How to Brat-Proof Your Child

The Impudent Ingrate

  • Your 5-year-old says, "I told you I wanted a Barbie!" when your sister gives her a hand-knit sweater.
  • You make your 7-year-old tacos for dinner, and he says, "I hate tacos! Can't you ever make anything good?"

How did it come to this?

You might have assumed that your child is too young to truly understand how his words and behavior make others feel, so you've let inconsiderate behavior slide, simply telling him, "That's rude." But this policy may not be wise: "Kids are naturally self-centered, so they need to be taught how to be respectful, appreciative, and considerate," Dr. Severe says.

Brat-idote

Help him become aware of other people's feelings by encouraging him to put himself in someone else's shoes ("How do you think you'd feel if you spent every afternoon for a week making a present for Aunt Rose and she said, "This isn't what I wanted'?"). Refuse to tolerate disrespect ("I'll listen to you when you can speak nicely"), and show him a better way of making his point ("Thanks for making tacos, but they're not my favorite anymore. Could you make lasagna soon?").

Making it stick

Kids tend to say whatever pops into their head. You may have to call your child's attention to each instance of ingratitude and disrespectful behavior before he learns to apply the brakes himself.

Payoff

When your child learns to treat others better, he'll have an easier time making friends. He'll be someone with whom people--including you--truly enjoy spending time.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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