Are you afraid your toddler is turning into a spoiled and entitled brat? I’ve been there and thought that too.
And that doesn’t mean I don’t love my child by acknowledging there is definitely a problem manifesting. And I’m not pointing fingers at just my child, I definitely helped create this bratty and entitled attitude that I’m seeing glimpses of in my toddler.
The good news is that it’s not too late to make changes. Whether your child is a baby, toddler, or school-age…it’s never too late to start doing something differently.
Help! My Toddler is a Brat: Is This Your Future?
My husband is a high school math teacher in a public school. He is also a coach. It seems that each new set of students that come up to the high school are more entitled than the last. These teenagers want to get good grades without having to do any work. They want to play on their phones during class, not do their schoolwork, fail their tests, and then complain about their failing grades.
This is a school-wide problem. Not only a school-wide problem but a generational problem. Parents need to do a better job of having high expectations for their children and not enabling them.
We, as parents, need to prepare our children to one day enter the workforce and be capable and independent adults. It’s sad that when a high school student complains about not having good grades, a lot of parents’ first reaction is to blame the teacher instead of asking their own child some questions about their work ethic in class. (I understand that a teacher could actually be at fault too because some teachers can be lazy.)
How you are raising your toddler now will help mold and determine if they will be one of these high school students who don’t want to do any work, but then demand to see the principal because they are a Senior and failing a class they need in order to graduate.
What to Do if Your Toddler is Becoming a Brat:
These are practical ways to help your toddler hopefully develop a strong work ethic one day. These suggestions will help your toddler practice respect, appreciation, and discipline.
1. Tell Your Toddler No: Your requests should not be a choice or a negotiation.
A current popular parenting style is the art of “redirecting” instead of telling your child no. For example, you go to a friend’s house and your toddler starts jumping on the couch. Instead of telling your toddler not to jump on the couch, you say “hey look at these blocks over here”. I do believe redirection can be a good thing, but please don’t make this your ONLY way of getting them to stop doing something.
Your toddler needs to learn the meaning of “No”. They are going to hear no from teachers, coaches, and their boss one day.
Can you imagine your child going into their first job one day and their boss being the first one to tell them no? This happens all the time. Employees don’t know how to react when they don’t get their way.
Let me give you a real-life example. One summer while I was in college, I worked at a Summer camp. Our boss told another college student to wash the camp vans. This college student was gone for about an hour and when he came back our boss asked where he had been. He said, “I got everything ready to wash the vans and saw how dirty my truck was, so I washed my truck first”.
A college student saw no problem in him getting paid to wash his own truck when he was supposed to be washing the Summer camp vans.
2. Don’t Give into Tantrums:
Don’t allow the potential embarrassment of a public tantrum dictate whether your toddler gets their way: this can be so difficult. I know sometimes you have to “pick your battles”. But don’t always give in to your child’s demands to avoid being embarrassed.
If your toddler pitches a fit at the playground because they don’t want to leave yet, that doesn’t mean you stay at the playground to appease them. This could create a pattern and teach your toddler that all they have to do is pitch a big enough fit and you will eventually give in to what they want. Below is a book for children about self-regulation strategies.
3. Don’t Always Buy Your Toddler Something:
When you are going into a store your toddler does not always need a toy, candy, etc when you go shopping. I’m not telling you to never buy your toddler anything. The goal is for your toddler not to always expect or demand a prize/toy/candy when you go somewhere.
If you are already in a cycle of buying something for your child when you take him/her shopping, it will probably cause a tantrum when you try to make this change.
Start small. Tell your child before going into the store that you are only getting whatever you came there for. And don’t start this change on a massive shopping trip, make this an errand where you just need to get 1 or 2 things from the store.
Stick to what you said you were going to do. Take your child inside the store and only get what you said you were there for. Tell your child you love them and you love to buy them things, however every trip into the store isn’t going to be to get him/her a toy.
4. Buy Gifts for Others:
After your toddler has mastered being able to go into a store tantrum-free without getting something for themselves, I challenge you to take your toddler into a store specifically to pick out a gift for someone else.
This could be a Christmas gift, birthday gift, or a just-because gift for someone else. Talk to your child about how when you are giving a gift to someone else, you want to think about what that person would like. Think about that person’s interests, etc.
This could be really hard for your toddler if it’s a gift for another child. Your toddler might be picking out a toy for someone else. The intent behind this is not to be cruel, but to teach the importance of loving others and generosity.
You could read this book before going to the store. It’s about discovering the joy of giving to others.
5. Have Your Toddler Thank People:
Teach your children how to show gratitude and appreciation when they get a gift. This is something we are currently working on with my son. He gets so many toys and gifts from relatives that he has started crying or saying “I don’t like that” when he opens a gift that is not what he wants.
