Permissive Parenting: 7 Signs Your Kid Is a Brat

Alonna Friedman, Contributor
Articles> Permissive Parenting: 7 Signs Your Kid Is a Brat
upset little girl

Excuse me, ma'am, but is that your kid throwing all of the condoms off the shelves in the drugstore, ignoring you when you ask him to stop, kicking and screaming that he must have the blue and the red boxes and telling you he hates you when you calmly indicate it's time to leave? That's not your child? Must be mine. What a brat.

Every mom has her embarrassing days; some are just brattier than others. "I often wonder if my daughter is the most misbehaved kid in the world," says Jennifer Gustafson, from Darien, Connecticut, mother of Lyla, age 3. "She goes from the sweetest girl to Satan in seconds when she doesn't get her way."For example: "If she says, 'Mommy, I'm going to jump off the roof,' and I don't let her, she's going to kill someone and it's usually me."

Jennifer has been kicked, bit and scratched by her adorable yet, menacing toddler. Bratty? Maybe. Just being a 3-year-old? It's that, too.

When Bratty Behavior Is a Problem7 Signs Your Kid Is a Brat
Psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, Psy.D, Katie Bugbee,'s global parenting expert, and Nancy Samalin, author of "Loving Without Spoiling" both agree that we're living in an age of child-centric homes. Whether both parents work and feel guilty for spending too much time at the office or they just can't stand to see their children cry (or are too tired to deal with it) permissive parenting has created an entitled set of kids.

"Being too permissive usually involves our bribing and pleading and often giving in," says Samalin. "It means saying 'No', but meaning 'Probably not' or 'I'm not sure" -- which may feel loving in the moment, but gives your child too much power."

Here, Ludwig and Samalin weighed in on seven spoiled rotten behaviors and offer advice on how parents can take back control:

  1. Constantly Throws Tantrums
    You can expect preschool-aged children to have frequent temper tantrums -- some just can't be avoided and need to run their course -- but when fits erupt any time you set limits, it's a problem.

    How to handle: First, don't have a tantrum yourself! Be empathetic and let your son know that you recognize he's angry, but that his behavior is not acceptable. Help him find the right words to express his feelings and don't be afraid to take away a privilege or give a "time out" if you feel the situation calls for it.
  2. Hits, Grabs, Acts Bossy, and Everything Else That Embarrasses You
    "It's mine!" Why does it seem like kids know how to use that phrase before their own names? Toddlers and young kids have primitive impulses, like grabbing toys and hitting to express their feelings. They all do it, but when your daughter is the biggest offender in the playgroup, you worry she'll get labeled a brat.

    How to handle: Stave off the stigma by holding your child accountable for her behavior in an age-appropriate manner. If she freaks out whenever a playmate wants to try her remote control train, have her help you put it away before friends arrive. When a tiff breaks out over the blue pail at the sandbox, talk about sharing and ask kids to take turns. Remember not to yell and that it's okay if your kid gets upset -- she'll forget about it in two minutes.

  3. Whines from the Moment He Wakes up
    Forget wailing police sirens, jackhammers and chalk on a blackboard: the sound of your child whining is the most irritating noise in the world. Waiting in line at the bank or being dragged shoe shopping is boring for kids and you can't blame them for getting whinny. But most often that squeaky, drawn-out bleat means your child is trying to turn your "No" into a "Yes." Cookies for breakfast? No way! Just five more minutes on the iPad? It's been an hour! And if "No" is truly how you feel, you need to stand your ground no matter how much you want your child to just be quiet already.

    How to handle: Children learn really quickly how far they have to go to manipulate Mom and Dad. Inform your child: "I don't like when you speak like this and I can't understand you." Tell her you won't respond until she uses her regular voice. Remember, an unhappy child is not an unloved child. In the short term it's not pleasant (for you mostly), but kids need to learn they can't always get what they want. Try to ward off whining with some preventive parental medicine. Bugbee suggests that If you know your daughter will whine for ice cream each time you leave the playground and pass the Good Humor truck, prepare her ahead of time and give her control over the decision: "We will see the ice cream truck, but we can't stop today. Are you okay with going to the playground instead?".

