“Your kid is a brat.” I hope it is a phrase you never hear, but what do you do if your kid really is turning a bit spoiled? I want to talk to you today about a way to prevent this attitude but introducing the idea of “Substitution Parenting.” It might be time to travel the harder path in parenting so that your kids can grow in character. Here is the main point: Don’t raise your kids on the concept of “substitutions.”
Your Kid is a Brat
Now, what does that mean? Let me unpack it a bit. Kids need to learn disappointment. Unfortunately, life is going to bring pain. When we try and substitute that pain with only pleasure, we teach our kid to be a brat. We, as parents, want to solve problems for our kids. We also don’t want them to suffer. Sometimes, we want them to just stop whining or crying, so we cave.
What is “Substitution Parenting?”
“Substitutions” happen when we step in to try and make something all better.
You child breaks one of their favorite toys. They are devastated and crying. The error would be to step in, try and stop the disappointment and crying and promise that you will go out and buy another toy. That is a substitution.
Maybe your child had money saved up for something they really wanted to buy. They lose the money on the way to the store. You feel bad for them and buy the toy for them anyway. That is a substitution.
Perhaps your child is upset because he isn’t getting as much game time as some of the other kids. We try and step in and substitute the disappointment with a solution that we have devised and will execute with the coach. That is a substitution.
It is important to show empathy in these moments and be genuinely sad for their sorrow, but we need to help them learn how to experience pain and face adversity in a positive way.
What Kids Need to Learn so You Don’t Have Others Saying, “Your Kid is a Brat.”
Don’t get me wrong. I think it is important to have your child’s back and be their advocate. I also believe it is important to help children learn to be their own advocates. I am saying we can’t try and “substitute” all of the pain and disappointments in life with something that will cheer them up and make them happy right away.
Kids need to learn how to work through problems so they can learn to endure. Take a baby chick. The chick is in the egg trying to get out of its shell. The baby pecks and pecks, and you might see it struggling to peek it’s little face out and want to help. So, you peel away at the shell. A few days later, the baby chick is no longer alive. That pecking the baby chick was supposed to be enduring during that time is what builds a strong neck needed for survival. If we always carve out the easiest path, we may not be carving out the best path.
We want the best for our kids. It breaks my heart when I see my kids hurting. However, when you look at that struggle, it can be what helps develop character, strength, and empathy.
There is definitely a time to step in, but I think we can do it way too often. You want transformation in your child, and that kind of teaching through the trial helps to elevate their character. You will have empathy with your kids. You will help them problem solve to deal with the disappointments and become their own advocate. You will have their backs in the important times. You will teach them to endure. You will not only teach them to endure but to thrive through it.
This is a biblical concept. James 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” When we try to substitute all the pain and not teach kids to persevere under the struggle, we are doing them a great disservice. There is a similar message in James 1:2-4. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
There are going to be times to step in and be the hero. However, if it happens too often, you might be raising an entitled child and hear others saying, “Your kid is a brat.”
At times this will be hard. At times it will be annoying. At times it will break your heart. However, remember the baby chick as you teach your own child to build a strong neck and endure.
* The inspiration from this post came from Dennis Keating, pastor of Emmanuel Faith Community Center in Escondido, CA. He was the speaker this week at Cannon Beach Conference Center where my husband was playing drums in the worship band.
This is sooo true, and so hard. It hurts to see your kids struggle with things, but it is so important for them to overcome them on their own! Thanks for sharing at Mom’s Library!
I Am absolutely struggling with my two and a half year old. He understands fine, but he doesnt really speak yet. He is able to take direction (when he feels like it). When we are out, if he does not get a Happy Meal on the way home he throws a huge fit, screaming as he doesnt know how to “use words” yet. Worst of all, the word “no” sets him off the edge and he’ll bash his head into thr closest wall (we’ve tried several methods including ignoring the habit and being disciplined afterwards). I could really use your advice if you have any for me. We are definately a “substitution” family as watching him scream (for hours) when he doesnt get his way is just too much for us to handle.
By the way, it’s my first time posting and I adore the site!