He has started getting a consequence if he cries and pitches a fit when someone gives him a gift that he doesn’t like. We tell him to just say “thank you” and hand us the gift if he doesn’t want it.
It’s hard for a toddler to try to understand that it’s the intentions behind a gift and not always about the gift itself. We try to explain to our son that although he may not have wanted a sweater for his birthday, he still needs to be grateful that someone bought him something because that was kind of them to do that.
We role-play these scenarios at home too. Sometimes my son will pick me flowers from the yard and I absolutely adore them. However, I asked him how he would feel if he gave me the flowers and I said “I don’t like this. I wanted a toy!”.
He told me that would not make him feel good and I explained that’s how it makes others feel when he does that to them. Then, I remind him that I will always, always, always love when he brings me flowers from the yard. Here is a book that is great for teaching toddlers to have an attitude of gratitude.
6. Model Kindness with Your Own Words and Actions:
Don’t be a “Karen” and give grace. Little eyes are always watching how you respond to situations. If you are in public and something doesn’t go your way, is your knee-jerk reaction to respond with kindness or to breathe fire?
Now I have gone “mama bear” on people before when needed when it comes to standing up for my children, but I’m saying to please not always make your first response to others be confrontation and criticism. Your children are watching and learning from you. Below is a great children’s book on kindness.
7. Have Your Toddler Help with Age-Appropriate Chores:
Get your toddler involved in household chores. It may seem like this is actually adding more work and time to what you need to get done, but it’s a great way to start teaching your child about self-discipline.
This can also be FUN. My children usually enjoy helping me do chores around the house. I praise them and tell them what good helpers they are and how thoughtful it is for them to help me. However, there are days when they don’t want to help, but I still ask them to do it out of obedience even though they don’t want to.
Check out this adorable chore chart that your toddler would love to keep on the fridge and track along.
Examples of Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers:
*These are probably best for around 2-4 years old. However, my youngest is currently 18 months and helps with some of these too.
Helping with Vacuuming:
When I’m vacuuming my children’s rooms, my son will move light things out of the way and put them back after I vacuum. The things he is moving are toys, stuffed animals, etc that I want to vacuum underneath.
He also likes when I use the hose attachment and let him vacuum inside the couch. We also love this handheld vacuum and he’s able to clean up some of his own messes with it independently.
When I am putting clean dishes away, I will put all of the silverware, (except for sharp knives of course), on a paper towel, and my son will sort the silverware and put it in the drawer.
Would it be faster if I just did it myself? Yes. But this is teaching my child how to sort AND preparing him for when he has a house of his own and dishes to do.
Helping with Laundry:
My 18 month old loves to help with laundry. I will hand him some small items from the washer and he likes putting them into the dryer.
My oldest helps me sort the clothes and puts whoever the clothes belong to in different piles.
They both help when it is time to put the clothes away. My boys will help open the drawers as I’m putting away their clothes. One day my 18-month-old picked up one of his shirts, walked into his room, opened his drawer, and put his shirt away. He was SO proud of himself.
Helping Set and Clear the Table:
We ask our toddler to get his and his baby brother’s water cups (that are spillproof) and put them next to their seat for dinner. He is also responsible for putting his plate in the sink after dinner.
Helping Clean Their Room:
I do help my children with cleaning their room because they have a lot of toys and it takes a long time to clean up. We have bins their toys go in and a bookshelf in each of their rooms. We try to straighten up their rooms together before bed.
Sometimes we make this into a competition and race to see if I get my portion of toys cleaned up before theirs. Example: I’m going to pick up the dinosaurs while you put your books on the shelf. Ready…set…go! We have these adorable baskets in different sizes and colors in our boys’ rooms.
Daily Chores vs Paid Chores:
I’d suggest having a list of chores that are required and then “extra” chores your toddler can do in order to get money.
Some examples of age-appropriate paid chores for toddlers:
-Helping you with small yard work tasks like picking up sticks.
-Helping you clean up the room of their younger sibling or another mess they didn’t create themselves.
-Helping Bring in Light Groceries or helping put certain groceries away
8. Monitor What Your Child Watches and Monitor Screentime:
Please don’t sit your child in front of the TV or youtube and let them watch whatever they want. We have yet to even be able to watch a Disney movie all the way through.
There is a ton of murder in Disney movies. And I’m not saying that your children are going to grow up to hurt people if they watch Disney movies, but their minds are little sponges. Pay attention to how characters in their favorite shows and movies treat other people. Are they good examples?
Also, limit screentime. The TV should not be on all day. Your toddler needs to play with toys, work on puzzles, engage in crafts, go outside, etc. They don’t need to go back and forth between a tablet and TV. Click here for a post of really quick toddler activities that you can do with things you already have around the house.
