There’s a lot of advice out there about empathetic parenting: Hearing your child’s needs, allowing them to express themselves, being in tune with their feelings. All of that is well and good, but Elaine Rose Glickman, parent and author of Your Kid’s A Brat, And It’s All Your Fault, says that a kid’s shitty behavior, at least partially, comes from the ones that made them.
“Most people have a sense of when their child has gone off the rails, and lot of times we deny it and we try to push it down,” says Glickman. It’s completely natural for a kid to test the limits, but when it becomes behavioral pattern, that’s when they’ve crossed the line into brattiness, and it’s up to you to do more than just dismiss it as a tantrum or a phase.
If you’re reading this now while icing child-sized bite marks on your arm, or listening to a soundtrack of screaming about how you’re the meanest, it’s time to call your kid out and lay down some parental law. Here are some of Glickman’s tips on what some parents (not looking in your direction) are doing wrong, and how to fix it.
To Be A Parent, You Have to Actually BE A Parent
“If you send a message from the time they’re young that they’re the boss, you set yourself up as you are not someone who can be counted on; You are not someone who’s not strong. If you can’t even stand up for yourself against your 3-year-old child, how can that child trust you to protect them,” says Glickman. You’ve already grown a pair (that’s how your kid was made), so it’s time to start using it.
“It’s Just A Phase” Is BS
Kids express their emotions pretty simply: Crying, hitting, or biting. But Glickman says if you continuously write it off with something like, “Oh, that’s just Daniel. He’s a biter,” you’re really not doing your job. “Some things we overlook or explain away are behaviors we need to deal with,” she says. “Parents take it as ‘they’re expressing their anger and frustration, they’ll grow out of it, they’re too young to really hurt me.’” You need to show them that it’s wrong and give them options for expressing their feelings in another way. Maybe write a scathing critique in the New Yorker.
The Whining Has to Stop
To kids, whining is like breathing. But, if you give in, you’re just teaching them that it works, and pretty soon you’ll just have a kid who speaks fluent “I waaannntt it.” To shut that down, it’s not enough to just tell them to stop — you have to refuse to even listen to it. “Tell them, ‘I’ve already said no. If you want to whine about this more you can whine in room with your door closed, I already said no and I’m done talking about this’,” says Glickman. If they start whining about their door being closed — well, checkmate.
“Some things we overlook or explain away are behaviors we need to deal with.”
Limit Their Options
You want your kid to feel like they can grow up to do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be — but they can do that when they go off to college. If they’re misbehaving, you need to give them option A and option B. “You need to give your kids choices, but controlled choices,” says Glickman.
It’s great to let them make their own decisions on things like “strawberry or blueberry” or “swings or slide”, but you have to remove options like “hitting or not hitting” or “going to bed” or “driving you to a sleepless rage.” Those decision aren’t age-appropriate and by putting the ball in their court, you’re not actively stopping the bad behavior.
Let Them Be Mad Sometimes
Somewhere along the line, parents were made to feel like failures if their children aren’t happy 100 percent of the time. Bending over backwards to keep your kid from getting angry isn’t just exhausting, it’s a terrible way to parent.
“A child who’s happy all the time on the surface because they’re given everything that they want want — deep down inside that child is really tired and upset and waiting for someone to set boundaries and guidelines and be a parent,” says Glickman. You need to put up some emotional baby gates and not be afraid to say “no” when you need to.
Your Kid Is Not the Greatest Thing Since Gluten-Free Sliced Bread
“We tend to see our children as the center of the universe,” says Glickman. “That sends a message that they’re more important than other people, that you’re more important than anything else, and they begin to feel entitled to special treatment: Grades, trophies, success. You need to teach them that, yes, you are important, but other people are important too.” Well, most other people.
“You need to teach them that, yes, you are important, but other people are important too.”
Mind Their Manners
They don’t have to wear a bow-tie or curtsey in your presence, but not saying “please,” and “thank you,” is bratty behavior that’s going to put them at a disadvantage later in life.
“They need to know how to get along in the world, and a big part of that is how to conduct themselves and treat other people respectfully,” she says. If you don’t reinforce the importance of basic manners now, you’re going to wind up raising the kind of asshole that doesn’t tip waiters because “they didn’t really do anything.”