Hi Crystal! Thanks so much for asking. I am so sorry you are going through this with your son. This mom thing is just hard, and I can’t tell you how often I have reached out to people I trusted for help. I thought there would be some magical cure, and I have found that it takes consistency over and over and over again. It’s going to take you staying calm and never giving in to the demands when he approaches it in the wrong way. He understands more than you might think (although you did acknowledge he understands a lot), and you can talk to him like a big boy. I found myself constantly saying, “I’m sorry. That’s not how we get things in this family. The answer is no. We don’t get anything when we whine and cry.” You can’t EVER give in even though it is easier. You will find yourself repeating that phrase, “We never get when we want when we whine and cry.” Sometimes you will be shocked they don’t get it yet, but it will get easier and easier as time goes on if you are consistent. The biggest tip that I put on my blog as the first parenting tip because it has worked the best is the “happy heart” https://meaningfulmama.com/2012/01/day-1-tip-of-day-happy-heart.html. The big thing here is that you don’t treat it as a punishment but an opportunity to get control. The time “away” is based on their ability to pull it together. They are put in a spot void of distractions or stimulus. “I love you and want to be with you, but you need to have a happy heart and be under control before you can be with us.” At first it will take you physically putting him back. I had to do this the other day while I was coaching my 4.5 year old. It doesn’t happen much these days, but I sent her to the edge of the field until she could pull it together. At the beginning I had to stay calm, demonstrate what it means to stay happy and keep returning them to our spot until they are really under control. It is so hard and does take repetition – especially with some kids. One of my kids took a long time to get it down and another one hasn’t spent more than a couple minutes on the stairs in total. Each child is so different. The other advice is to compliment him like crazy when you see him respond the right way or change his attitude. If you have other older kids at home, I’d put him in place away and start a really fun activity that he’d want to be a part of that might lure him to get his attitude right. You could just get out the play doh or crayons and say it is waiting when he pulls it together. I’ve also said “I can’t understand you,” when they are talking with whining. That will probably be more down the line when he can communicate a bit more. This also might be helpful down the road: https://meaningfulmama.com/2012/03/day-88-tip-ten-ways-to-calm-angry-child.html. Another one for when he can say the words: https://meaningfulmama.com/2012/01/day-4-tip-of-day-yes-mommy.html. When you are out it is especially hard. In the car, I’ve been know to turn up the music really loud to try to drown out screams. I can tell you that I’ve lost my patience and haven’t responded in the ideal way – resorting to yelling too. I’m giving hard advice. I know you don’t want to listen to him scream for hours, and I would just try and remove as far away as possible. I don’t know how you generally handle things in your own life, but always do a self check to make sure you aren’t modeling the yelling in anger. It happen every once in a while sometimes when the stress is high, but if yelling happens often in your home, he could be learning it. It doesn’t sound like that is the case, but I always want to make sure parents understand the importance of what they are modeling. I wish I had a magic pill that would just work. It feels like it will never end in the middle of it, but I really do believe that if you are super consistent you will see improvement. I hope this is somewhat helpful. Thanks so much for asking. I love to interact with my readers.
I should also mention that the “happy heart” technique is for whining and crying. Our kids receive disciplines and consequences when there is disobedience. We are constantly trying to determine if it is “childhood irresponsibility” (resulting in training) or “willful defiance” (resulting in consequences and disciplines.”
Thanks very interesting
I love that you turn the responsibility back to us as parents. It is so true, if we don’t ever let our kids fully feel the sad or hurt feelings, they will not know how to process them and will get “bratty” (as you say) when things don’t go their way.
Thank you so much for you thoughtful response. There is so much we contribute to unintentionally hurt our kids by taking the easy road. It’s so challenging, sometimes, to walk this road. I do believe it’s worth it. Blessings!
You are absolutely right! Sadly, most people don’t realize or won’t admit that they give “substitutes” all the time causing their children to develop bratty behavior. I did this just this morning: my son purposely jumped on his toy, it broke, he was in tears, and I said, “maybe Santa will bring you a new one this Christmas”. It would have been better to just empathize with his feelings while allowing him to deal with the natural consequence of his behavior. Thanks for the reminder!
Thank you so much for responding in such a thoughtful way. I always have to remind myself of that too. I recently had to take away a brand new toy of my daughters because of her actions. I still have it, and it’s killing me not to give this stuffed animal back. However, then I’d be going back on my consequence. It can be so hard. I appreciate you weighing in!
Along these lines, try reading “Raising Grateful kids in an Entitled World” – a fantastic read! http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Grateful-Kids-Entitled-World/dp/1496405293/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459451696&sr=1-1&keywords=raising+grateful+kids+in+an+entitled+world
Sounds like a n interesting book. Thanks for the great resource. It’s an important one with how our world functions these days.