How to Brat-Proof Your Child

Teach the values kids need to be nice.

Does Spoiling Equal Bratty Behavior?

Bratty kids. They bark orders, refuse to share--and are raised by clueless parents who have tons of money, spoil them rotten, and don't spend a minute on discipline, right?

Not necessarily. Even loving, attentive parents can wind up with a stubborn brat. "I've worked hard to prevent my 5-year-old, Tanner, from being greedy," says Kim Ratcliff, of Los Gatos, California. "So it was really discouraging to see him at a recent birthday celebration, with a party favor in one hand and a bag of candy in the other, screaming because I wouldn't go to the store to buy the toy the birthday boy got."

"Fortunately, typical bratty behavior is very curable," says Sal Severe, Ph.D., author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too! and a Parents adviser. When a child behaves like Angelica on Rugrats, it's usually because such antics get her what she wants. But once those tactics stop working, she'll give them up.

Changing your child's behavior patterns requires determination, introspection, and patience; in fact, it takes at least three weeks to break a habit or establish a new one, Dr. Severe says. But taking the bull by the horns is worth it, because kids who are demanding and self-centered have difficulty making friends. And teens who've been overindulged as kids are more likely to use drugs, according to a study by Harvard psychologist Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., author of Too Much of a Good Thing.

Be prepared for your child to balk when you start being less lenient--but stand firm. If your child were about to stick his finger in an electrical outlet, wouldn't you do whatever was necessary to stop him? "What we do to protect a toddler from danger often makes him cry, but the dangers aren't as immediate when our kids are older, so we tend to give in more," Dr. Kindlon says. Here are five classic profiles of brattiness, along with expert advice about how to break the cycle.

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