Help, My Child Is a Spoiled Brat!
- Betsy de Cruz Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 9 Sep
Before I had kids, I pronounced secret judgments in my head every time I saw a toddler screaming on an airplane, a child running around a restaurant, or a kid throwing a hissy fit at Target. Clearly, those people did not know how to parent. My children would never act like that; I would teach them better.
Since then, I’ve had two offspring myself and I’ve had to eat my words many times. If you have children, you’ve probably had the same experience. Most children are part angel and part rascal. God created them wonderfully and uniquely, yet at the same time, they’re sinful creatures with a natural bent to rebellion, just like we are.
My husband and I enjoy our teen children and have a good relationship with them. We tried our best to raise them well, but sometimes they drove us crazy by doing things like this when they were younger:
- Squirt an eight oz. tube of glue all over the seat of an upholstered chair as a joke.
- Heat up a metal pot in the microwave for five minutes. (How we’re still all alive, I’ll never know. God’s mercy.)
- Pour water from our balcony onto the neighbors below.
- Lock themselves in the bathroom at church, requiring a locksmith to get out.
Childhood shenanigans like these are small problems compared to toddler tantrums, lying, disrespect, adolescent struggles, and blow-ups. As child psychologist James Dobson says, “Parenting isn’t for cowards.”
If you’re struggling and wonder whether your child is turning into a spoiled brat, hang in there. You’re not alone. Every parent wonders the same thing from time to time. Your child may be going through a difficult stage, but there’s hope.
Scripture gives us this principle: “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)
Of course some children are stronger willed than others. Your child may have ADHD or another condition which makes behavior more problematic, but the general principle stands. Children respond positively to discipline. Some children may respond more readily than others, but efforts to teach them are never wasted.
When a loving parent establishes boundaries, communicates those boundaries to a child, lets him know what will happen if he disobeys, and then follows through, a child learns. When a parent does this consistently over time, the child grows into the best version of himself.
If your child’s misbehavior is driving you crazy, here are some questions to ask yourself.
Does my child know the limits?
If your child is acting out regularly, try sitting down with her to talk about what specific behavior problems you see in her and what limits you’re going to enforce. This works best if you stick to one or two major issues. Remind her of the limits you are setting and what the consequences will be for her misbehavior. Then follow through.
Am I being consistent to discipline and teach my child?
In my years of parenting, I’ve seen that when my children become hard to handle, it’s often because I’ve grown lax or inconsistent in enforcing limits. Sometimes we get so exhausted that we let discipline slide. We lack the energy to enforce the rules. Then disobedience and disrespect become a regular pattern because we let our kids get away with them.
Am I intervening quickly enough when my child disobeys?
When we ignore misbehavior or resort to threats without actually doing anything, our children will usually continue misbehaving, and stress escalates. Then it’s easier for us to get angry and end up saying or yelling things we shouldn’t. This creates a cycle of insecurity and misbehavior. When a parent intervenes in a timely fashion to discipline a child who misbehaves, peace is restored to the home more quickly, and the child learns limits more effectively.
Do I have unrealistic expectations?
In several of his books, James Dobson writes about the difference between childish behavior, like spilling milk, and willful disobedience and disrespect, like intentionally smashing a sibling’s toy or hitting a parent. Sometimes we get frustrated by childish behavior and think, “My child is so naughty!” In reality he’s just acting like a child. As hard as it is, we need to exercise patience with irritating childish behavior while we lovingly teach our kids to be more careful.
Could my child be stressed, tired, or overstimulated?
Today’s kids live under a tremendous amount of stress that many of us never dealt with. Remember your own childhood? Your parents probably said, “You’re bored? Go play outside.” Today we enroll our children in camps, classes, sports, and activities. They barely have time to relax and be kids. Sometimes even elementary-aged kids don’t get enough sleep. They stay up late doing homework because they’re busy after school. Are your kids getting enough downtime and 8-10 hours of sleep a night?
Is our family going through a difficult time?
If your child’s behavior is out of hand, stop to consider your family life. Are you under stress? Are you facing difficult life events like death or divorce? All of these can affect your child. She can’t express the stress and grief she feels, so she misbehaves.
Am I spending enough quality time with my child?
Kids often misbehave in order to get their parents’ attention. In their minds, negative attention is better than no attention. Monitor your use of cell phones, computers, and television during hours you’re at home. All of these can steal away precious time with your child. Set aside time regularly to talk, play games, take walks, or go out for ice cream together.
If you’re going through a rough patch with your child, hang in there. Remember that ultimately, a loving relationship provides the best foundation for training and teaching him. If you’re consistent in trying to discipline your children, you will see fruit sooner or later. Your home will be more peaceful, and you’ll enjoy your kids more.
Betsy de Cruz enjoys God, life with teenagers, and dark roast coffee. Betsy’s passion is to encourage women to get God’s Word in, so their faith can spill out, even during life’s bumpy moments. She and her family live in the Middle East. Most days she feels privileged to live overseas; other days she wants to pull her hair out and catch the next plane home. Betsy writes about real life faith on her blog, faithspillingover.com, on Facebook. and on Twitter.
Publication date: September 9, 2016