Kathryn has been writing and publishing for over 25 years. Currently, she writes for The Examiner, Ask Mom and Today's Mama as their Parenting Single Mom blogger.

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How do I stop my six-year-old from being a selfish brat? She thinks she runs the house

Some years ago I was with one of my daughters at the most dreaded of all places to take a child; the grocery store.

“I want candy!” she screamed.

We were at the checkout and plenty of people were doing just that—checking us out. I was so embarrassed. Should I give the M&M’s to my rotten child, stopping her screeching in the process, or should I use the “I’m deaf in the ears” trick?  You know the one. If I pretend it isn’t happening, long enough, the wailing will stop.

I decided on the first.

Weakness I suppose. Sure enough, my child stopped screaming and I could go through the checkout, along with everyone else I might add, in peace.

Back at home I thought, “What am I teaching my child?”

And then it hit me. I was teaching my child that in screaming she could get whatever she wanted.

I felt like a rotten mother. Questions bumbled in my brain like a blender full of ice. “What else could I have done? Wait it out? Scream back? Spank her right then and there and allow everyone to believe I was…oh I can’t even say it. Take my child outside, leaving my groceries for someone else to pick through and possibly—buy? Cover my daughter’s mouth while I fished the groceries from the cart with my other hand? Excuse myself, taking my cart and daughter with me to some excluded corner? Never take my daughter shopping again?

Now, there was the ticket.

The way I see it, a child is selfish at age six because they are age six. What’s your excuse?

I mean it. If you look inside you will see pieces of yourself that are still selfish even today. Perhaps you think you “deserve” a new car—the old one, well, it just isn’t good enough. You “deserve” a new outfit once in awhile—maybe even once a month or more. You “deserve” some time off, someone to help you clean your house—how are you ever going to get to it?  You “deserve” some time away from that “selfish brat” who “thinks she runs the house.”

The truth is your six-year-old is the boss; there is no “thinking” about it. She not only runs the house she does so with your permission.

Don’t give it.

Set some limits. You don’t get everything you want, why should she?  When she does something good, reward her. Stickers work great and don’t rot the teeth. When she forgets, make sure there’s a consequence. Work these consequences out together before the episode occurs. If she has to sit in a chair for six minutes—I always made the chair sitting equal to the age—so be it. If she has to go to her room a thousand times a day, and that is the rule you set with her, stick to it. I think the main thing here is to reward your daughter for the good times, be consistent with the bad, and never let her forget that you love her no matter what. Because when it comes right down to it—there’s a bit of the savage beast in all of us.

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Comments (3)

  1. mg4901 04/15/2010 at 3:35 pm

    Good tips. Setting boundaries, rewards and consequences and being consistent in the implementation of them is key. Also, correcting the behavior at the time it occurs is important. When she screams “I want candy” my reply would be “Well, you're NEVER going to get what you want when you scream at me, your screaming just LOST you any possibility of getting candy right now and you know how to ask politely for something you want so, next time if you ask politely maybe you will get candy. But remember, candy is a treat and is a reward for doing something well or for special occasions. You don't get candy EVERY time we go to the store.”

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