spew about it all… and then when I’ve had some time, she’ll guide me back to seeing my child’s humanity, “Ok, sounds like he’s having a real problem, what do you think would help?”
When we dismiss kids’ humanity and simply label them brats or jerks we lose our compassion, our willingness to help and we lose our way as a leader.
Who wants to try and understand, much less help, a brat?
A brat is there to manipulate us. Screw that. We’re not gonna take it!
A monster is there to hurt us. We’ve got to fight that monster!
A jerk is there being thoughtless of us. They don’t deserve our help!
Can you see how all this name calling makes our children’s actions into something that we take personally? When we name-call, we go into Us vs. Them mode, heightening any feelings of animosity and anger we might already have. We’re looped in, reacting to the drama of being injured by someone.
Name calling slips into our consciousness and whispers nasty and fear-filled phrases:
Better not let him let him get away with that, he’ll turn into a hellion.
Don’t hold him while he cries – what is he, a wimp?
Make her obey immediately or she’ll be a spoiled brat.
If you say yes now, she’ll be a manipulative b*tch when she’s older.
Shut up that kid, what a MONSTER!
Notice how awful it feels to read all that? Do you want to parent from that space?
When we use inflammatory, labeling language we quickly move our brains into reactionary, angry thinking and we make decisions based on fear and anger instead of respect and understanding.
We lose the ability to slow down and think through how we want to respond. Once we start name calling by thinking of our child as a brat we’ve stepped away from our roll as a leader and instead we’re parenting based on fear. And one of the biggest dangers when we’re parenting out of fear, is that we tend to react swiftly, without giving ourselves that critical pause in which to make decisions based on dignity and respect.
Every day, every moment is an opportunity to practice love. Every hard interaction is your opportunity to ask yourself, “How do I love this person through this?” And I promise you, if you challenge yourself to ask that question over and over again, it will give you back so much more than a kid who’s not a brat.
It will give you emotional growth and a path forward.
You’re going to go beyond raising brats or angels. You’re developing a resilient connection with someone you love. You’re helping raise your child to be emotionally healthy, and likely, you’re learning how to be emotionally healthy yourself.
Of course you don’t want to raise ungrateful, thoughtless kids. And of course you’re going to be saying no sometimes and working to be the leader these little people need.
Connection and being kind are not excuses for not parenting – this is some of the hardest work you will ever do. When you work towards parenting through connection you’ve got to get to know your kids and be open to learning from them and changing what you’re doing in order to do what works best for your family.
It’s humbling to open yourself to listening to someone else. It’s frightening to stay with someone while they experience big emotions. It feels unsteady to practice being a leader when some days you barely know how to lead yourself from waking up to making coffee.
We’ll mess up – sometimes we’ll say yes when we should have said no.
Some days we’ll snap in anger.
Some days we’ll say no when we should have said yes.
It is normal to not always know exactly how to proceed.
We’re growing (I hope!) just as our kids are.
Trust respect. Trust connection. And know that connection makes everything else easier. Through that connection you can guide your child as you grow together.
Here are a few resources if you’re feeling lost or just beginning on this connection based parenting journey:
- Top Positive Parenting Books – The Whole Brain Child, Yell Less Love More and Parenting with Presence are three of my favorites. Links are Amazon affiliate links
- The Best Positive Parenting Resources Online
- Best Books to Help You Recharge When You’re Sick of Parenting
- Positive Parenting Pinterest Board
We’re not raising brats or angels. We’re raising whole people – not perfect, but perfectly suited to teach us that calling names is not a solution nor an inspiration to do better, and seeking connection in the hardest times gives us the biggest opportunities we’ll ever have to face our fears and grow our hearts.