    Learn more about what to do if your child is whiny.

  4. Acts Defiant and Always Negotiates
    A kid can say "No!" -- and they will in the most snotty tone -- but that doesn't mean you have to obey or accept that answer. The bratty child has a real intolerance to not getting her way. She doesn't follow your rules and ignores when you say "No "or "Stop." This usually leads parents to come up with a pay off. When your daughter is accepting more bribes than a corrupt politician, you're cultivating a top-notch manipulator.

    How to handle: Stop sweetening the deal and you'll cut down on the defiance. Instead, offer your kids rewards when they've exhibited good behavior. The best prize? Sharing special time with you.

  5. Complains of Being Bored
    Moms would give anything to feel bored. Ah, the luxury of having nothing to do except sit and stare into your really messy family room. But the child who always complains he's bored is probably the one who can never be gratified. He gets one toy and immediately moves on to the next item he has to have.

    How to handle: Help teach your son the difference between what he wants and what he needs. He probably won't really get it until early elementary school, but you can start the process early. The next time your son insists he wants a new toy, let him make the choice. Seriously. Choose two goodies at the store you would be happy to buy him and ask him to select. He'll feel empowered and proud of his decision.

    And when your kids are bored, sometimes all you need are some fun activities to keep them occupied. Here are 101 Things to Do When Kids Say "I'm Bored".

  6. Talks Rudely to Adults and Is Mean to Peers
    Grandma is probably sneaking your kids candy on the sly, so they have little reason to tell her off. But when her hugs and kisses start to feel smothering, the kids might be tempted to tell granny to go away. A child that speaks or behaves rudely to an adult -- especially a relative -- needs to be corrected.

    How to handle: Tell your son he hurt Grandma's feelings and he is not to speak that way or treat people that way. You can never excuse bad behavior because it just shows you're going along with it. Calmly pull your child aside, says Bugbee, and say something like: "that's not a kind thing to say to Grandma. Please apologize."

    Get more tips on what to do when your child is rude.

  7. Controls Your Life
    Raising kids is a full-time job, but Mom and Dad deserve to be just a wife and husband sometimes. Always putting your child first -- above yourself and your marriage -- sends a message to your son that the world revolves around him.

    How to handle: Book that weekend at the spa. Have dinner with your spouse. Whether you get Grandma to come for the night or hire a babysitter, you need to plan a date night. It's heartbreaking to have your daughter sob and ask you stay when you have one foot out the door and 8 p.m. reservations, but parents are allowed to have play dates, too.

    Get started with one of these 101 Cheap Date Ideas.

