Brat Prevention – Parenting Expert Offers Top Tips Answering Your Questions

Looking to prevent your children from becoming brats? If you are a parent who does not want to raise a child termed by observers looking in through your window as a ‘brat’, I invite you to read this blog. As a parenting expert, a family therapist for 20+ years in this article I offer the answers to the questions most commonly asked providing concrete insights and top do-able tips:

  • Definition of a brat
  • What pushes a kid to bratty behavior
  • How to spot a brat
  • Only children vs. siblings
  • Top 5 parenting mistakes that creates a brat
  • Parenting reaction to melt-down must do’s
  • On edge parenting tips to become a calmer parent
  • Melt-down prevention
  • Change your brat into someone fabulous
  • Bratty child bratty adult

Definition of a brat:

Dr. Karen’s definition of a brat is: E.E.O.

  1. Lacking in empathy.
  2. Believes he/she is always entitled to get what he/she wants when he/she wants it.
  3. Over-reactive with a verbal and/or physical response when things don’t go his/her way, or in an attempt to get things his/her way.

What pushes a kid to bratty behavior:

One word (drum roll please), it’s . . .  Parenting!

Parenting, parenting, parenting – is the difference that makes the difference as to whether a child will or will not be a brat— bottom line, like it or not- it is all about the parenting!

Any parent who says it is the fault of so and so . . . is not taking ownership of their (as a parent) own behavior. A parent who does not take ownership of their own behavior will raise children who do not take responsibility of their behaviors.

How To Spot a brat:

5 characteristics:

  1. E.D.T. = Entitlement attitude displaying Drama/Tantrums: I must have now or else attitude, with a behavior pattern to match. It is all about the drama of throwing tantrums when they don’t get their way (i.e., yelling, crying, hitting parents and/or kids, pushing, throwing things, throwing self on floor, threatening e.g., young child may say: “I’ll hold my breath if you don’t get me ….”, teenager may say: “you drive me to smoke pot because you are trying to control me and not let me use the car” ).
  2. Obnoxious/rude: to adults/children. Specifically displays it’s “all about me” attitude and I don’t care about your opinion – as a pattern of interacting verbally (e.g., talks over others) and physically (e.g., body turns away when another is speaking).
  3. Lack of respect/empathy:  for others stuff, other’s opinion, other’s feelings, other’s needs.
  4. The egg shell response: When others in relationship to this child (parent, grandparent, friend . . .) feel like they have to walk on egg shells around this child or else . . . their wrath will occur, the beast from beyond will emerge.
  5. Disregard for helping with either a who cares attitude it’s not my job to help, or a smirk: e.g., parent can’t find their keys, child sees parenting looking frantically and yet ignores cause it’s not my job, e.g., friend in class looking for the highlighter the brat sees it, and if you look closely has that mischievous smile doesn’t tell where the highlighter is.

Only children or children with siblings- does this play a factor in creating a brat:

The number of siblings or lack thereof has nothing to do with the development of the brat!!! (Triple exclamation point). It is a myth to believe this plays a role! It all comes back to the parenting. Only children can be extremely giving as can children with siblings, and there are only children who can be extremely bratty as can children with siblings. Boom! There it is.

Do know, the sibling relationship and the lack of a sibling relationship absolutely affects the development of who this child becomes. It is the parenting piece in terms of how the parent navigates the sibling relationship dynamic or lack thereof and choices the parents make that is the difference that makes the difference in terms of brat development.

Top 5 parenting mistakes that creates brat development:

  1. Role modeling a lack of empathy to others (e.g., spouse, x-spouse, parent, adult sibling, friends, community). Children learn by what they see their parents do and by what their parents say.
  2. Parents who feel entitled and lack in work ethic (e.g., “I deserve to have…”). Dr. Karen says; nobody gets just because they deserve, you have to work for what you want.
  3. Giving in to the 5 brat characteristics leads children to learn how to get what they want is by continuing those behaviors rather than teaching them when they display these “no-nos” what the appropriate/right behavior is.
  4.  Parental insecurity/parenting philosophy E.g., “boys will be boys”, (No, says Dr. Karen; teach your kids right from wrong behaviors) “I just can’t say no to my daughter when she wants another outfit cause I want her to be liked” (No, says Dr. Karen; giving in to match the Jones’s or worry that your child won’t be popular is teaching kids to get what they want when they want it as a lifestyle) – these are mistakes parents make due to their own insecurities, thoughts/philosophy.
  5. Being disrespectful of your child and others (e.g., pick your child up on time from school shows them you respect them vs. the pattern of “I was running behind” shows them a disrespect and a self-ishness ).  A child who feels respected will respect others. A child who observes by example respectful behavior to others will be respectful to others, which is the opposite of bratty-ness.

Parents reaction during their children’s melt-downs: 

How you react as a parent during your children’s melt-downs will either exacerbate an already developing brat condition thereby creating it, create it, or will put an end to it. The reaction to the melt-downs of your children must be my 2 main techniques:

  1. Hear Their Voice – Not Obey It- Or They’ll Shout Louder
  2. All Behavior Makes Sense In Context, sooo change the darned context

– as I explain in my parenting guide book: 9 Key Techniques For Raising Respectful Childlren’.

