How to Brat-Proof Your Child

The Pint-Size Protester

  • You're getting ready to go out and your 4-year-old says, "I don't want Mrs. Lewis to baby-sit. She's boring! Why can't I come with you?"
  • Your 6-year-old says, "Why should I clean my room? It's my room, not yours. Besides, it's just going to get messy again."

How did it come to this?

You've gotten into the habit of giving too many explanations when you want your child to do something ("If you don't clean up your room, you won't be able to find anything"). As a result, he uses your tactics to try to overturn your rulings ("I know where everything is!"). When you cave, he learns that arguing works. However, this habit will make it hard for him to develop the self-discipline needed to do the things in life he'll have to do whether he wants to or not.

Brat-idote

Give clear instructions that don't invite negotiation ("Mrs. Lewis will stay with you while I go to the doctor's" or "You need to clean your room before you watch TV"), and then walk away. To make it easier to stand firm, come up with a standard retort to repeat in broken-record mode when your child protests ("In this family, everyone is expected to keep his room neat").

Making it stick

Avoiding debates with your child can be as tough as biting your tongue when your mother-in-law visits. At first, your child may argue more in an attempt to get the usual reaction out of you, but hang in there.

Payoff

When he sees that protesting no longer gets results, he'll start to believe that you really mean what you say--the first time.

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