Am I Raising a Spoiled Brat?

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Being around a spoiled brat is very unpleasant for parents and for everyone else. Parents of spoiled kids do not realize how much harm they are doing to their children by raising them incorrectly.

What’s a spoiled brat like?

A spoiled brat is a child raised in such ways that the child always gets what he or she demands. Besides the annoyance caused to others, spoiling a child has an added psychological dimension to it. It ruins the child in different ways.

When parents consistently give in to the whining, screaming, tantrum-throwing behaviors of their children, make no mistake about it; they are ruining them. This is surprising because some parents believe that by giving their children what they want, they are taking care of them. Moreover, it is often a matter of the path of least resistance to give into a child’s demand rather than face the consequences of the child’s reaction to a denial.

This is especially the case if the spoiled behavior has already gone on for a long time. For parents already in the middle of dealing with this problem, it is helpful to rewind. Go back to the beginning, and see what behaviors of the parent (not the child) caused the problem to develop in the first place. Eliminate those inappropriate parental behaviors and erase the problem.

How does a child become spoiled?

It is only natural that there is an attempt to continue this behavior. In addition to getting attention, these attempts are made by young children to assert independence and to see how far they can go with manipulative dominance of their parents.

As a Parents.com article reports, Rex Forehand, PhD who co-authored the book entitled, “Parenting the Strong-Willed Child,” says a child is not spoiled because she or he cries or throws a fit. The child becomes spoiled when the parents give in to the bad behavior and then give the child what he or she wants.

This is logical, because if the tantrum gets the child what is wanted, this sets up a reward for doing the same thing repeatedly. It is best never to establish such a combination of acting out with getting a reward, because once this pattern is established, it is much harder to change it.

In order for children to understand the limits of proper behavior and the rules of how they need to conduct themselves, there needs to be consistency in the parents’ reaction. Sal Severe, PhD, who is a child psychologist and author of,” How to Behave So Your Child Will Too,” agrees with Dr. Forehand. It is when acting out gets the child what it wants that creates the problem.

Disciplining your Spoiled Child

The objective for parents is to make strict rules regarding appropriate and inappropriate conduct. Both parents need to follow these rules consistently, because if one gives in and rewards bad behavior in the child, all is lost. In this case, the child will simply continue and look to the weaker of the parents to cave in to the child’s demands.

Some parents would refute this strategy by pointing out that sometimes it is easier and more effective to simply give the child what she or he wants, especially if they are making an embarrassing scene in public. Of course, the parents who say this already have a spoiled brat that is out of control.

When experiencing a child making a scene in public, the best practice is to remove them from the scene and take them either to the car or home for a time out. There is no need for slapping or hitting the child. Simply pick them up, even if they are screaming and crying at the top of their lungs. Take them out of the public area to a private place. Let them rage on, until they run out of steam, but never give them what they demanded using these tactics.

If parents have not already spoiled the child, they will only need to do this a few times. Children are always testing limits, so when they discover an immovable one, they rapidly give up and try something else, like being nice and asking politely, especially when that behavior gets them better results. It is crucial that parents understand that helping a child learn to work within limits and delaying gratificationhelps  them establish patterns that are useful for the rest of their lives.

As reported by the Education Consumers Foundation, a 23-year long study done by Avshalom Caspi, through Kings College in London and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, found that a clear connection exists between children’s behavior at the age of three and the personality traits of the same children when they became adults at the age of twenty-six.

This study involved over 1,000 participants. It proves how critical it is to set up the toddlers for life success. Nobody likes spoiled brats. The challenge is they turn into very immature adults that are dysfunctional to some degree.

Good parents would not do anything intentionally they know will harm their children, so let’s get down to the practical steps to take to avoid making your children into spoiled brats.

How to Raise Children That are not Spoiled Brats

As we learned already, with toddlers it is about setting limits, saying no, being consistent, taking timeouts, removing them from public when they make a scene, or at least taking them as far away from the earshot of others until the energy runs out. Then balance this limit setting with rewards when they behave well. It is important not to think these rewards are bribes or negotiation with the child. That is a different thing and not useful at all. It is very weak to say to a child “If you stop screaming, I’ll give you a candy bar.” This means the throwing of the fit succeeded and gives exactly the opposite message.

It is better to observe good behavior, and after there has been a period of very good behavior, reward by surprise. Even better is if the reward teaches fiscal responsibility, such as saving some money to buy something the child wants to buy for themselves.

Dr. Jim Taylor is a psychologist and published author. His books, “Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child” and “Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World” are both a good read. He published an article “Parenting: How Not To Raise Spoiled Brats” in the Huffington Post. His concern is that both average and affluent families help children grow up to be balanced, responsible, young adults.

Dr. Taylor recommends:

  • Chores – Chores come in two types. There are chores that need no reward and are responsibilities shared by everyone in the family and chores that are special with a financial reward. Being responsible is important, with or without remuneration. There should be no reward for taking dirty dishes to the dishwasher. A reward for raking up the leaves in the yard is the other type.
  • Allowances – Allowance comes on a regular basis even if extra chores are not done to earn it. Part of the allowance must be saved and part must be given to charity. This is how to teach fiscal responsibility.
  • Summer Jobs – Every teen, no matter how wealthy or poor a family is, should do a summer job. This is very important to help them transition to the real world as they get older.

Spoiling children is not loving them; it is ruining them. By setting appropriate boundaries, staying firm, and showing a good example of how nobody gets a free ride as they get older, parents help their children in ways that really help them later in life.

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