How are things on your own home front these days? Do you ever wonder if your darling cherub could be the next poster child for "most spoiled"? Have you thought (secretly, of course) how much easier selling your kids on eBay would be than raising them for one more minute? Do you sometimes feel as though you've become your kids'ATM machine? If so, chances are your kid has a big dose of the Big Brat Factor.
Take a deep breath, and know you're not alone: millions of other parents are in the same boat. There is an epidemic in our society, and not only that, it's not just in the good old U.S.A. During the past eighteen months, I've worked with parents and educators in Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Finland, and elsewhere, and I can tell you that children worldwide are now victims of this malady.The good news is that this is not a natural disaster but a human dilemma, and that means we can do something about it. The first step is realizing that brats don't come in just one shape or form. In fact, there's a broad variety of brat types that could be living under your very own roof. Check out the following list to see if it inspires the shock of recognition:
The Little Princess-Mr. Fresh Prince Syndrome. Do your kids feel they are entitled to get everything they want and rule the roost? Do you feel you are running a bed-and-breakfast establishment instead of a home? Are you picking up after your kids and doing their chores because you can't bear dealing with their reaction if you ask them to do it themselves? (And heaven forbid if you asked your precious offspring to do something for you!)
The Con Artist. Does your kid manipulate you morning, noon, and night? Does she excuse, blame, fib, threaten, guilt-trip, and play you off against your partner? Is this the same kid you just said no to and somehow she's charmed you to give in? She's good, isn't she?
The Donald Trump Clone. Do you have a "gimme, gimme, gimme" kid? Is he so greedy and materialistic that to him you're nothing but a walking wallet? Is his vocabulary riddled with brand names? Does his closet overflow with stuff he's never worn or used? Are you looking at the want ads for job number four so you can pay for this kid's lifestyle? And how will he ever balance his budget when he's finally living on his own?
The Drama Queen. Does your little munchkin act as if she just lost the Oscar when she doesn't get her way? Is she such a diva that you can't change the TV channel without asking her permission? Do her theatrics leave you drained and exhausted at the end of the day? Why can't this kid take no for an answer?
"Poor Little Me." Does your child feel so sorry for himself that you find yourself always doing everything for him and expecting very little in return? Does he constantly complain about too much homework, friends who are mean to him, or how unfair you treat him? Do you find yourself rescuing him because it's so much easier than listening to his woes and moans?
Cruella De Vil. Is your kid so mean and nasty that you cringe at some of the things she says or does? Is she so insensitive that she can't see how her words and deeds hurt others? Are you afraid to confront her style of put-downs, sarcasm, and cutting remarks because you can't bear to receive yet another one of her stinging insults? How will she ever form loving relationships?
The Emperor Napoleon. Do you have an arrogant kid who acts as if he's out to conquer the world? Is he a smart aleck, know-it-all, little snob? Does he have a superiority complex? Does he treat you as if you are one of his subjects in his master plan to seize the throne? How can you be the parent if this kid is the boss?
Miss Bad Manners. Are you afraid to take your kid out in public because she's so fresh and rude? Does she stick out her tongue, interrupt, burp, and talk on her cell in the middle of the movie? Are raised eyebrows becoming all too common from strangers as well as friends when they see how your kid acts?
Couch Potato. Is your kid lazy, irresponsible, and uncooperative? Is he stuck in the family room with the remote control wired to his fingers? Is his chore chart fading away on your refrigerator door? How can you motivate him to wake up and join the human race?
In Your Face. How can you live with a kid who is defiant, rebellious, noncompliant, and never does what you ask? Are you doing stress-reduction exercises on your doorstep to find the courage to deal with what waits within?
Mr. Bigot. Is your kid narrow-minded, intolerant, and biased toward certain ideas, individuals, and groups of people? Does he tell racist jokes or believe in prejudicial stereotypes, and can't tolerate any ideas except his own? Do you feel you can't break through the stone wall of his mind to show him the wonderful reality of human diversity?
The Terminator. Does your kid behave with ruthless aggression in trying to overcome anything and everything that stands in his way? Does he go ballistic when you say no to him, when his friends won't do what he says, when his coaches put him on the bench? Do you worry when the phone rings that his explosive temper may have gotten him into big trouble?
Of course, no kid will fit exactly into any of these general categories; after all, the Big Brat Factor encompasses a wide spectrum of behaviors and attitudes and ranges from minor to major infractions. But seriously ask yourself if there's anything in these brat types that strikes a nerve or sounds even vaguely familiar. Nobody knows your child better than you do, so check your own instincts and ask yourself whether parenting is bringing you more stress than joy, more pain than happiness, more pangs than rewards. Do you fear that you're becoming the kind of parent you swore you'd never be? More nag than nurturer? More yeller than listener? More scolder than cheerleader? Most important, are you really worried that your kid is on the wrong track and needs an immediate makeover for her rude, insensitive ways? Then go with your instinct: it's time!
I have no doubt that you love your kid deeply. Your dream was to be the perfect parent and give your child your absolute best.You imagined that with such a passionate effort and with so much sacrifice and good intentions on your part, there's no way that your kid would turn out anything but wonderful.
So what went wrong? What's the underlying reason for the emergence of this spoiled kid of yours? How could he possibly have become a casualty of this epidemic? After many years of researching child development, being a special education teacher, working with over 750,000 parents and teachers all over the world, and having three kids of my own, I've come to the conclusion that the basic cause for the kind of behaviors that create a spoiled, selfish, insensitive kid who's a victim of the Big Brat Factor is ATTITUDE.The one thing that all these kids share—whether they're arrogant, bad-mannered, impatient, greedy, narrow-minded, lazy, irresponsible, manipulative, uncooperative is a BAD ATTITUDE.
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.