Elaine Rose Glickman is the author of the upcoming book, “Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault: Nip the Attitude in the Bud—from Toddler to Tween.” Her insights on parenting are hilarious, feisty, and downright wise.

So, what’s the most important part of raising our precious little angels while becoming the confident, respected mothers we strive to be? Helping our children to ditch the bratty behavior in favor of thoughtfulness and resourcefulness, of course! (And laughing at ourselves along the way doesn’t hurt either, mama!)

Oh my gosh, your tot is totally growing up!

Not long ago, he was just a little lump—an adorable lump, but a lump nonetheless—and now, look at him! He’s chattering, eating, walking, exploring—and evincing subtle but genuine hints of the person he will one day become.

And what kind of person is that?

Will your child blossom into an adult who is likable, resourceful, caring, and happy? Or will he grow to be someone whom others try to avoid, who can’t quite figure out what’s going on, who’s self-absorbed and impolite, who feels vaguely dissatisfied with what life has to offer?

To a rather astonishing degree, it’s up to you, mama.

Aside from the basics—offering your child reasonably healthy food, clothes, shelter, and security—the single best thing you can do to promote your toddler’s future happiness, success, and well-being is this:

Don’t let your child turn into “that kid”—the one that others steer clear of. Help your child become the chivalrous, thoughtful, and gentle individual you know to be your sweet little child.

Why is this so important? Because even the most precious child will dabble in bratty behaviors.

And it’s your job to teach him a better way.

Stay with me, because some of these behaviors are often dismissed as “just a phase.” And this is, in part, true.

Biting, whining, refusing to share, demanding rather than asking, hitting, and a plethora of other mischievous deeds are certainly common, and even normal, ways for very young kids to behave.

And it’s not as if your kid is pulling this stuff just for fun—unless you really think he is doing it with the sole intention of driving you insane… which is totally unlikely… and I’m sorry I even mentioned it. He’s definitely not, okay? ?

Rather, when your child engages in these behaviors, he’s trying to express his feelings to you. “I’m mad,” “I’m frustrated,” “I’m tired,” or “I’m scared.” These feelings are genuine—and important. Your child needs and deserves to express them. To have them heard.

But this is not the whole story.

Your child may be mad, frustrated,tired, or scared—but that doesn’t give him permission to bite, whine, refuse to
share, demand, or hit. And when you forget this important fact, you do your
child a disservice.

When your tot bites another child, and you immediately enfold him in your arms and ask sweetly about his mad feelings—rather than teach him that it’s okay to be angry but it’s never okay to bite—you hurt your child’s chances for learning to socialize effectively and humanely.

When you tell your child to stop whining about a cookie, he continues to whine, and you give him a cookie—rather than turn your attention away until the whining ends—you reward bad behavior rather than extinguish it.

When your child refuses to give another child a turn with a toy and you enthusiastically tell him how nice it is to share and then proceed to beg, “Please, can’t Sophie have a turn? Well, maybe in a few more minutes, okay?”—rather than simply take the toy away, you miss an opportunity to teach your child how to make others happy with a small benevolent act.

When your child grabs a juice box from your hands without asking and you hand over the juice, rather than insist he say please and thank you, you give up a chance to teach your tot manners and social norms.

When your child hits you and you let him do it because you respect his right to express his anger more than you respect your responsibility to teach him that physical violence is not okay, you teach your child that aggression is an acceptable means of expressing feelings—when there are sooo many better alternatives.

And here is the final part of the story—and the most important:

Your child doesn’t want to turn into“that kid.” Your child feels overwhelmed and confused by his emotions, and is
yearning for a healthy way to express and deal with them. Your child is looking
to you to teach him a better way.

When you stop your child from biting, whining, hitting, refusing to share, demanding, and grabbing, you give him a wonderful gift.

You teach him that he is safe and loved. You teach him boundaries and limits. You teach him to handle difficulty. You teach him to express his feelings appropriately, to become thoughtful and resourceful, and to grow into the best person he can be.

Don’t hand your demanding child another cookie—that’s not what he really wants. Your child wants you to step up. Your child wants you to stop coddling and cowering.

Your child wants you to show your love by being the boss.

The best part? A little bit of “tough love” now will make your life as a busy mama so much easier down the road. It won’t belong before you realize that you have raised a kind, thoughtful, and well-spoken tot who is a true joy to spend time with.

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