When your kids talk back, forget to use their manners, refuse to listen, don’t pitch in, act out and act disrespectful— it takes the joy right out of parenting.
Not only are their unsavory behaviors frustrating in the moment, but as they continue, you probably worry about your ability to raise a kind, respectful adult.
Take heed. Experts say with some simple strategies, consistency and patience, you don’t have to raise bratty kids. Here’s how:
1. Don’t make it easy.
“It is more difficult in many ways for this generation to raise a wonderful child than it is to raise a brat,” said Elaine Rose Glickman, author of “Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault.”
Parents in previous generations acted like parents: They expected obedience and respect and wanted to raise children who were resourceful and happy, “but they didn’t expect their children to be happy at every single moment,” she said.
If you’re always trying to make your child’s life easy by solving their problems, offering them every single opportunity, and being their full-time cheerleader, it’s more likely they’ll be spoiled.
2. Set limits.
Most parents have no idea how to set limits, so they either don’t do it or only enforce those limits until they’re at the end of their rope, said Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist in New York City and author of “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.”
If you don’t set and stick to clear limits, your kids will push and push until they get their way. Realize that setting limits doesn’t have to be delivered as a harsh punishment, however, but in a firm, kind way that is still respectful of your child.
3. Focus on what’s important.
Although you don’t want to set rigid expectations about everything, you should have rules about things that you consider non-negotiable.
So although it might annoy you that your child doesn’t put his socks in the hamper, treating others with respect is a must.
“Get clear about your values and act on those values and it will be easy to set limits,” Markham said.
4. Acknowledge their feelings.
Everyone wants to feel that their feelings matter and kids are no different. When your children are upset and acting out, acknowledge how they feel so they know you’re listening and concerned, but make sure they know they can’t behave any way they want.
Your kids actually want you to set expectations and find comfort knowing that they’ll be enforced.
“It’s a form of love and it’s a form of care to assert our authority with our children,” Glickman said.
5. Don’t give in.
It can be hard to stay firm, especially when your kid is whining non-stop or other parents seem to be passing judgment when your kid is having a meltdown. But when you give in, more bratty behavior will ensue.
Instead, be confident in who you are and what you want to accomplish as a parent. When you’re strong, your kids will realize that their behaviors won’t get them what they want at home or in the real world, Glickman said.
6. Be a role model.
If you fly off the handle at a moment’s notice, chances are your kid will have temper tantrums too.
“The research shows that children learn to regulate their emotions from their parents,” Markham said.
The next time you feel overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths or go into another room for your own time out. If it’s a pattern, read a parenting book or find a mental health professional to learn some coping strategies.
7. Act quickly.
Swift action is ideal to maintain behavior standards. For example, if your kids are fighting and you want to intervene to help them handle it, don’t wait.
“Step in before you’re going to lose it,” Markham said.
8. Instill a sense of gratitude and generosity.
When kids help others in need, it helps them be grateful for what they do have.
They key however, is not to force good deeds down their throats. For example, instead of making them throw away last year’s toys, let them come up with their own ways to help contribute to the greater good.
“The research shows that children learn to be generous by having the experience of giving to someone else or sharing with someone else and noticing how it feels,” Markham said.
9. Be a confident parent.
Instead of reacting to try to make your child happy when you discipline, accept their feelings and have the confidence to stick by your parenting because you know you did it to teach them an important lesson.
10. Ride it out.
When you’re exhausted and stressed out, and you only have a few hours with your kids, it can be tempting to give up and give in to their bad behaviors.
Yet when you’re consistent, your children will realize that you’re in charge, which will help you relax and have more fun with them.
“In order to have a happy life with your children in the long run, you have to have a couple of unhappy times with them in the short run,” Glickman said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.