Confronting the Crisis

Sow a thought and you reap an act; Sow an act and you reap a habit; Sow a habit and you reap a character; Sow a character and you reap a destiny.

—Charles Reade

Dear Dr. Borba,

As much as I hate to admit it, our twelve-year-old son is becoming a spoiled brat. Frankly, there are times I'm just at my wit's end! I love him to death, but I really don't like what he's turning into: self-centered, inconsiderate, and downright rude! He only thinks of himself and can be quite flippant and fresh. I tell him to stop, I ground him and remove privileges, but his selfish, rude ways are still there. How do I get him to stop giving me this attitude? There has to be a better way!

—Jenny K., a mom from Portland, Oregon

Bad Attitude Act Out

"I want it, and I want it now!" "Why should I care how she feels?" "Get real. I'm doing it my way!"

Sound familiar? These outbursts from selfish, rude, fresh, demanding kids are symptoms of a swiftly growing epidemic that is sweeping the country. Now this doesn't mean there aren't any good kids left in the world; of course, there are! In fact, studies suggest that this generation is volunteering more than ever before. But let's stay focused on the crisis at hand. It's there, it's growing, and it won't go away until we decide it's a big enough problem to do something about. Experts differ as to the most appropriate way to label this breed of self-centered, insensitive youth, describing their behavior with such psychological terminology as "overindulged," "grandiose," "narcissistic," and even "egocentric-regressed." Most lay folks agree that the plain, old-fashioned term "spoiled brat" fits just fine.And it's also a term that every parent dreads. "Not my kid! A big brat? Never!" It's embarrassing, it's humiliating, it's the crisis we all dreaded might occur with our own sons and daughters.

Even the word "spoiled" sounds as if it's rotten: there's nothing you can do about it, and you have to throw it away.

But we're not talking about apples and oranges here: these are our precious children, our loved ones, our hope for the future.We can't give up and abandon our most treasured human blessings, the relationships we most cherish.We can't ever stop believing that we can make a difference in confronting this crisis, that everything we do now will play a crucial role in turning their lives around and shaping their ultimate destiny.We must have faith that there is a way to help our kids defeat the negative consequences and long-term penalties of the Big Brat Factor.

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