Wednesday, July 29, 2009

spoilt brats

While I truly do love children, I have little fondness for spoilt brats. Why? I think it's because throughout all my childhood, from early memories when I was about 5 years old right up to my high school guidance counsellor in grade 10, I was labelled as a spoilt brat. I got to be an expert on what a spoilt brat was, because I wanted to know what it was I was accused of being.
That first memory, when I was about 5 years old (maybe four years old), was of being in a queue to see Santa Claus in a department store. A lady asked me if I was going to ask Santa for a doll. I said no, because I already had nine dolls. She put her nose in the air and said loudly to her friend, "Humph! She's obviously a spoilt brat." To this my mother took exception, and hastily explained to the snooty lady that the reason I had nine dolls was because our house had recently burnt down, and neighbours gave me dolls and dresses. All mine had been burnt in the fire, and we were still basically homeless. But I, homeless or not, I was a spoilt brat.
That last time I recall the accusation, from the high school counsellor, occurred when I went to see her about which courses I should take the following year. My mother and step-father were alcoholics, and there was not a chance in the world that I would be able to take post secondary courses anywhere, certainly not in a university, and so I needed to know which courses would help me get a job as soon as possible, so I could support the "adults" and myself. The counsellor didn't glance up to look at me when I entered her office. She just took a file folder off the top of a heap, read my name aloud, I responded. She opened the file and read "only child", and commented, "Humph! Obviously a spoilt brat." I sat stunned and waited while she grilled me about my friends and courses, and announced that she had an address for me to go and apply for a job as a clerk typist in Vancouver's poor end of the business section--near Main & Hastings, for those of you who know the area.
So, what is a spoilt brat? Well, if you're talking about me, it's a homeless child with more dolls than she knows what to do with, and who has no siblings to help with useless parents.
Being homeless, or almost so, means never having friends from one year to the next--always being the "new kid" and therefore the one who is the butt of jokes and/or who is left out of games. Even those who are the "last one chosen" have it better than the new kid who gets left out of the game altogether. We're the spoilt ones, remember?
Having no siblings was sometimes seen as a blessing by some kids I went to school with. They fought with their brothers and sisters. They complained about their brothers and sisters. They were jealous of one another, and seemed to really hate each other. BUT, let an outsider (like me, for instance) say one word against said siblings, and then the family closed ranks and the outsider was pushed off the planet altogether. Out in the cold all alone, I'm a spoilt brat.
So, what can a person do to avoid being a spoilt brat? First of all, one needs parents and, if possible, siblings. Then, it seems to me things fall into place IF these parents (and older siblings if there are any) teach the potential spoilt brat that he/she is NOT the centre of the universe and does NOT have the right to write all the scripts for the rest of the world. In other words, a child needs to be socialized. And that means (I know this is unpopular) he/she NEEDS to be disciplined. Disciplining a child does NOT mean being unkind or abusive. That is inappropriate behaviour for anyone of any age. It means teaching by example. An example of what? Of courtesy, not demanding one's own way all the time, not expecting to be first or have the best. This is tricky, because if parents always give way and take last place and settle for worst, they have to understand that the example they are giving is not what it seems to be. If the child never has to obey, he/she learns that obedience is never expected and never needs to be observed. If the child always goes first and gets the best, he/she learns that this is their entitlement and it's the way it should be. And now you have a spoilt brat. (Regardless of how many toys and siblings are available in the family.)
Spoilt brats come with excuses for bad behaviour which their parents have taught them. "He's over-stimulated" was one I heard today. Huh? He has to be bored before he'll cooperate? Or, "He has special needs." Guess what! I've never met a human being who didn't have special needs. But in a class of 30 kids, if your child expects to get special attention, that means that 29 other children must be neglected. If you truly feel that your child is that special, then either homeschool him or get him a tutor. Do the school system and all teachers (and all other families in your neighbourhood) and keep him away from public schools. If, however, you love your child so much that you hope others will at least like him and want his company, then do him a great favour: Socialize him and discipline him. This is the greatest favour you can do him--and the rest of us. Otherwise, you're raising a spoilt brat. I've been there and it's not fun.

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