9. Read the Bible and Prayer:
There is a whole book on how to love other people called the Bible. I read from the Jesus storybook bible each day while my children are eating lunch or dinner. We read 1 story and if they ask me to keep going, then I will read another.
Then we discuss the story and how we can apply it to our everyday lives. We talk a lot about our hearts and how our words and actions are an overflow of our hearts.
We also pray for other people and ask God for guidance, forgiveness, and we tell Him what we are thankful for.
It has become routine where my 4-year-old tells us something before dinner that he wants us to pray that we are thankful for. Tonight he was thankful because he got new sea creature toys in the mail from his grandma.
10. Your Toddler Needs Consequences:
Consequences are such a controversial topic when it comes to parenting. If I dare mention spanking then I’ll get emails from some of you saying I’m promoting child abuse.
I’ve got a very popular series of blog posts specifically on toddler discipline that goes into more detail on what we do for discipline.
My son’s behavior was out of control and I realized something had to be done. I hadn’t been teaching him how to be obedient and was letting him run our household because I thought he was too young to follow directions.
Check out this post on the behaviors I wanted to correct and how we did it.
I also give specific examples of toddler discipline in this post in response to some of the behaviors we were dealing with.
Help! My Toddler is a Brat! FAQs:
“What are the signs of a Spoiled Child?”
Some characteristics of a spoiled child include a lack of consideration for others, often temper tantrums/fits, unable to tolerate delayed gratification, and demands to have their own way.
All toddlers and children will have some of these behaviors because they are children and immature. But are you, the parent, guiding your children to behave maturely and responsibly when these characteristics arise?
“Is it OK to call your child a brat?”
No, it is not okay to call your child a brat. You should be speaking words of affirmation and love to your children. Do not call them brats.
Be specific but calm when you speak to them. Correct their behavior with a loving spirit. For example, “when you told your grandmother you hated the gift she gave you, you are being ungrateful. That hurts your grandmother’s feelings because she was trying to do something nice for you. Even if you don’t like the gift, you should just say thank you” That would be a much better response than brushing off your toddler’s comment and saying “Stop being a brat and say thank you”.
After our children go to bed, I may say to my husband “our child was a brat today while we were at the library” because it’s easier for me to use that word to describe the characteristics of a spoiled and entitled child, but I’m not ever calling my children a brat in front of them.
“What makes a child ungrateful?”
All children will think the world revolves around them at times. However, if your child always gets what they want immediately and is never disciplined or told “no” then this attitude of ungratefulness is only going to grow and get worse.
“How do you deal with a selfish child?”
Check out my post and read the 10 tips to help your toddler or child not to be a selfish and entitled brat. These suggestions are to help your toddler develop a sense of thankfulness, generosity, and self-discipline.
“How do spoiled kids turn out as adults?”
Most likely spoiled kids will become spoiled adults. Then they go out into the world on their own and don’t know how to respond when they don’t get their way. This means they will either a) crumble and fail b) call their parents to bail them out of whatever the situation c) persevere and overcome despite never having done it before.
But hopefully, instead you start preparing your children to be productive members of society at an early age. The 10 suggestions listed above should help!
“Help! My Toddler is a Brat!” Conclusion:
This is not a fool-proof plan to have your toddler turn into a hard-working child and teenager. You could do all of these things and your child could still become incredibly entitled and a brat. But you know what you’ve done?
You’ve modeled kindness in front of your toddler.
You’ve taught your toddler about the Bible and how Jesus treats people.
You’ve taught your toddler how to do their own chores.
You’ve taught your toddler how to be thankful and grateful.
Your toddler has heard the word “No” before, not always gotten what they want, and knows there are consequences to their actions.
And lastly, parents, be your child’s biggest cheerleader. You can still teach your toddler hard work and independence and at the same time be your toddler’s advocate and safe place. Tell your toddler you love them and that you are proud of them, and tell them often.
When my toddler met his newborn baby brother, he would kiss his forehead and say “I’m so proud of you sweet boy”. I’m not exactly sure what he was proud of because his little brother was a newborn and would just eat, sleep and poop at that point in his life. But I’d like to think it was a reflection of what he himself heard often. Your toddlers are watching and listening. What an honor and responsibility it is to get to raise these tiny humans.
Also, in my title and throughout this post I refer to children as “brats”. This is just an attention-getting headline. I have never actually called my child a brat in front of him. I’ve told him when I think his behavior is selfish, ungrateful, etc but I am not suggesting that you ever call your child a brat to them. This post is targeted at parents and I think that term is easy to understand the attitude I’m describing behind these toddler behaviors when speaking to other parents, not directly to your own children.
And Check out some of my other blog posts. I have a very popular 3-part series on toddler discipline.
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