How to Brat-Proof Your Child

The Helpless Whiner

  • "I'm thirsty! Get me some water," your 8-year-old calls from her room.
  • When the puzzle won't fit together on the first try, your 4-year-old howls, "Mommy, come here!"

How did it come to this?

You've provided such wonderful service--keeping your child entertained and helping whenever she summons you--that she turns to you the second she's frustrated or bored. You may not have noticed that there are many things she's now capable of doing herself, such as zipping her jacket or setting up the play tent.

Brat-idote

"The only way to learn to tolerate frustration is to experience it," says Dr. Kindlon. So stand back and let your child cope a bit ("I'm busy right now, but I can help you after I finish cleaning the kitchen"). When you ask her to do things on her own, reassure her that she's capable ("I'll bet a girl like you who can go down the big slide is probably grown-up enough to butter her own toast"). Help her learn to entertain herself by limiting TV use and making sure she has some downtime every day.

Making it stick

When she comes whining to you and gets mad because you won't help her, give some verbal guidance. Suggest things she can do on her own (take out the modeling clay, or build a hideout under the dining-room table), or talk her through a problem she's having (sort the puzzle pieces by color, or look for corner pieces).

Payoff

You can go into semiretirement as your child's personal assistant. Not only will she feel more confident and capable, but she'll develop important qualities such as persistence, resilience, and resourcefulness.

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