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3 Simple Steps to Avoid Creating a Demanding Bratty Child

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/1/2006 | Kids & Teens
Parenting is tricky business in today's world. There may never have been a time when so many different sets of expectations, rules, requirements and pressures were placed on parents by society; and yet, it is also a wonderfully exciting and adventurous time to be alive and raising children.

Whatever the choices parents make regarding rules, standards, individual freedom, responsibility and behavior, the real shaping of these attributes occurs not in the rules we set, but in the way we live and interact with our family members.

Sometimes, when faced with the combined pressures of "what others think" and "what is appropriate" along with our own personal feelings about what is happening in any public parenting moment, we can experience major melt down.

Kids who scream like banshees and throw temper tantrums in the shopping center, parents yelling angrily at their children, their mates or innocent bystanders. The price of failing to take simple precautions to safe guard your precious relationships with your children and spouse can escalate to the point where parents and children feel a complete loss of control.

So how do you avoid these horrific battles of will? What makes kids good and others tyrants? How can you protect your family from these kinds of dramatic emotional power bombs?

The first thing to know is that children are naturally, perfectly and always, selfish. Rather than condemning this trait which is actually to their good, appreciate its implications and use this knowledge to your advantage.

On the face of it, this sounds counter productive toward what most parents think their aim should be: to help the child become caring and selfLESS and considerate of others. But the truth is, a child will become what a child is given the freedom and love to become, not what they are "taught". Each of us has an innate longing and desire to be good, to be loved and to be valuable. When we harness this power in our children we empower them to harness the world.

It starts with paying some attention to your expectations. Think about what you are doing before you take on the task, particularly when the task is going out in public with a child. A few brief moments of conversation and dialogue to prepare for the event can make a world of difference.

Perhaps the most important and difficult of the three things that will absolutely change your experience as a parent and in the world at large is to never give in to manipulative behavior. Whether it is anger, temper tantrums, bullying or whining, crying or blaming or being "sad, it's all behavior specifically designed to elicit a response and "caving" in to this sort of behavior as a parent dooms you to a life of misery in child rearing.

You will never be able to "fix" your child's life or problems and the sooner they know that and you know that the better and more free and loving a family life you will have.

When we use this sort of behavior ourselves as adults, we have real issues to resolve before we can begin to teach our children anything helpful to them. But this rule stands firmly as the foundation of healthy and loving relationships in all circles and cases. Emotional blackmail is neither pleasant nor ultimately, productive or healthy for anyone, especially children.

On the other hand, because children are naturally selfish and are motivated by and towards what they want, leading them down this path towards a mutually satisfying experience is not so hard to do.

The final trick is to "catch them being good" as often as possible. When they are misbehaving or pouting, or doing things that annoy us, we tend to react to them more assertively. When children are "good", happily off doing what they choose and bothering no one, they are OFTEN IGNORED.

The messages being sent in both cases are the reverse of what any thinking parent wants to send, but, as with the paradoxes and complexities of modern life, this is just one of those areas we can find ourselves actually reinforcing the very behaviors and patterns we do not want.

Paying attention to our children when they are great, when they are funny and happy and generally in love with life is of benefit not only to them, but to us as well.

As a parent, we can help our children avoid the dangers of becoming whining bratty nuisances by rising to the occasion ourselves of being the joyful connected and fulfilled people we are. That is the final rub with all parenting: our children are always and only showing us what it is we need to learn ourselves in order to become the people we ourselves want to be.

So plan ahead, and engage with your children as you go about the business of life with them. Never give in to behavior that defies natural law: don't say yes to being manipulated; and find ways to catch your children being good, to remind yourself and them that they have the power within them to know what they want, and to find their way to it.

If this seems far fetched from where you presently stand as a parent, take a moment to step back and consider yourself. How would it be for you if someone else suddenly began telling you that what you knew about your own life and how you think and live is wrong and that you should do it some other way? Would you simply say "okay, fine" and change? Or would you, like anyone, and like your child, say "Hell No! I KNOW what I want and I know what is right for me."

If you have trained your children to do as you say and not as you do, all you've accomplished is to divide their energy. Which, leading to a sense of powerlessness, causes them to "act out" in attempts to feel some regaining of their power.

Give them their power and let them know you know they have it, and the battles will be over between you.