“It's crap like this that causes so many kids to be brats and monsters, we need to be tougher on kids, not softer.”
Ever heard something like that? I got a comment here recently that said as much. Certainly it's not the first time I've gotten comments like that and maybe this time it was just too early in the morning for me to read inflammatory things, but I was so annoyed.
Brats. Monsters. Jerks. A**holes.
This sort of us-against-them thinking is emotionally stunted and short sighted.
We are not raising brats or monsters or even angels.
We're raising kids – whole human beings with a complex map of emotions, frustrations, desires and hopes. They can act like jerks sometimes – yes, agreed. And I have a dear friend to whom I occasionally vent to about such behavior. In fact, one reason she's such a good friend is that she'll let me have my frustration, let me spew about it all… and then when I've had some time, she'll guide me back to seeing my child's humanity, “Ok, sounds like he's having a real problem, what do you think would help?”
When we dismiss kids' humanity and simply label them brats or jerks we lose our compassion, our willingness to help and we lose our way as a leader.
Who wants to try and understand, much less help, a brat?
A brat is there to manipulate us. Screw that. We're not gonna take it!
A monster is there to hurt us. We've got to fight that monster!
A jerk is there being thoughtless of us. They don't deserve our help!
Can you see how all this name calling makes our children's actions into something that we take personally? When we name-call, we go into Us vs. Them mode, heightening any feelings of animosity and anger we might already have. We're looped in, reacting to the drama of being injured by someone.
Name calling slips into our consciousness and whispers nasty and fear-filled phrases:
Better not let him let him get away with that, he'll turn into a hellion.
Don't hold him while he cries – what is he, a wimp?
Make her obey immediately or she'll be a spoiled brat.
If you say yes now, she'll be a manipulative b*tch when she's older.
Shut up that kid, what a MONSTER!
Notice how awful it feels to read all that? Do you want to parent from that space?
When we use inflammatory, labeling language we quickly move our brains into reactionary, angry thinking and we make decisions based on fear and anger instead of respect and understanding.
We lose the ability to slow down and think through how we want to respond. Once we start name calling by thinking of our child as a brat we've stepped away from our roll as a leader and instead we're parenting based on fear. And one of the biggest dangers when we're parenting out of fear, is that we tend to react swiftly, without giving ourselves that critical pause in which to make decisions based on dignity and respect.
Every day, every moment is an opportunity to practice love. Every hard interaction is your opportunity to ask yourself, “How do I love this person through this?” And I promise you, if you challenge yourself to ask that question over and over again, it will give you back so much more than a kid who's not a brat.
It will give you emotional growth and a path forward.
You're going to go beyond raising brats or angels. You're developing a resilient connection with someone you love. You're helping raise your child to be emotionally healthy, and likely, you're learning how to be emotionally healthy yourself.
Of course you don't want to raise ungrateful, thoughtless kids. And of course you're going to be saying no sometimes and working to be the leader these little people need.
Connection and being kind are not excuses for not parenting – this is some of the hardest work you will ever do. When you work towards parenting through connection you've got to get to know your kids and be open to learning from them and changing what you're doing in order to do what works best for your family.
It's humbling to open yourself to listening to someone else. It's frightening to stay with someone while they experience big emotions. It feels unsteady to practice being a leader when some days you barely know how to lead yourself from waking up to making coffee.
We'll mess up – sometimes we'll say yes when we should have said no.
Some days we'll snap in anger.
Some days we'll say no when we should have said yes.
It is normal to not always know exactly how to proceed.
We're growing (I hope!) just as our kids are.
Trust respect. Trust connection. And know that connection makes everything else easier. Through that connection you can guide your child as you grow together.
Here are a few resources if you're feeling lost or just beginning on this connection based parenting journey:
- Top Positive Parenting Books – The Whole Brain Child, Yell Less Love More and Parenting with Presence are three of my favorites. Links are Amazon affiliate links
- The Best Positive Parenting Resources Online
- Best Books to Help You Recharge When You're Sick of Parenting
- Positive Parenting Pinterest Board
We're not raising brats or angels. We're raising whole people – not perfect, but perfectly suited to teach us that calling names is not a solution nor an inspiration to do better, and seeking connection in the hardest times gives us the biggest opportunities we'll ever have to face our fears and grow our hearts.