My Kids Were Acting Like Spoiled Brats Until I Realized They Needed More Limits

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Sheed/Getty

With all the fake sanctimommy bullshit set aside, let’s be real: Our kids know how to act like real grade A assholes and spoiled brats from time to time. And right now, it feels like I’m going through the thick of it.

I’ve been a “yes” parent for so long that it feels like my kids have had a difficult time taking my “nos” seriously. Shocker, right?

When I was growing up and it was just my mom and me, unlike all of my other friends, we rarely had new things. We didn’t have any sort of internet (not even dial-up), video game consoles, or cable TV. But my children have had all of these things accessible to them in their home since birth.

My mom worked long hours and finished college while I was little. Which meant we didn’t spend much time together feeding into my creative play. So this was something I hoped to be able to provide my own children as a work-at-home mother.

For awhile, I would regularly let my kids make mysterious batter from whatever they chose from of our pantry with my supervision. Because that kind of play truly is a vessel to nurture their growing brains.

I would bust out their kid-paint almost daily without a worry about messes which were made. (Bonkers, right?)

And when they were quietly destroying multiple areas of the house at the same time, I let it go on with the notion of, “Oh well, I’ll clean it up later.”

But then they started to get older, and my days became a never-ending loop of glitter, outdoor chalk, changing the TV channel, paint-covered clothes, and cleaning up their messes.

They would break toys in the way kids do, but they didn’t seem to care anymore. And they were flat-out refusing to clean their god-awful room. After many warnings from their “nice mommy” of what would happen if they didn’t shape up and actually clean their room, “mean mommy” came out to play.

I brought my handy-dandy trash bags upstairs and loaded up three heaping bags worth of toys. When they had been relegated to the basement, my daughter looked me square in the eyes, without a f*ck to be given, and blankly remarked, “Mommy, I don’t care that you put my toys in the basement.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

This was a battle of wills, and my kids were acting like spoiled brats.

I began thinking, surely, even with all of the arts, crafts and playtime in the world, this drained, always-irritated, and run-dry mother wasn’t the one I always vowed my kids would remember.

I was one lone, misplaced Lego short of frantically dialing Nanny 9-1-1.

They were growing up, needed more responsibility, and did I mention they acted like spoiled brats? The tantrums over fixable things, the whining over everyday things, and the screaming over food-related things.

It was then that I realized, with an even deeper intensity, something had to change. My kids were acting entitled in a world where they had little to no entitlement, and there began my struggle of trying to reinforce the little things in parenting.

Tom Werner/Getty

Then I remembered, I’m an empath. So maybe, just maybe, my kids could be too?

I sat my kids down in a serious manner and told them my feelings were hurt. Instead of harping on them for misbehaving, throwing a tantrum, or chastising them for being ungrateful, I explained how I was feeling.

“It really hurts my feelings when I ask you to do something for me, and you choose not to listen,” I calmly told them as I took turns looking into each of their eyes on the couch.

“Mommy loves to play with you, but even fun mommies have rules too,” I added.

And suddenly, they looked at me like a lightbulb inside their little heads had turned on.

*clapping my own hands together for a mom score*

Since then we’ve implemented a chore chart. I know, I know … they aren’t for everyone. But right now, they are totally for us.

Before my kids are able to have screen time or play time, they have to make sure their chores are completed. And guess what? They think it’s fun! It’s simple things, because they are young still. Like, brushing their teeth, picking up their clothes and toys, feeding the dogs and finishing their breakfast, but it helps me a ton. And surprisingly, it’s working!

I had to learn — even though I’ve heard it a million times — that loving my children meant setting a few more boundaries and rules for them too. Because they are not old enough to make every decision. They need more structure than being able to do whatever they want on a whim.

It has been healthy for them to realize that Mom cannot play all day even when I really, really, really want to. (And it’s been healthy for me not to play with them all day when I really, really, really don’t want to.)

We still have fun, but now, it’s not so one-sided. I’m able to have fun with them too because it’s not an every-waking-minute type of ordeal.

I made time to implement a structured household where I say “no” more often, and my children (who were acting like spoiled brats) are happier in the bigger picture because of it.

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