How to Brat-Proof Your Child

The Cavalier Consumer

  • Whether you're in the toy store or the hardware store, your 5-year-old will find something she's got to have.
  • You buy your 10-year-old a top-of-the-line skateboard, and two months later he's demanding an upgrade.

How did it come to this?

It's easier to give in and avoid a big scene than to say no and endure a meltdown. Or maybe you simply love to see your child's face light up when you buy him a gift, and now he expects to get whatever he asks for. Either way, you're doing him a disservice. "When you buy your child something to prevent a tantrum, all he learns is that he's got to scream to get what he wants," Dr. Kindlon says. And if you give him lots of things because you want to make him happy, it'll be harder for him to appreciate the gifts or the effort you went to. He's also robbed of the pleasure of anticipation that comes from saving up for a toy or waiting for his birthday.


Prepare for difficult situations ("We are going to the toy store to buy a present for Cousin Seth. This is not a day we're buying anything for you"). If your child starts to make a scene, try to ignore him and go about your business. Make it clear when and what you're willing to buy for him ("A train set is something you can put on your birthday list"). Try to focus on simple pleasures and experiences rather than on possessions.

Making it stick

If you have trouble saying no, start by giving in to your child's requests in fewer situations.


He'll get more enjoyment from the things he has. Receiving a gift will become special again, rather than something that's expected.

Manners & Responsibility: Answering the Phone
Manners & Responsibility: Answering the Phone

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