On edge parents:

There are parents who appear to be on edge with consistency – it is those parents who are reactive and over-reactive. Here is the thing; it is normal to feel frustrated, I get it, I am a parent too. It’s a normal human instinct to feel aggravated at times through out the journey of parenting. And as a family therapist/psychotherapist for 20 years I will tell you that it is rather your response to your instinct that can hurt or nurture your child’s mental wellness and brat development or not.

Rule #1: Never say anything hurtful because words hurt and carry for a lifetime. (In my parenting book one of the 9 techniques I explain is to: Keep the theme of positive style of interaction! You are not an animal you are a person sooooo, implement my #1 tip which is: think before you act. (Techniques to help succeed: Stop sign, rubber band, push button).

5 steps to calm the on edge parent and create a calmer parent:

Step #1: Daily self-talk – Remind yourself parenting is the most important job you will ever have and what you say matters.

Step #2: Decide what type of parent you want to be Ask yourself what type of parent do you want to be; a. shouter, b. arguer, c. friend, d. parent of greatness. ‘D’ is my recommendation. Each day remind yourself of the parent you wish to be (Technique to support this plan: set an alarm 3x a day on your phone if you have to).

Step #3: Rate your beaker – Throughout the day, your parenting beaker as it gets more full as interactions, situations, and triggers occur, you must choose to release the build-up in a healthy way to make room for more frustrations so you do not bubble over/explode.

Step #4: Use Dr. Karen’s communication script – When feeling frustrated with your child and thus feeling triggered to “give in” and just give him/her what the child is having a tantrum about, don’t do it. Rather, to successfully control yourself use this script and say;  “When you _____ it makes me feel ______ which makes me want to _______ , rather instead I will ______ because _____”).

Explanation/example for you, the reader, to put into context my script theory. Do try it in varied contexts and alter what words you fill in the blanks with per each situation as appropriate:

” When you scream that you want something and cry it makes me feel overwhelmed which makes me want to give in and give you what you want, rather instead I will simply tell you that I love you and it is ok not to buy all products all of the time because I know an important part of being a good parent is making healthy choices and helping you to do the same“.

Step #5: Positive love talk – Daily tell yourself what you love, value, and are proud of about your children and tell them with your words while being physically and emotionally in the moment with them.

Rewarding post melt-down behavior:

When a child has had a meltdown you do not reward it! I have seen this negative cycle of parent-child relationship dynamic occur far too often where melt-downs are rewarded. Rather, you use it as opportunity to re-program your child’s behavior.

Thus rather implement these 3 tips post all melt-downs:

  1. Communicate clearly and calmly why their behavior was not ok.
  2. Discuss 2 alternative behaviors asserting you believe in their capability, skill, and desire to use an alternative behavior next time. Talk with them not at them with verbal collaboration.
  3. Proud seed plant technique. As discussed in ‘9 Key Techniques For Raising Respectful Children’, I explain in detail with case examples the use of the proud technique, by planting seeds of how the child will act in the future by telling them how proud you will be of them when they do one of the 2 alternative behaviors.

Melt-down prevention:

Do note parents, this is imperative:  you must implement ‘meltdown prevention’ by living by 2 of my 9 parenting strategies as discussed earlier in this blog article: 1. hear their voice, and 2. all behavior makes sense in context. When living by these 2 parenting tips you will raise a ‘NO-Melt Down Kid’!

5 tips for shifting from a developing brat to a respectful, responsible, compassionate child:

  1. Fess up the errors of your ways, parents! Sit down with your child and communicate the following to him: a) you feel you made a parenting mistake and that has created a child who feels he can get what he wants when he wants it and you are ready to make a change because you see that is hurting your child, b) you are learning skills to be a better parent to raise a happy, healthy, successful child, and c) you desire to have a better relationship with him and you are hopeful if he sees the hard work and effort you are going to put in to improve, that will lead them to desire also to grow, as we can all grow.
  2. Consistent healthy parenting behavior. This is parenting in a style that is; positive, calm, structured, patient, and boundary/structure oriented. Stop the parent-child dysfunctional dance by having a functional healthy relational interactive dynamic.
  3. Spend quality time with your children.  There are 3 must types of quality time. All 3 need to be experienced by children with consistency which include;  1. child helping you, 2. play with them their interests and your interests, 3. errands/responsibilities).
  4. Create a sense of order in their world. Parenting with this style includes setting, establishing and with consistency having; clear boundaries and a structured routine. This is you as a parent setting down the law of the land. When there is law, then there can be flexibility and hearing the child’s voice. If there is no law as a grounding, as a base, as a core, then it is a free for all where children become brats.
  5. Positive feedback and planting seeds. There is never too much positive feedback when your child is living a life of positive. For example, a child who was compassionate towards another child, give your child positive feedback spotlighting the wonderful character trait they have. Also, you recall from earlier in this blog about planting seeds of how proud you will be when the child implements a particular behavior? Don’t forget to implement that.

Bratty kid more likely to be a bratty adult:

You can tell a lot about a child’s behavior in terms of who he/she may likely become as an adult. Since by the definition of bratty children based on my earlier explanation that they lack in empathy, are disrespectful, rude/obnoxious, and life is all about “me, me”- that plays out negatively in relationships as an adult (e.g., work environment, marriage, friendships). Bratty child = bratty entitled adult.


It is my recommendation to take action based on this information. Do not raise a brat. You can raise a child who is happy, healthy, kind, compassionate, smart, nurturing, successful, courageous, a self-advocate, and all around fabulous.

Scroll to Top