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(88) Comments
My niece is 4 years old... when I baby sit her she is okay...sometimes she will start back talking to me but i put her in time brother is the one that tries to correct her because my sister in law pretty much lets her do anything..My niece hits her and says bad things to her... but when im in charge she knows whos boss.
October 26, 2015 at 2:54 PM
Thank you, having the advice for specific behaviour/aspects of bratty children is very helpful to me. My children only have 3 of the 4 symptoms, so the more specific advice is quite helpful.
I was blind to my children being bratty. In part because as a kid I used to give in so much that I was glad my kids had 'their own voices'. In part because they are not typical brats. They only have 3 of the 7 symptoms, but they are brats (or maybe a subtype). I n part because I felt 'insured' against that because of what we do (we do not 'spoil' them with toys, we expose them to simple games, my spouse and I are never examples of being selfish, the children do say 'thank you', I alwas teach them the difference between a 'want' and a 'need') and in part because my wife and I just went through a very stressful period. A we recovered it hit us hard what brats they were. They will not play others' games without changing them to what they like (ever), they do wake up with complaints fairly often, they interrupt a lot. And most of all, they are always trying to get what they want to the point that they will spoil other people's fun.
June 21, 2015 at 6:13 AM
Sue M.
Sue M.
Some times i honestly don't know what to do with my Maya anymore she is always eating and she never shuts up!
June 13, 2015 at 10:56 AM
@tiredmama- I know you wrote your comment a while ago, but as someone with a son who's been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (they are often co-diagnosed), I can relate. Mine wasn't as hard as yours as a baby, but potty training was a bear, and I couldn't ever figure out why he would get in trouble over and over and over and over and over for the same thing and never seemed to learn a new course of action. He's also extremely smart and has used it to his advantage- in pre-k he would proposefuly get in trouble when he didn't want to do something so he could be sent to time out instead of doing said thing. He defies, he screams, he yells, he destroys his own things in fits of anger, he hits, he throws other things and the list goes on. Sometimes he says no before he even hears the request- "(name of child), go get yourself (no! He screams) a treat for good choices. Then his brain catches up and he actually hears what's being said. It's hard. It's so very hard. I hear your struggle. Those who have said you need to see someone are absolutely correct. And not a general pediatrician either- a pediatric psychologist. It sounds like it could be ODD, but he also sounds like he displays symptoms of sensitivities (sound, touch, etc), autism spectrum, adhd, aspergers, borderline personality or any number of other things that can have some similar symptoms. Once you find a diagnosis, it will be easier- not because he will just be better, but because you will be able to develop a plan. There will still be days when you wish you never had a child, but there will also be more love and you will get more of a chance to see his smarts work for him. Stay strong mama! You CAN do this!
April 23, 2015 at 8:50 PM
Emily Burnett
Emily Burnett
Just a thought on parenting... Healthy snack bag, juice box, 0ne toy, one snuggle blanket, bathroom break before you even attempt shopping, an animal looking backpack that ties around their waist. All the items fit in a parent messenger bag. Done!!! No wining for food, no wining for a drink, no wining about being bored. If they get sleepy lie the blanket in the shopping cart and let them lay their head on stuffed animal for a pillow. If all a child's needs are met before you even set foot in a store they will never... wine, ever. :)
April 22, 2015 at 8:08 AM
Tiredsickmommy-- Have you had your son tested for ODD (Operational Defiance Disorder )? In my opinion, this sounds like more than his just being a "brat". It may be something he can't help. Good luck, and I wish you the best!
April 21, 2015 at 7:02 PM
@tiredsickmommy: Please please go to a developmental therapist. You may even need to commit your son. My husband is a developmental therapist and has had clients like your son. Most become quite violent as they get older and need to be committed to an institution. Stay strong, and really look into a possibility of commitment or the use of heavy antipsychotic medication. I pray for you to get the help you need.
April 21, 2015 at 6:12 PM
I see the kicking screaming behavior a lot these days. I think some kids do it because they know a parent or care giver will cave in to their demands. Its tough to raise kids and very difficult to maintain composure and control. But I wonder why this had evolved into incidents that I regularly witness and if rewarding or placating such behavior will lead to unreasonable behaviors as kids get older. Of the worst, as a College teacher
I am now encountering a few students who try to avoid their student
Dedhxresponsibilities, and who try to get around requirements for class performance and in class participation. WORSE still on occasion threats against my integrity if I dont do what they want
April 21, 2015 at 5:46 PM
Monica M.
Monica M.
I feel like every child acts like this at one point in their childhood lasting up to a few years and even then teenagers are all of these things too.. This article should be called "what to expect from raising a child"
April 21, 2015 at 12:07 AM
Tiredsickmommy: Have you seen the movie "We Need to Talk About Kevin"? I'm not saying your boy will turn out like the kid in the movie, but that family needed serious help, and you might, as well. Your experience sounds so much like the mom in the film.

