You have probably seen it. A young child at a restaurant is insisting that the whole family rearrange where they are sitting just so that child can sit where she wants. And then the family gets up and plays musical chairs. Or a young child is asking over and over again for a toy at the grocery store until eventually the parent gives in and puts the toy in the cart.
You’ve probably even been that parent, though you swore you would never be that parent because, after all, you don’t negotiate with terrorists.
Author and rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman saw it all too often as a middle school teacher and the chair of a preschool. The Houston native, who now lives in Florida, is the mother of three children ages 16, 14 and 12. The interactions she saw as a teacher and fellow parent caused her to put aside the scholarly book she was writing about the Jewish views of the messiah and turn to writing “Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault: Nip the Attitude in the Bud — From Toddler to Tween.” ($16, Tarcher Perigee)
The title came from a conversation between herself and her husband, and while she thought that she would never write this book, she kept it in the back of her mind. Then she found herself beginning to write short essays about topics like your kid bites, your kid whines, your kid won’t share. The punch line of course was always “and it’s all your fault.”
“Huh, maybe these aren’t essays… maybe these are chapters,” she says.
Her advice is very simple and you probably know what to do, but as you read the book, you probably recognize yourself as that parent held hostage. And while, you probably would give another parent the same advice or similar advice that she gives, somehow, we all find ourselves not doing what we know we need to do.
Glickman purposefully wrote the book in short bites based on a topic, so that you could read the parts that apply to what’s happening in your life currently, then put it down and then pick it up again when something new happens.
Glickman won’t claim to have perfect children. No child is perfect even though a parent’s Facebook pages might seem like he might be. “Even the most wonderfully behaved, most charming, most delightful child in the world is going to sometimes display bratty behavior,” she says.
What separates the occasional bratty behavior from an all out brat is the relationship between the parent and child, she says. It’s how the parent responds to that child.
For example, if a child repeatedly asks for a cookie and the parent says, “no,” and then “stop whining,” and then “stop following me,” and then finally gives the kid the cookie, “They’re probably on track to being a brat,” she says. “The parent has taught them that whining works. Keep behaving badly and you’ll wear me down.”
Instead, there has to be a consequence to the whining. “Stop whining or go sit in your room with the door closed,” she suggests you tell the child. “Sometimes they stop. Sometimes they really want to whine and they go in their room and then come out.”
Parents know when things aren’t going right, Glickman says, but sometimes in this world of wanting our children to be seen as perfect and us as perfect parents, we push down those feelings that things aren’t right.
Instead, parents believe that being a good parent is making your child happy, she says. “Rather than being a parent and being a disciplinarian, they become the child’s concierge.”
Parents of brats are constantly dealing with short-term problems and offering short-term fixes rather than looking at the long-term. Sure the kids are happy for now, but they don’t have to help around the house, they are given everything they want without a sense of the financial implications, they can get into the car and put their earbuds in and not have to engage with the rest of the family.
“They might seem to be really happy, but deep inside they aren’t really happy,” she says. “They want someone to lovingly tell them what to do, to have expectations for them, to set boundaries for them.”
Glickman says the strength of her advice comes from a parent who has been there. You should absolutely read the advice of experts (like some of the ones we’ve featured in this column), but she says, “I’ve been at the playgroup, at the grocery store.” While the title is snarky, she says, “The advice is earnest. It’s not judging. I’ve been there and here are some things that work.”