64 Positive Things to Say to Kids
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I’m a grandma now. My girls are 33 and 31 years of age. They were taught respect and self discipline from the moment they were able to watch me. I believe that once a child is incubated and brought into the world, he/she has the right to be parented. That’s the job the adult applied for with the few seconds of “fun” 9 or so months before the little human being was born. Parenting is such an important skill. There is no need to berate children or scream or yell if you are parenting properly! Set baby up to succeed and your job is so much easier! Teach by actions how to act and how to learn, and school, social, or behavioral issues are less likely to crop up. If a child is acting out, I immediately look at the parent… did he/she make sure the child was fed, rested and feeling well when they left the house? Is that parent paying attention to their child (their JOB) at all times? Is that parent consistent with rules of etiquette/behavior? It takes a lot of energy to PARENT. Children are raised to be who they are and deserve to be parented responsibly.
It takes a lot of energy to parent, and parenting sometimes is about re-parenting yourself too, so you can be the parent you want to be to your kids! Thanks for stopping by.
I love all the things you said, but when ever I see posts about connection there are never any concrete ways to deal with tantrums and disobedience. I understand that they have a right to feel the way they do. I get upset when I when I have to do something I don’t want to do. What’s an example of how a parent can garner a respectful response and compliance from their child rather than a melt down.
I do hope to find some answers throughout the rest of your site, because I really hate being angry and annoyed with my 4 little kids. I want the joy that I dreamed having a large family would bring. Coming from an only child situation, it’s hard not to get my way.
Hi Christy, Actually I have a couple really helpful comments on the following post from a mom of 5 – she talks about how she handles melt downs and yelling. Look at the first few comments (from Elizabeth) here: http://bouncebackparenting.com/how-do-you-stay-calm-when-a-kid-is-yelling-at-you/
I understand you difficulty at not finding specifics as well – I know I have felt powerless in the past when I think about how to deal with my kids being rude or melting down. I have had a multifaceted learning experience on dealing with it.
1. I need to remind myself of why it matters to connect with my kids. I need to remind myself that they will learn more if they are feeling connected rather than angry/sad/scared.
2. I need to practice what I will say in various scenarios – so once I notice were having a repeat emotional break down, I think about how I want to address it the next tie around, and try it out – there is a lot of trial and error here.
3. I need to shift my thinking that I need to handle everything immediately. So taking a pause so that we can calm down doesn’t mean I will ignore the behavior – even if we calm with a hug, I will come back to the behavior itself once we’re calm so we can talk about it, make amends, enact a consequence if need be, etc.
4. I have found I have to get a lot more hands on in conflict resolution with my kids – so when problems arise we take the time (and ohhhh, it takes a lonnnng time usually) to work through the problem, talk through what happened, talk about what a better choice would be, practice how we will handle it differently next time. Clean up the mess or make amends.
I know this is still all very non-specific. Trust me, you’ve given me more to think about and write about. Check out that top link and I will get back to you if I think of other posts, or write something relevant to this.
I stumbled on this site via the Positive Parenting webpage. I had no idea other parents even talked about parenting rage. Especially not as candidly as you do. I have it. I think I simply got it from my mother. I have parented my young children through two deployments (gave birth 2 weeks prior to one, then mid-way through the second), so when I experienced anger, I had literally no one to turn to with whom I could feel safe to say what I felt. When I did dare express my feelings to someone, I got judged so harshly in that moment I was actually afraid to tell anyone. I am definitely not a parenting expert. I’m just a mom with a long way to go on this journey. Your site is already one of my faves!
Hi Donna, thanks so much. I try to write honestly about ways I’ve found to deal with anger and other parenting situations that have come up. I’m a mom with a long way to go too and I hope that by sharing parts of my journey I can help others along theirs. Thanks for writing.
Hello…i loved your article ….but one thing that bothers me is if child is not getting a suitable environment for his good bringing…thn for sure its very difficult for mom to control his temper…if a mother is living in join family system and thinking of other family members is not similar…thn it becomes very hard for a mom to keep a herself on a track…Isnt it???????..Alissa…plz reply
I’m not sure I completely understand what you’re asking, but I think you’re asking how we can control a child’s temper when others involved in our child’s life don’t parent in the way we would like. I would say – we, as moms, just are not in control of as much as we perhaps believe we are. We don’t get to control our children, nor other people – we only get to control ourselves.
