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August 21, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Spoiled Brats

Question:

I have 4 children, one unmarried daughter, 2 daughters and one son married with children. My 2 married daughters live thousands of miles away. My son is about 35. I only see my daughters and their children when I make an annual visit. We are not particularly close but it works for us. We know we would "be there" for each other if need be.

My son and his wife had a baby when they were 41 and Emily is now 11. I was very rarely asked to babysit until the past few months as the other Grandmother who lived a few blocks away was always available. I don't know why she is no longer doing it - my son and daughter-in-law were rather vague when I broached the subject.

Emily learned at a very early age that having tantrums got her what she wanted and she still continues to have them. I was surprised that they made no effort to deal with them and just accepted that it was the way she was. They never asked me for any input or advice so I did not offer any.

My daughter-in-law had a very poor childhood and I think she determined when she was young that if she ever had any children they would have a better childhood than hers. Very understandable but I think she went a bit overboard and Emily gets everything she wants. And if it's not brand new and expensive then it's considered worthless and discarded! They both think Emily can do no wrong and now she is older she realizes this and takes full advantage.

I was asked to look after her for a few days which I was happy to do, but Emily was constantly calling her Mom to complain about every little thing she did not like. When my daughter-in-law got home from work she then lectured me. Emily was only a little child etc. I should not expect her to behave like an adult. During the lecture Emily stood behind her Mom smirking and looking quite triumphant that she had got her Grandmother into trouble.

I was there again last week. All Emily wanted to do was go to the mall and look at makeup and clothes. At home she pored over fashion magazines and watched all the reality type shows on TV. It's not the sort of thing I am I interested in. I tried to explain to Emily that although we had different interests neither of us was right or wrong we were just different. This was duly reported to her Mother as me being mean and nasty and got me another lecture on how she was just a little girl.

Next day Emily asked me to take her to a high-end mall which I did. We ended up in a perfume store and much to my surprise she picked out a $60 bottle of perfume and pulled out $100 bill to pay. When I asked her about carrying so much cash about and spending $60 on perfume for herself she very snottily informed me it was her money and she could do what she liked with it. Cue of course the phone call to Mom.

When my son came home before his wife I told him how surprised I was at what had happened and then he said it was HER money and yes she could do what she wanted with it. Then he lectured me long and loud about how I did not seem to realize she was only a little child and that his wife was not pleased and would have things to say to me when she got home. I then lost my temper. I said I was tired of being told I did not know anything about children, especially after I had raised four of my own and also worked in a children's home for many years. I also said I that thought Emily, who is nearly 12, was quite old enough to understand many things but chose to twist them round to make me seem mean. I got shouted at again so I packed my bags and left. I was very upset and did not want yet another lecture when my daughter-in-law got home.

None of my other grandchildren behave like this. They are not perfect but got over having tantrums long ago. Emily is a spoiled brat and her parents seem to think this is good! A sign of a strong will and intelligence. I do realize that children nowadays live different lives than the one I and my children lead, but nevertheless I can recognize a spoiled brat. I very much doubt that I will hear from my son any time soon.

My question is what should I do now? Make an effort to try to make peace? Or should I just keep quiet in view of the fact I do not like how my granddaughter acts and the way her parents condone her bratty behavior?

Valerie, 72-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Valerie,

I fully agree with your insightful analysis of what is going on for your unfortunate granddaughter. Her parents are not doing Emily any favors. In my experience, spoiled kids grow up into unhappy adults. Whatever they get is never enough, they can't stand any frustration, and there is always a chip on their shoulder.

Children need limits, because they don't have the understanding to do it for themselves. They need discipline and correction. Of course, this has to be given with unconditional love, but it has to be done.

At 11, Emily is not a little child, but the way children age nowadays, she is also on the verge of puberty. What will her parents say if she comes home pregnant at 13, or with a nasty disease, or goes on to alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs? Or what if the police bring her home after some impulsive crime like stealing from a shop? That's what happens to spoiled kids.

But your real question is, what can you do about it?

Hard as it is, nothing. You could talk with the other grandmother, and find out why she no longer looks after Emily. I'll bet it's because she can't stand the willful behavior any more either. The two of you could make one attempt at influencing the parents: write a joint letter, including a copy of my answer to you. The rest is up to the parents. If they were to be motivated, they could use one of a number of readily available programs for training Emily to handle responsibility, decency, and frustration tolerance. But, it's up to them.

When I am in an impossible situation, which can happen to anyone, I use acceptance. Whatever is, is, and is all right. I like to explain this with respect to physical pain, but it can be applied to any source of distress:

Geniuses at survival can live in hell, with peace in their hearts. We can learn from them. If I don't like something, I need to work at changing it. But that takes time, and may never succeed. For now, I can simply accept it. Best illustration is pain. Pain = sensation + emotion.

1. I have an unpleasant sensation. If I simply accept it, I'm not hurting. It can stay there, I'm OK.

2. Sometimes I can't manage this. Then I'm hurting. I can accept that for now, I'm hurting, in pain, and want it to go away - and it's OK to feel like that. Then I may be in pain, but it's OK.

3. Sometimes, I can't do this, and I am in despair: "What's the point of living like this?" If I can accept that for now, I'm in despair, I can still carry on.

Acceptance at one level may allow return to a better one, but can't be done for that reason - or it's not real acceptance and won't work. So, a person you care for is having her life potentially wrecked by the indulgence of her parents. This hurts. It is OK to feel the pain but, hard as it may be to believe, you can still have peace in your heart.

Look after yourself,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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