I know you've seen doctors -- keep trying more. Doctors can be idiots. With a problem this nuanced, you'll undoubtedly spend a lot of time trying to find the right one, but he or she is out there. Don't give up!
April 18, 2015 at 9:47 AM
I have been part of a playgroup involving 2-3 other moms, the 2 do not correct their child when they do wrong at best they tell the child "thats not nice" then carry on with whatever they were doing, my son has said to one boy "excuse me (name)" and the little boy (4) responded by say "blah blah blah blah!!!" loud and repeating it until I guess I looked shocked and his mom said "thats not nice Alex is trying to tell you something" the one girl in the playgroup also 4 is the worst she smacks, grabs toys that a child already has or will flat out as happened to my child already tell the kid "no! go away!!" these two kids ignore my son and when i recently brought it up saying how hurt my son was (he bawled his eyes out after being told to go away when he asked the girl who was sitting with other kids if he could play too) the two mothers shrugged it off and said kids will be kids they're four its gonna happen, which i understand but it will continue to happen if the parents dont start explaining to these kids WHY what they are doing is wrong or not nice, i actually ended up APOLOGIZING to the one mom who seems to be the ring leader, and her response? that at an upcoming kids party she would "see how things go with everything" because she feels, not in her words but in her wording that my son and I, are the issue in the playgroup (i pull my son aside if he doesn anything wrong and tell him why we dont do it and if applicable give a time out away from his peers) but i seriously dont know what to do with these moms that act like my kid is the issue when their kids are, in their eyes, never to blame, just being kids, they cant help it they're four.... augh i feel so frustrated
January 4, 2015 at 8:52 AM
My parents were such an incredible help in raising my son. They took him at 2 for every other weekend from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon until he was 5 years old. That was absolutely delightful for them, for him and for us! He got a break from us - we got a break from him as well as spending a whole weekend twice a month doing what we wanted - and he shared such a close relationship with his grandparents because of it. Until they passed they were such significant and cherished people in his life and they shared so greatly in making a tremendous positive impact on who he has become. Was my son a discipline problem? Very rarely and to very small degree. Did he throw tantrums? One, as I recall. Did we spank him? Nope. We were hands off parents and so were they. Did he have good manners? Impeccable. Was he EVER disrespectful, called names, got into serious trouble, or was deceptive or disingenuous in his behavior with us or others? Not that we had ever seen. Could we have come up with the same results if we had gone it on our own? We'll never know but I seriously doubt it. He turned out to be one of the most dynamic people and for that we all patted ourselves on the back for holding high standards, consistent parenting focus, loving unconditionally and keeping open and attentive communication, empathy and encouragement. He choose the military for a career after college and has been outstanding in his field - one of the top in the country. He's 43 today and is still serving his country and plans to retire in 4 years. Though I have long been divorced now and my parents have passed, my son has been the most supportive, loving, kind and generous person to me that anyone could ask. I'm probably an exception in speaking about the job of raising a child - and certainly in a discussion about the prospect of raising a brat - but my personal takeaway is that the love of both his grandparents and his parents was a tremendous catalyst in making him the man he is today. I would suggest that the interaction with grandparents could be an important and exceptional resource for young parents today. I hope you have the same opportunity and that you would take it if it were to be available to you in some way. I find far too few comments on any website that speak of the importance they can play in your children's lives - they are individuals that can love your child and hold them in the highest regard from the earliest days throughout their lives.
December 28, 2014 at 6:18 PM
Hi Tiredsickmommy - Im sorry for your experience. Reasonable people realize that a childs outcome is not always about his parents. I had neighbors growing up who were wonderful parents, they ended up with a great kid and one that was in trouble with the authorities from when he was very small. You might consider seeing a therapist, it could possibly be, like the other person commented, an autism spectrum, or even a personality disorder, which people are born with, (we don't create those). Please dont think all children are as difficult, and most of the time, our second and thirds are a lot easier. I have a strong willed first, and a very laid back second. So, there is hope in that. As for your son, I would suggest professional help. Mom usually knows best when something is amiss. Please try your best to not blame yourself, even though its hard with the kind of judgmental people around us today.
December 26, 2014 at 5:03 PM
To tiredsickmommy...I totally feel your pain and directly relate!!! My son was the same way for years and I constantly felt guilty having these negative thoughts but, no one gets pregnant and has a baby expecting it them to be abnormally HIGH maintenance! I constantly would look at other people kids and think what am I doing wrong? when I was doing EVERYTHING I possibly could at the time! Adventually, he was diagnosed with Aspergers. Today he is in HS and doing well with the help of lexapro and fish oil. In him it helps with anxiety, which makes a HUGE difference in daily life. ADHD meds never helped him, only made it worse! Still has some trouble interacting but, is on the football and lacrosse teams. My point is, I never thought we would get to where we are today and just remember you are doing everything you can and one day it will be better!!! Take it one day at a time!
December 12, 2014 at 2:55 PM
My child is a horrible brat. Before i had him, i assumed, like most, that brats are raised, not bred. Boy, was i a judgemental person. I learned that kids are born with their own innate personalities. My son literally fought every diaper change like it was the battle for his very existence everyday, nearly every change, for the entirety of the time he was in diapers. At 4 months old, he already hated being still for 45 seconds, and would punish us extensively for our efforts to keep him clean and healthy by kicking, writhing, screaming, etc, until the process was over. This went on for yrs. We tried EVERYTHING. Distraction, songs, cloth diapers, faster changes, ignoring it, yes... Even 45 seconds of tv on the phone eventually. That worked. Thats the ONLY thing that worked.