So we can try to be a good example for the people around us, and do our best to give our kids the tools they need in order to handle emotions well. All work you do on your own emotions and handling of anger will benefit and influence those around you. You can’t ask yourself to be perfect, only to try your best, and start over again and again.
Great reminder! Another marvelous resource is the book “52 Things Kids Need From a Mom” by Angela Thomas. I just finished it. So good.
Alissa, I loved and was inspired by your article, and cited you on my latest blog post. I love your comments on strictness, and I offer that if we think of strictness as consistency in upholding our rules, it is very clear and loving and makes it easier for kids to understand and follow the rules when we don’t back down or bend them…. or at least not very often. It’s like a car seat or seatbelt. They know there is no option and most frequently, kids don’t fight it. I may now need to go add a “PS” to my post! Thanks for all your hard thinking. And for sharing it. xx a
What a great post, thank you. It’s hard to remember all these things, but sometimes (most of the time, hopefully), we do! As far as living it, it helps our children become empathetic beings. not entirely related exactly to your train of thought, we’ve become frustrated with our dog in his very old age. Luckily he is pretty healthy, but seems to have forgotten how to ask to go outside to poop. And even if we let him out often and try and wait for him to ‘go’, he’ll do his business inside, usually in the kitchen while I’m making dinner. Sorry for the gross detour/ TLDR. But, the point point is, when I lose my temper with the dog, and call him names, my son reminds me to be kind and that the dog is not defined by this transgression. yay! he gets it. I think. (he’s 7)
what a thoughtful, insightful response. thank you so much.
I agree with your comments to a point. I think that yes parenting from a positive e frame of mind is always best but for some children it is not always 100% realistic. One of my best friends has a son a couple of weeks younger than mine & he is very boisterous & will hit & punch & push children over. With the best will in the world, sitting down & explaining to a 2 year old boy does not work & the only way to get through to him is with a quick scare & some tough love. My son often gets 2 choices from me in a situation when he’s playing up “you can either do it of your own accord or I can come & get you” (for example if he doesn’t come to me & put his coat on when it’s time to leave a friends house). If I have to go & get him then he has to face the consequences.
While I don’t agree with bullying your child I believe that there are times when reason & logic simply don’t work so getting tougher is the only way. I am not ashamed of the fact that I am strict with my 2 year old because when I see him compared to most others his own age, he speaks very well & Is very respectful of his own home, toys & well behaved when we go out (Hes 2 so he’s not always an angel but he knows not to over step the mark)
Hi Julia – I can’t actually get behind using a quick scare but that may just be the way you’re describing something, and I think you and I are closer in our technique than it may appear. I agree kids do not always need to be reasoned with – I mean, reasoning and trying to be logical with a person who is perfectly happy to do things like sticking rocks up their nose, doesn’t always work so well. I don’t hear you saying, “My toddler is a jerk, so I just show him who’s boss.” Knowing developmentally appropriate behavior and trying to find the approach that works with your kid and their stage of life is key. That sounds like connecting to me, and making things work for our families.
Also, and maybe I eventually need to write a post about this, being strict doesn’t mean we’re not connected, right? We own a brewery and you can bet my husband and I are very strict with our kids about how they act in our establishment as well as places we visit who are our accounts. They know our expectations, and they also, I believe feel respected by us and WANT to be helpful ambassadors of their family business. And we are connected enough to take responsibility for being their parents and knowing when they’ve had enough or are too tired etc. to be out and about. – Not sure that makes sense, but I’m basically agreeing that you need to be a leader AND I think it’s important to be an aware enough parent that you have realistic expectations of your kids.
Yes…. this post, with ALL your others has, well, given me such an amazing reminder to the simple things, and the whole letting go thing, well beautiful. After I let go, I could breathe. Thank you. You always say things that I can so relate to and that in itself is just amazing. Such a well needed positive reinforcement that can get lost in my daily life. I read your posts every night before bet to hit my reset button and then march forward the next day to try and be the best I can be for my 3 year old and 9 month old. Thank you thank you thank you. x
Thank you Alison! That letting go of how you thought it would be and re-calibrating seems to be an ongoing task in parenthood, and I think when we’re able to let go and notice what’s in front of us, we find something much richer than we could ever have expected.
