“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.