he's a brat!...venting

MimiiDecember 14, 2001

Let me start by saying that I don't have children. I have a lot of experience with them, but don't have any of my own. So I try very hard not to be critical of parents, because I haven't been there. That said...

My 3 year old godson is a brat. A terrible, spoiled, poorly behaved, undisciplined brat. His older brother (5) is a crybaby, also undisciplined. They're cute as anything, but so poorly behaved that no one in the family but their grandparents want them around. I really feel sorry for the kids- I know its not their fault. Is there anything I can do? Their mother is the type of woman who knows everything about everything, so what I'm really looking for is a very tactful way to suggest taht she join a parents group or something that will help her to learn how to discipline her kids. (She also just gave birth about 3 weeks ago. She's overwhelmed, and the kids are going through a big adjustment, but they were brats before the baby, so its not just a phase). Any ideas? Thanks

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You are the godparent, you were chosen by the parents to assist in guidance and nuturing of the child, if this is in fact your definition of your role. Why not just be up front and offer to help her? Don't be critical because that could lead to her being defensive, especially if she is overwhelmed and with a newborn and 2 "bratty" kids. I hate that word. Maybe her parenting style and yours, should you become a parent, just aren't going to be the same.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 12:38AM
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You can take the classes, or at least one and share with her what you are learning. That's likely to be more 'do-able' with your situation since the children are so young, and since there is a new infant (a woman in that mother's situation is likely to be extremely touchy about her parenting skills, is also likely to still be recovering from childbirth, and there may be no other way to effectively introduce new ideas to her).

Parent-child relationships are 2-way even though one is adult and one is the child. The parents react to the child and the child reacts to the parent, together they interact. Children who have 'high needs' (of any kind, for this purpose 'high needs' just means they seem to have needs beyond what the parent reasonably expects or can easily deliver) can be a challenge for adults in general, but especially for their parent. Parents, maybe especially mothers tend to blame themselves (it can be reflexive, in the same way children always thing they are the cause all the 'bad' or 'good' in their lives). It's difficult to figure out how to introduce and support and encourage the use of new techniques or routines that might help. Taking a class may not be enough.

There are things you can do when you interact with them. Take that kind of class, or classes specific to 'high needs' or sensitive children. Read some books about temperament in children, and child development. You can change how you interact with the children, and the mother in question can observe and get feedback from her children.

Teaching 'self discipline' begins by modelling and talking through the things you do, so that they can understand and hear what you're thinking. The children can benefit from seeing how you discipline yourself... If you choose not to have a cookie or something even though everyone knows cookies are so good. Take the time to talk out some basic decisions you make when they are around. Ask them to choose between simple options you give to them (give them choices). Teaching about choices, and making decisions in this way will help later when moving to more advanced concepts like choosing to act in ways that won't get them what they want. Stop, think about what the goal is (or what is wanted), then take some time to think about different ways to do that. Think about good and bad outcomes, and only then make the decision. (It seems impossibly slow to adults, but it can train and teach children to stop and think first so that they can make conscious decisions. Otherwise they sort are at the complete mercy of their lack of life experience and lack of education and knowledge; and they might act badly, but they're probably not 'choosing' in the way an adult would mean by that term.)

you can control you, but not really other people; if you have any good ideas or useful resources that might help that family, you can access those and help them in that way

P.S. People are largely born with their basic temperament. Subtle traits people can be born with may not become apparent until later ages. Spectrum issues like Asperger's Syndrome can run the gamut, and a child who has this won't be able to 'get' social cues like other children just do. They can be bratty or have seemingly incomprehensible behavior, but when that social cue issue is considered things can make sense. (All 3 year olds are very literal and concrete in their thinking. As they get older though, it can become clear that they are very literal thinkers. As sarcastic as someone's tone may be, or as harsh as they mean to be glaring, it's like the child just doesn't 'get it.' In those kinds of situations the child may have a brain that just is not capable of registering social cues like that. They will have to learn/be taught about social cues, and sarcasm in a literal or concrete way. Social stories can help if this kind of process is needed.)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 10:00AM
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My niece and nephew are the same way! It's horrible. They are 4 and 6 and do whatever they want at home. They never disciplined Eric for coloring on the walls and he still does it pretty frequently at 6 years old. It's to the point no one will watch these kids. Everytime we have to be around them, we all get stressed and angry. Neither set of grandparents can stand the kids! They mouth back and hit and as soon as you get them off time out they go back to what they were doing when they got in trouble. We can't do anything. MIL talked to her son about how they have to be more strict with them but it goes in one ear and out the other. We can't wait to see them as teenagers! We're lucky, though, BIL had a vasectomy last year and they're done having kids! Good luck to you! I just hate to tell you but even though you are their godmother, you talking to them may not help a bit. They may just get angry with you fo trying to help when you have no kids of your own.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 10:51AM
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you can suggest that since the baby is born, she may be intersted in some advice on how not to be so overwhelmed. let her know that you are aware of how it must feel to have three kids and that you would love to take some classes with her or perhaps she would be interested in a moms club to help her relieve some stress and be with other mommies.i am in the child care business and it is part of my job to communicate with moms and dads on a regular basis..you must give positives first (no matter how hard) and let her know how much you love being their godmother and would love to assist her in any way possible. you will be able to read her after the first conversation, if you feel she is not intersted--just back off or you will be the bad guy-it is a very very touchy subject dealing with mothers...so good luck and remeber--start with wonderful things!!!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 1:12PM
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why not offer to watch the 'brats' while she goes out to the mom's group? You'd get a chance to interact with the kids, try to help them with their behavior problems, and mom could get a much needed break to learn about how to control her kids. It's entirely possible that once you and the kids developed a closer relationship, they'd start listening to you and behaving better. kids need discipline, but more than that they need attention and love.
I don't think it's at all reasonable to suggest to a mother of three little kids that she take some time to improve her parenting without offering some means of assistance.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2001 at 6:11PM
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Maybe you all just need to start saying, "we don't really want to come; your kids are too badly behaved."