I read all the right books. I was consistent. My partner and i did everything the same. We put him in part time daycare at 4 months, so he'd have the best of both worlds. We established a routine early on and stuck to it. He merely became stronger and more defiant. His hold on the english language was nothing short of amazing. He spoke better than most 8 yr olds at 3. He didnt use his powers for good, however, regardless of positive reinforcement and predictable time outs. He learned to manipulate. He learned to push everyones buttons all the time. He literally pushed until people gave up on him, patient people broke down and yelled, great sitters quit. The daycare started to complain that he was a nightmare, even at 1-2 yrs. He was the smartest, but the most work. He exhausted everyone around him. And he was bossy. And he talked, loudly, from sun up to sun down. He was impulsive, hurt himself constantly. He ignored adults. The second daycare that had him aged 3-4 part time said he was like "5 kids" and the owner told me "i feel bad for you." This was one of the kindest, most patient women ive ever met. Meanwhile, i became extremely ill with a rare immune disorder, making it impossible to keep up with my unbelievably loud, hyper, chatty child.
Now at 4, hes in school mon-fr; 8-230. The same things are being said by different people. Last night, at our first parent teacher conference, we were told he's extremely bright; but "unusually defiant, and does not listen to adults, even if its regarding his own safety." The nurse, bless her heart, calls quite a bit, because my son has yet again done some compulsory thing thats caused injury.

Now before you judge me, know i tried. I limited tv, and he watched almost none until 3 yrs old. I tried art, music, cooking with him; i tried running with him. I tried drs. I tried bringing him to the park 2x a day every day, rain or snow. I literally have had to lock him in his room at night for fear he will wander. He learned how to turn on Netflix in pitch black night. Hes not responsive to anything, except being yelled at or spanked. It breaks my heart. I absolutely hate this; in a gentle person and i tried everything and i rarely get to that point. Mostly i leave the room and cry. The child does not care about anything but his own wants. He cares only to be an imp to everyone around him and revels in negative attention. Ignoring only works for so long. He merely keeps upping the ante until you MUST yell or punish him. It does not matter if i just spent 4 hours of one on one time with him, its NEVER enough. He needs more thsn any pair of parents can give.