I’m a grandma raising 3 grandchildren two which are Mrdd, one processing issues. My grandson has many behavior/anger issues! When we are out in public people see a boy that looks normal on the outside and expect “typical” behavior! When they see his inside feelings coming out, they think brat!! I even had a lady at the grocery store tell him “listen here! You need to behave, if I had you, you would not act like that”!!!! Do they really think kids want to act like? Most all kids want to please but some kids can’t stay in that mind frame!!!
Thanks for all your positive, helpful, thoughtful, kind posts!
One day at a time!!
Thanks Karen (hugs) one day at a time, and it is SO hard to have a child who isn’t behaving the way society thinks they should, and then have the added weight of people’s judgement on top of that. Here’s to compassion!
Oh goodness, thanks again so much for writing this. I keep hearing name calling everywhere and I think it de-humanize us. Name calling, no matter how socially accepted, is, in my humble opinion a really harmful and very hurtful thing. Even names that are being used in a funny or cute way (like, “hey, Stinky” when you’re changing a smelly diaper….my other kids hear that, it becomes acceptable, and it can be used to hurt in other settings at other times. I think it is becoming so accepted…from calling kids names to calling Politicians names….
I don’t even want to say “good girl” or “good boy” to my kids because they Are Good. Sure, they may do things that are not so great, bother me, are dangerous, or hurtful to someone else, but they themselves are Good.
Anyway, thanks again so much for spotlighting this issue. May we all be Kinder with our Tongue!
Love from Holland,
Oh my how I love this… I really really REALLY love this!
Thank you! I needed this pep talk. Getting through big emotions is so so hard but doing it with love and patience is the way to be a leader I want my boys to be proud to follow!
So nice to read your comment Jen. I find it helpful to think about being a leader in the times when I’m most likely to snap – somehow it helps take me out of myself and helps me strive to be the kind of leader I want to be 🙂
I love connecting with my kids. I find when our family is connected, there is no yelling, no arguments, no whining, etc. We’re just a family having fun working in the yard, playing a game, making dinner, etc. Connections make us feel safe, loved, needed, happy and of course, stronger.
Your post is EXCELLENT for me today. Sometimes a reminder is all you need. Thank you!
Thanks Toby, yes – connection makes our days flow better. And I know the moments when I manage to make it through something with one of my kids where I’m really angry (or frustrated or whatever), and yet keep connection and we make it through – those moment grow our relationship even more, and they’re the times when I feel like, “Ok, I’m doing this! So neat!”
I love this post. I have some thoughts that relate to this. I have found that when I spend focused time with my children that their way of thinking is not very different than my own. The biggest difference that I see is that I have had more time to learn and define more concepts and so am able to construct more complex ideas, but, the trail of reasoning is not any different. So, what I mean by that is, if I had the same experiences and knowledge base that my child has, I would probably make the same choices and draw the same conclusions as them. Now, I realize that there are some others factor at play such as hormones, environmental differences and we are perceived by others differently, but, if we actually think the same then it means something very profound. It means that we are both human and we can understand each other. It means that I don’t have to label or judge my child to understand them because I have the capacity to truly understand them. It means that I can enter into my child’s worlds and help them to find the solutions that they are looking for. It’s certainly not always easy, but when you see it from their perspective, when you get that aha moment of a glimpse into their world, it is so gratifying. Its like a secret gift that you get to relish in, because let’s face it, who else in our lives is so willing to let us into their world?
Scott, thanks so much. Yes, who else will so willingly let you in? And when you do notice how your children see things it can be really magical can’t it? Thanks for being such a great inspiration in my life.
I have a pet peeve, I have been ask “Is he/she a good kid?” My reply said as nicely as possible, “Children are. Children are neither good nor bad they simply ARE.” I correct inappropriate behaviors, not children. I probably tend to be impatient with schools when they call me telling me of some infraction I will let them tell me the whole thing and when they are done I will say “So, are you saying my child is being childish” And try to explain that a child struggling with a concept and need redirection they are doing their job.