5 Ways to Change Bratty Behavior

Does your child act like a pill? Mighty Mommy has 5 expert tips on how to help your child turn the bratty negative behavior into something positive. 

Cheryl Butler,
September 2, 2013
Episode #186

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“I don’t speak to you like that, and it’s not acceptable for you to speak to me that way.”

It’s best never to deal with back talk and sarcasm in the heat of the moment. Instead, wait until both of you are calm and then acknowledge that you understand she’s overwhelmed with balancing school work and sports and it’s Ok to be angry. But make it clear that it’s not OK to turn that anger into fresh back talk. Then, try and suggest some alternatives for this bad behavior such as, “How about you take a day off from soccer practice tomorrow so you can catch up on your homework?” She will see you modeling an appropriate way to handle anger and over time will begin to follow your lead.

Tip #3: Don’t Manipulate With Bribes

On those days when your child is testing every last ounce of your patience and sanity, don’t try to negotiate by bribing him with something to temporarily stop his pesky behavior. That only teaches him how to become manipulative.  For instance, no matter how badly you want time for yourself to read your novel, don’t become so desperate you promise you’ll buy him a new X-Box game if he quits nagging you.   

In my experience with my 8 kids, what they are usually looking for when they act out is a few minutes of my undivided attention, not a material object. The next time he’s getting on your nerves, try to stop what you’re doing and ask him if he wants to play ball with you in the backyard or play a game or read together. If it’s your teen, make a date to go out for pizza later that week and then maybe catch a movie.  Make this a regular part of your week so that he can come to depend on you giving him attention because you want to spend time with him, not because he has to act like a brat to get you to notice him.

Tip #4: No Means No

Every parent has difficulty saying no to their cherubs from time to time, especially if they know how to push your buttons by whining and droning on so that you eventually cave and give in. We have to remember that kids don’t realize the difference between needs and wants. Your 7th grader may think she needs her own iPad because all her friends have one, but you lovingly remind her that she’s lucky to have her own laptop, so she doesn’t need the additional gear. It’s OK to be unpopular with your kids sometimes. 

But this means you must be consistent with the word “no.”   Give your child a reasonable explanation as to why you have said “no” and then move on. 

Don’t over-negotiate the situation or your child will soon realize that every time you say “no” you aren’t always consistent, therefore she can try to wear you down so that eventually you’ll compromise and give in to some or all of her requests.

Tip #5: Spend Significant Time With Your Kids

What your children really yearn for when they act like pills is simply some quality time with you. They want to feel significant and that they matter to you. Help build their self-esteem and confidence by always taking a genuine interest in them. Pay attention to what makes them thrive from the very beginning of their precious lives. Some days you’ll have more time than others to spend building your relationship, but even on the days you only have 15 minutes, initiate conversation about how their day was, read to them, eat a yummy dessert together, and simply appreciate them for the unique persons that they are. Most kids who feel connected to their parents won’t feel much need to act out just to get attention, because more than anything they want to please you and want you to be proud of them.

By spending a little extra time interacting with your children and by always maintaining a consistent approach, you can spin their negative behaviors into positive ones.

If you have a question regarding anything in this episode, or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy topic, e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Mighty Mommy Facebook wall. You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy and on Pinterest, too.        

Enjoy a wonderful week with your family and as always—Happy Parenting!>

Angry young girl, girl talking back and mother playing with child images courtesy of Shutterstock