Im at my wits end. I wanted more children, but with the stress hes given me, he may kill me. And thats no exaggeration. Go ahead and judge me, if it makes you feel better about yourself, you cowards. Its so much more different for a parent to show respect and support rather than to judge from afar, only knowing their reality and never meeting me or my child in person. I love my son, but i wish; and it kills me to say this; that i had remained childless. I am exhausted and sick all the time. Im broke because of the cost of his schooling. My time with him is misery when all i wanted was to love him and teach him. He prefers to fight and yell. There's something seriously wrong with him and no one will help me. Worse, my family visits 2 days a yr and say its all in my head and he's perfectly normal. Its me, not him thats the problem, even though every sitter, dr, teacher and child care professional tells me otherwise. I cannot speak of my miserable state, or the fact it is costing me yrs of life, because in our society it is looked down on to complain or gripe about parenting. It is only acceptable to act as if all children are angels from heaven, and all bad traits MUST be the fault of the awful, irresponsible parents that probably beat their children behind closed doors. When is this culture going to change?
December 5, 2014 at 5:21 PM
very good advice for all the moms like me
November 5, 2014 at 6:11 PM
This atricle is what every parent needs to hear!!!! We shouldn't be going longer routes or bending over backwards so the child doesn't throw a fit. That is giving your child all the power!! Idiot!! The problem with parents these days is they want to have an excuse or a reason for their bad behavior instead of facing reality. Its doesnt matter what problems the kids are having they need to learn the right way to handle it!! If you make excuses for them they will make excuses for themselves their whole life!!!!
October 29, 2014 at 8:24 AM
OMG, Robert L. - Do you beat your wife too? I bet that ends arguments nicely... Just goes to show you... not all the brats out there are still children >.>
October 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM
Here is what permissive parenting is: a parent who believes they have a right to control their kids, and do not always follow through with that ludicrous belief, thus infuriating the child by telling them they can't do something (without explaining) when the child knows they SHOULD have every right to do it, since they are their own person and not SLAVES. Here's an idea. Instead of telling your child NO every FREAKING TIME SOMETHING HAPPENS YOU DON'T QUITE LIKE, allow the child to make decisions and educate them on those decisions. Example "can I go jump off the roof?" Answer "Well technically you could, but, mommy's afraid you'll hurt yourself. Why do you want to jump off the roof?" "Because tony's doing it." "Well tony might hurt himself too, and that would make his mommy very sad, let me see if I can talk to tony." No fight, no temper tantrum, if they really are inhuman enough to not see how you have their best interests at heart, you've already messed up as a parent too far to even begin to correct the problem, and they're already psychos. The problem is not child-centric homes. In fact, in this country, EVERYTHING is more important than children as far as mothers are concerned. Work is more important, shopping is more important, conversations with friends are more important. They can't be bothered to spend the energy needed to correctly guide a young energetic mind to adulthood. They even walk around malls with their kids on leashes because they can't be bothered to even WATCH them. The problem is SELF-CENTERED PARENTS, who are THEMSELVES BRATS. Children imitate their parents. Chances are good that when you see a bratty kid, you've just seen a bratty parent. Parents: do not have a child unless you intend to make it the most important thing in your life. It is not a side-line hobby that you can turn off whenever you don't feel like doing it. It is a life-time commitment, and it requires an enormous amount of self-sacrifice. When you're at the mall and your toddler is starting to feel fussy because there's nothing to do, and time moves slower for them, try to engage them, try to find a way to entice their curiosity, and if they really aren't interested GO HOME. Your next pair of pants can wait. Your child can't. You cannot spoil. "Spoiling" is a good action that lets a child know how it is to be treated correctly like a human being, and then (obviously) wants that all the time, and is upset when you withdraw back into your closed-minded authoritarian retard ways. They stop listening to you for anything, and then yes, they become a brat, because they have no guidance, because they've been shown that their source of guidance is messed up and they don't trust it anymore. There is something in all mammals called an "imprint." And that imprint is an incredibly psychologically powerful thing for the creature who is just born. It identifies with the parents, looks up to them with awe. ALL CHILDREN are born with this imprint. No matter what temperament, no matter what personality, they all CRAVE to be GUIDED by their parents, and learn what they know, because it is crucial for their survival and they know it. If you have done something to estrange them, or make them feel like you are not on their side, then you have already messed up so much, it's just not even funny.

The solution is simple: You don't want a brat? Don't be one.
October 23, 2014 at 4:22 PM
These are also the signs of an emotionally abused child. We must consider the reasons for their behavior before we label them as ''spoiled.''
September 8, 2014 at 5:20 AM

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