I Can't Stand Brats – and the Parents Who (Don't) Raise Them

Why won't moms and dads teach their kids how to behave?
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Child having a fitFor as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take my daughter to a Christmas performance of The Nutcracker. But when my aunt bought the entire family tickets to see the ballet at Lincoln Center last year, I decided to leave my daughter home. I didn’t feel she was ready to sit for that long, and I didn’t want her to ruin it for anyone else. This year, I decided to test the waters by taking her to a local – though professional – performance that was a little bit shorter and a lot less pricey than the New York City version.

Madeline was thrilled to be going to her first “grown-up ballet” and picked out her prettiest holiday dress for the occasion.

Read What My Daughter Taught Me

On the Saturday before Christmas, the auditorium was filled with families with little girls all excited about seeing the show. We, of course, were seated two rows behind a couple who, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to bring two boys under the age of five to the show. The younger one started crying less than ten minutes after the lights went down. “I don’t want to watch this!” he wailed. The older boy decided to up the ante by standing on his seat and yelling, “I want to go home!” The couple’s winning strategy for dealing with these two justifiably unhappy little boys? Mostly ignore them. Who cared if no one within earshot could enjoy the performance?

Directly in front of us sat an angelic-looking little girl with her mother. I can’t tell you what her mother looked like because she never turned her head. Her daughter, on the other hand, stood squarely facing us the entire time we were there. The minute this child came in, she started talking and never stopped. I thought she was charming at first as she chatted with my daughter about Santa. When the music first started and she didn’t turn around to watch, I thought for sure her mom would step in.

Nothing doing. My daughter said to her several times, ‘You shouldn’t be talking right now.’ The child would fall silent for a minute and then continue right on blabbing. No amount of sighing from me or throat-clearing from my husband made a bit of difference to this child’s mother. I was just about to tap the woman on the shoulder when the child happily blurted out, ‘You know why my daddy isn’t here right now? Because mommy yelled at him.’ Bingo! The woman yanked the child into her seat without ever taking her eyes off the stage.

A week later, my daughter attended a classmate’s birthday party where the three boys seated right next to her hurled pieces of pizza at each other from across the table while their oblivious parents did nothing. When I stepped in and told them to stop, the surliest of the bunch looked me squarely in the eye and said, ‘You’re not the boss of me.’ Very nice. His father was equally friendly when I asked him to get control of his son.

So here’s my resolution for the New Year: I promise not to call your kid a brat, if you promise not to raise one.

Diane Clehane with her daughterBetty’s multi-tasking parenting columnist is a New York Times best-selling author who covers fashion and entertainment for publications, including People. When she adopted her daughter from China in 2005, she discovered motherhood provides great material on a daily basis. Between driving her daughter to nursery school and juggling play dates, she writes and is at work on her first novel.


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15 thoughts on “I Can't Stand Brats – and the Parents Who (Don't) Raise Them

  1. mothermeryl says:

    Great article – I’ve often thought this myself. And don’t even get me started on strollers blocking aisles everywhere…

  2. Anne510 says:

    I thought it was only me and my standards must be too high. I can’t stand when children are disrespectful to their parents and people think it’s funny and/or cute. And it’s even worse when confronting the parents…

  3. NYCdogmommy says:

    Excellent article! I’ve never understood why some parents think it’s okay for the rest of the world to police their brats.

  4. surfcity says:

    I see alot of parents just ignore their kids when they start to act out. They are teaching them to ignore each other vs. take the time to set boundaries and let kids learn how to live there. I agree– consistency is the biggest factor.

  5. DancerMom says:

    I agree with all of you. There are parents out there who think it’s funny and cute to misbehave. When they’re in front of me during an elementary grade parent-teacher conference saying bratty behavior is “cute,” it is unacceptable. I ask, “Would you yourself do the same in front of 20-30 other people?” Consistency with expected behavior and consequences helps.

  6. lawlli56 says:

    All I have to say is that I hope their kids give them hell when they are teenagers, I suspect that will be difficult to ignore.

  7. hmskmomof7 says:

    While I do agree there are brats, I do have a comment for this author. Back when I was the parent of one child I thought I too was the best parent in the world and my child was the best behaved. I did my share of judging other parents and the behavior of their children. My first child didn't even think about a fit. After a few more children and no rule changes, I realized that it was not me(the parent) who was good…it was my first child. I have a few other children who are as well behaved or better than the first, but I have 2 kids that are bent on being "extremists." (I have 7 in all)These 2 fight and struggle to the bitter end over everything. They were born with these fitfilled personalities and it will take all 18 years or so that I have them to hopefully train them with better behavior. Some days they do, other days not so much. I have learned much from those days when I only had one child and when I hear a child throwing a fit in the store, instead of being aghast at the horrible parent and child I smile and thank the shopping gods that it wasn't me today with the headache and sometimes I tell the mother in question, "I guess you drew the short straw today and got the kid who would misbehave in public today!"

