Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why I Don't Like the Word Brat, But I'll Still Tell You to Read a Book That Uses It





Brat
noun

1.
a child, especially an annoying, spoiled, or impolite child (usually used in contempt or irritation).

I was able to do some reading on our recent trip to Texas, and I woke up with a headache early in the morning one day, and read this book, pictured, cover-to-cover. It’s short and very readable. In fact, over all, I really liked the book, It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way, by Ginny Seuffert, published by Seton Press. This is the first book by Seton Press that I have read.

In the end, I was very glad I read this book. It helped some friends of mine to get their kids on track about an eating schedule, so that they’re no longer eating out of boredom, or always begging for snacks.  It also gave me clarity about confident, consistent parenting, such as ideas for bedtimes, and wisdom for frugal parenting (especially in their later, teenage years). These and other things were very helpful to hear discussed from a Catholic perspective.

Hearing encouragement about taking kids to Mass was also very helpful and on-par. She discusses ways to keep them in the pew for prayers, even after Mass, and how to get them familiar with the  responses in Mass. However, my one quibble with this section was that she recommended the practice and the concept of parents taking the littles in shifts, particularly for large families going to Mass, so that no one has to take a baby to the cry room. That was a little a lot crazy to me, because I was trying to imagine me and Stephen splitting up every time we went to Mass. Let’s just say… no, me and the cry room haven’t quite broken up yet! ;)


The thing about this book is that it was really good, but to be truthful, it really could have been so much better.  A few things really rubbed me the wrong way. Namely, on two different occasions, she uses the word “brat” to describe unruly children.

For example:

“Out in public, loud bratty children often turn dining out, shopping, or even a trip to the library, church, or park into a major headache for parents and innocent bystanders.”

And then this:

“Think of the whining, crying, complaining back-talking brats that we all see in church, at the grocery store, and on the playground….”

Hmm... ok. Let's see. Am I misguided here?

I was totally cringing when I read that. That's because I don’t like the word "brat."  It sounds nasty to me.  It takes the book for me, from a well-meaning parents’ manual, to a corny, (and a little bit) self-righteous lecture.

Here’s my honest opinion: If you don’t want your kids to be brats, don’t ever call them "brats."  And calling other people’s children “brats” is even worse… so much worse. If they hearing you saying, "well those people's kids were just brats," after encountering someone in public, do you know what you'll have on your hands? Self-righteous kids. A little confidence goes a long way. We don't have to derive our confidence from the practice or bad habit of putting others down.

The word ‘brat,’ in my opinion, is derogatory. Unless it’s used tongue-in-cheek, such as in reference to an “Army Brat,” it’s rude. And it’s completely depressing and discouraging to those who absorb that kind of verbal assault. That kind of language takes time to recover from. It's hurtful.

It you want your kids to grow up to be self-respectful, and beautiful, and caring and mindful and merciful toward other children, the best way- in my mind- is simple! Encourage them. Never call them "brats." Be careful never to teach them to look down on other children. Teach them to respect others and look for the best in others...even if those people are complaining, or self-indulgent, or what have you. That doesn't make them less than you. Teach them by example, or explain explicitly to them that everyone is learning, and sometimes some people have bad days. (And some people have disorders or other conditions- such as dyslexia or ADD- which you may know nothing about, inhibiting their behavior for reasons unknown to strangers in public places). Otherwise, they may be thinking that a) they themselves are brats or that b) other people are brats, in their own minds as well.

Labels are dangerous, because it assumes that once someone “acts like a brat,” they are always like that. That’s simply not true. If you see someone with a spoiled demonstration in public, I urge you to assume the best. Assume they are hungry, the parents are ready for a nap or lunch break, and the children are incredibly tired. Perhaps they are in a bad pattern; one you wouldn’t condone for your own kids. Oh well. Or, worse, perhaps they have a condition or disorder. Live and let live. Don’t judge.  Don’t assume they are "brats." And never, ever say that word out loud… at least not within my earshot. :)

Was this book all bad? No. I’m glad I read it. You probably will be, too! Here’s a picture of the table of contents, so that you can imagine you are taking a peek inside, to see if this would be a good book for you. It is fairly cheap and affordable on Amazon; the Kindle edition is only $4.95.

I appreciated reading a parenting book from a Catholic perspective, since for me those have been infrequent, thus far in my parenting journey. These types of books are few and far between. It was very logical and sane. And definitely it was helpful. But like I said, it was a good book that could have been better.

If you read it, just do me a favor, and read it with your guard up. Otherwise you and your kids might gets some name-calling ideas from it, and that would make you a jerk. Oh, wait I don't like that word, either. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a brat. But just don’t tell me that, or call me that. It would hurt my feelings. If you want to read a much better address (read: kinder) for families with over-indulged children, this post, Whining Whiners and How to Cure Them has a lot of wisdom.

What do you think? Do you ever use the word "brat"? Will you read this book?

Adding my link to ACWB

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