A PEW Research Center study once revealed that 70% of the public feels it is more difficult to be a mother today than it was 20 or 30 years prior. The key challenges cited for raising a child were societal (i.e. substance abuse, peer pressure, TV/internet/movies, etc). The study also cited the immense importance of good parenting (i.e. teaching morals, discipline, and manners).
Because of these challenges, many agree that children are more unruly today than ever before.
Though raising a child today is tough, I strongly believe that all of us, parents and otherwise, must take responsibility for ensuring that children are not brought up to be unruly. I believe that children ages 4 to 8 are in particular danger of becoming such due to their impressionable age, and so I’ve written a picture book for children that teaches lessons about morals and manners. More on that later, because I would first like to identify the 10 signs that your child has become unruly. . . and by another name. . . a brat.
1. Your child cares more about getting the next version of Mortal Kombat than he does about your impending open heart surgery.
2. You tell her that you just lost your job and her immediate reaction is to ask if she can still buy that cool outfit at H&M.
3. Your child uses foul, four letter words more than you do.
4. You asked your child at least three times to do a chore yet it remains undone. When he finally starts it incorrectly (on purpose), you do it yourself, knowing deep inside that you are perpetuating his behavior.
5. Your child gets an “F” in math and he immediately blames everyone else, including his teacher for not teaching, his classmates for making too much noise, his dog for peeing on his homework, and you for not hiring an expensive tutor like the caring parents do.
6. Your child gets $25 from her Aunt Lilly for her birthday, and she looks at it with a smirk and says, “I can’t buy anything with this. Aunt Lilly needs to get a job.”
7. Your child gets $100 from his 100 year old Grandma and then you need to nag him for nine months to send a thank you card before the old lady dies.
8. You and your son get called to the principal’s office after school. On your way through the halls, you suddenly notice that frightened children part like the Red Sea to let your child pass.
9. You catch her in at least three lies per week and realize that she no longer looks you in the eye when she speaks. . . ever.
10. You have a sunken feeling right now because your child fits one or more of these descriptions. Or you are cheering because he or she fits none of these, though they do describe that little bugger down the street.
You might be thinking that I am being harsh. No one wants to think of their child as a brat. I get that. It’s always someone else’s kid who is the brat. Right? And some of you might even think that it’s not nice for me to label a child a “brat.” It amounts to name calling. After all, in today’s society we strive to find nice words for not nice things, like when a salesman calls a “used car” a “pre-owned vehicle.” But according to Merriam-Webster, a brat is an ill-mannered, annoying child. By that standard, I think the term “brat” is more descriptive than it is derogatory. I think decades of brats being brats gave the name “brat” a bad reputation. We should bring it back.
But instead of using the term “brat,” many parents today prefer to think of their child as overly rambunctious, or a tad hyperactive, or slightly misunderstood, or a bit outspoken, or as a restless genius. Some will blame bad behavior on a medical ailment like the mysterious and suddenly widespread attention deficit disorder. I certainly understand that some children do, indeed, have a medical condition, but ADD/ADHD is used with such frequency as an explanation for misbehavior that it defies logic. Even the experts tell us that it can be difficult to distinguish between attention deficit disorder and normal kid behavior. I suspect that there are an abundance of parents who would prefer to medicate their children rather than admit that they raised brats.
I believe in tough parenting. Make rules and stick to them. Don’t waffle. Don’t let big things slide. Children should not be allowed to lie, cheat, steal and the like with impunity. Their inattention or laziness should not be so easily explained away with convenient medical jargon. I believe that misbehaviors should have consequences that matter. I don’t believe in being my kid’s best friend if it means he grows up ill-mannered, rude and manipulative. This simple belief has helped my kids grow into fine adults. . .so far.
To help other parents prevent their children from becoming brats in this challenging world, I recently introduced a new picture book for children ages 4 to 8 (illustrated by Roderick Fong). Titled BetterNot! and the Tale of Bratsville – Teaching Morals and Manners, it’s about a town filled with naughty children whose actions awaken a magical creature named BetterNot who rushes to teach children valuable lessons in ways that fit their misbehaviors. Think of him as a cross between the boogeyman and Willy Wonka, but one who actually reforms all the naughty children. If you can’t live without it, you can find it here.
I’m sure your child is an angel and doesn’t need the book, but you might be tempted to send a copy to your sister who is raising that little demon nephew of yours. My goal is not to sell a million books, though I would like to sell more books than I give away; if you are a writer, you know what I mean. So my more achievable goal is to prevent at least one child from becoming a brat and tossing eggs at your house. That’s my little contribution to society. . .my way of helping parents raise children who are not my own.
More importantly, use the comment section below to add a sign/indicator that a child is being bratty, and list an appropriate consequence that you think should be employed for the bratty behavior. Don’t exaggerate. Just tell me what you think is reasonable. What works? They may provide fertile ground for the next book in the BetterNot series.
Today’s parents need help. A bratty four-year-old child today may become a bratty forty-year-old adult. That bratty adult may be responsible for deciding if you, the parent, live your final years in the delightful comfort of your own home or get shoved into a dilapidated home for the elderly.
Think about that the next time your child would rather go to a concert than stay at home to nurse you back to health after your heart transplant.