  8. KelleyTTLW says:

    I have an hilarious story to tell. I have a friend who has twin boys. When they were little, they were ‘monsters’ (her words) in the grocery store. So one day when they were fighting over which cereal to choose, my friend spontaneously went into what she later called her ‘robot dance’. She started making stiff robot moves (as largely as possible – and she is a large woman) combined with ‘non-verbal noises and singing’. The twins, horrified, responded with “Mom, what are you doing?” “Mom, what’s wrong with you?” and Mom, stop it, you’re embarrassing us!” At this point, she stopped, pointed at them and said “Well, you’re embarrassing me! Now pick ONE cereal or I’ll start again.” Needless to say, after a quick (and nearly whispered) consultation, they came to a compromise and picked a cereal. After that day, when the kids started to act up, get loud, or whatever, all she had to do was jerk a shoulder or other part of her body and make a small noise in her throat, and they would stop!!!! Not that this would work for all Mom’s (I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it myself) but it worked for her and her kids grew up great!

  9. RedAJG says:

    I agree COMPLETELY!! SO glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  10. hankie1 says:

    Ever watch Supernanny? What on earth has happened to parents, Fathers crying because they have to discipline their kids, mothers giving up and throwing in the towel, what?? I raised three children (twins included) they knew what was exceptable behavior and what was not, why? because I was on it every time they didn’t do what they should, I was strong and hung in there, today I have three happy, successful wonderful children and guess what? They are being the same kind of parent, so I have three wonderful well behaved grandchildren. When you aren’t consistent and aren’t strong you can expect to have teenagers who will run over you and make your life a living HELL! My father would never have cried if my brothers and I didn’t obey him, we would have been in big trouble, my mother meant business when she said to move, she meant it and we knew she meant it! This is why it is harder and harder for adults to except the NO word, it has become a ME society and to me how these children are raised and not taught respect and giving back instead they are taught that everything is about them and parents think the more presents and things they buy for the kids the better, parents had better start acting like parents and stop trying to be the best friend of their children, they have enough friends they need parents!

  11. 24glow says:

    This is an emotionally charged double standard issue. I agree with hmskmomof7. I have four boys under the age of 6, which I can tell you is a whole lot different than having one little girl. The ante is upped, and the basic personalities are different. Yes, ONE little girl can probably sit through almost anything (my friend once told me that her daughter sat and colored through her three hour lunch with her friend). My four boys have a lot of energy and play off one another. However, no, I would not take them to a ballet or any other place they have no business being, and yes, we discipline them when they misbehave in public and have at times apologized to people around us. And I too am mortified when, for example, some kid is splashing me at the pool while his mother sits oblivious, chatting with another mom. Flagrant irresponsibilty for one’s child is easy to spot, but don’t judge people who have more than one child when you only have one personality, one little being to deal with…because if I had to judge, I’d say that sounds like a pretty easy task.

  12. aburningham says:

    Thank you for writing this article!! I absolutely can not stand parents who let their kids misbehave in public, and don’t even attempt to do anything about it. It is just plain rude and irresponsible. My husband and I were at a MIDNIGHT showing of a movie last week, (with friends who have young kids, but got a sitter), when a couple sat behind us with 3 kids, the oldest couldn’t have been more than 8. This was an adult movie, where youg kids shouldn’t have been in the first place. No surprise, the kids proceded to talk, cry, climb on the back of my husbands seat(!) and run around the theatre the whole time. Not once did the parents say anything, even after we had to ask the kids to get off of our seatbacks. Hello, why should I have to parent your out of control kids?!?! I completely understand that some children have more difficult personalities than others. However, blaming a childs difficult personality for laziness and a complete lack of parenting is ridiculous.

  13. mynxbaby says:

    Parents need to spend more time teaching their kids to respect others and behave. Great article and the mothers or fathers that this pertains to will probably make rude comments, but that is them.

    My children and grandchildren know what to expect when we are in public and in the home as well. Respect, please and thank you do go along way.

  14. jcksnrachel says:

    You have taken the words right out of my mouth. My husband and I often wonder are we the only ones paying attention to our children. The worst thing is it’s not just the little children, my 8 yr old is having a time too. The girls in her class are rude as they can be, the mean things they say to each other already make my heart ache.

  15. ACM says:

    It's no wonder why I don't pity blameworthy parents if they are held responsible for their kids' annoying behavior and I don't pity these parents if they don't like it that some people won't do certain things for their bratty children.

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