And point out to them WHEN it happens: "don't let him talk that way to you" "he needs to hear from you that this is not acceptable" "You told him no and you've changed your mind because he hit you. What lesson did you just teach him?"

A little bit of "tough love" and short (no lectures!) honest responses.

Stop letting them coast because you're "too polite."

    Bookmark   December 18, 2001 at 1:18PM
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It's hard but we've had some relatives with children who would literally destroy a home when they were dinner guests. After a couple of years, they were told to only come if they would keep tight rein on the kids.

Another family member is having discipline problems with her son - tantrums, bratty, kicking, screaming, etc, etc. But she's aware of it as I'm sure your godson's mom is. She has become SAHM to focus on his behavior problems but the root of hers, anyway, is inconsistency from the dad.

He is the typical do-anything-when-junior-cries dad because, in his words, he doesnt want his son to hate him. We all, on this board, are aware of how fast a child in this environment can become a manipulative brat.

And she is aware of what it's doing to her DS's behavior. But until she fixes the parenting of her AND hubby, DS's behvior will never change.

Oddly enough, when we take him out, just us, without mom and dad, he's well-behaved and a good listener (he's 4).

BTW, he's had these behavior problems since around age 1, and it was only in the last couple months that she was ready to admit that she had a discipline problem with DS. If I had tried to mention it sooner, I think I would have damaged our relationship. But only now that she is ready to discuss it, can I help her with advice and being a shoulder of support.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2001 at 2:17PM
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I think the best thing you can do is to spend time with these kids. Often the behaviors you describe (especially at that young age) occur only around the parents that allow it. I have a two year old nephew who is a horror around his parents, but an angel with me. Be loving and super-attentive (especially now, when they may feel left out with the new baby), but also be firm. A "no" from someone other than mom is usually pretty effective -- especially if that's not all they hear from you. So, offer to take the two older kids to the park, or a childrens museum, or to your house. That gives mom some down time, and allows you to establish a relationship with these kids. Then, let mom see how you handle them, and how they behave around you. Tell her how well-behaved they were while you had them. If she asks for your advice on how to handle them, give it to her. But only if she asks. She will be unlikely to just take advice (especially since you have no children). Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2001 at 4:21PM
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I agree spending time with the kids and teaching them what you want them to know will help not only them but the mother. You can be an example without being preachy about it. If someone preached to me about my kids behavior then I'd feel nothing but resentment about them. But if they extended a helping hand in helping me or showing me how to fix the problem without coming off as overly judgemental or as hateful toward my children then I'd be nothing but eternally grateful. Lead by example, especially in your own home. You have every right to insist on your own rules in your own home.

That said, plant something in the back of your mind about food...some kids with undetected allergies or sensitivities are out of control because they are eating the wrong foods. I would be skeptical of this except it happened in my own family....my niece was a bratty, moody, unsociable little girl for most of her toddlerhood and preschool years...they discovered that she is allergic to gluten, removed it from her diet, and she is now a wonderful and happy little lady. With my own dd (5) I notice that her behavior goes off the wall when she has had foods with red dye in them. If I keep that stuff away from her, she is wonderful and cooperative. Just something to think about and possibly take into account.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2001 at 1:21PM
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Mimii, I feel sorry for you because I am in a similar situition. Our friends have a 4 year old that is just impossible. They are not religious in the least, but they appointed us godparents when the kid was born and I do not know how to tell them that I cannot stand their kid even for five minutes.( I did not know what I was getting into when we agreed to be godparents).
It's easy for someone to give you advice as to how to deal with the situation, but if you're in the same boat as I am, there is no easy way to convey your feelings to the parents. The father of the 4 year old is my husbands best friend, so there is no way that my DH will go up to him and tell him we can't stand his kid because that will hurt his feelings and could destroy the friendship. We have told them that they need to control the kid when they're at our house, but it fell on deaf ears. So, we don't invite them anymore unless it's a very special occasion. When they do visit, I usually end up with a migraine. I hope that my 10 month DD does not grow up to be like this kid.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2001 at 2:24PM
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I ended a friendship because everytime I invited a couple of our friends over they would let their daughter slap them in the face, scream at them and throw temper tantrums. This child was around 7 or 8 the last time we invited them over. Sorry but I don't believe in kids being allowed to do whatever they want. I do believe in parents taking charge and being consistent in parenting.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2001 at 3:23PM
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