You’re Not the Boss of Me – Brat-proofing your 4 to 12-year-old Child


 A Worth-While Read

In our increasingly affluent and consumerist society – where the lines between “needs” and “wants” are sometimes blurred – parents are increasingly concerned about how not to raise a spoiled brat!

You’re Not the Boss of Me – Brat-proofing your 4- to 12-year-old Child – by renowned child development and behaviour specialist, Betsy Brown Braun – could just be the book they need. A mother of adult triplets and popular parent educator, Braun offers guidance to parents hoping to nip or reign in bad behaviour.

Braun devotes one chapter each to a particular trait sought to be cultivated:

  • Empathy
  • Independence
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Self-reliance
  • Gratitude
  • Being unspoiled
  • Humour

Dads for Life reviews seven of these, and the first foundation chapter – a refresher course on how to communicate effectively with children.

Chapter 1: “DID YOU HEAR ME?” – How to Talk to Your Kids

To get children to talk, minimise the barriers that hinder exchange of ideas and feelings. Dads should pay attention to timing, location, tone of voice, noise levels, and set-up an optimal environment for effective communication.

A dad driving home could tell his child about his work day, and get Junior to share in return, during the journey. The car is a great place for heavy conversations as “both parties know there is a beginning and an end”.

Cherish your child’s questions – each is an opportunity to deepen a trusting relationship. Learn to listen harder, beyond giving directions. And don’t interrupt.

Chapter 2: “WHY IS THAT GIRL CRYING?” – Growing an Empathetic Child

It takes time, reminders and patience to cultivate empathy. But it is worthwhile an exercise, for empathy forms the core of many other desirable qualities such as kindness and respect.
Children are born copycats. They have great capacity to learn empathy. Before a child can be expected to experience and understand the feelings of others and respond in helpful ways, she has to be first shown empathy by her own parent.

Dads who are generally authoritative or unapproachable should learn to be more responsive to their children’s needs and take time to listen. Encourage empathy by asking, “What would you feel if…?”. This teaches the child to think, reason, and motivate him to put someone else’s needs before his own.

Chapter 3: “I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF; YOU DO IT!” – Building Independence in Your Child

Children need to feel safe and secure before they are able to grow towards independence.
Saying “Don’t go up there; it’s too high!” discourages a child’s independent moves. Instead, try to instruct or teach them how to keep themselves safe (eg. walking to school alone) and train them to solve problems, think, and make decisions, for themselves.

A hurried, impatient father who is always inclined to take over a task the child is trying to complete on her own (eg. getting dressed) is thwarting his kid’s efforts at becoming self-reliant.

Chapter 4: “WHERE’S MY JACKET?!” – Teaching Responsibility

Children need to be taught, from young, the concept of responsibility: Caring for possessions; tidying up playrooms; playing a bigger role within the family and community; sticking to commitments like music or sports classes. They need to see the connection between their actions and consequences that flow from their conduct.

Parents too, should behave consistently, follow through with punishments meted out, so consequences do not lose punch.
Never do for a child what she can do for herself!

Chapter 5: “NO, YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM!” – Creating a Respectful Child

Braun navigates through all nuances and expressions of respect. She emphasises the importance of teaching, demonstrating and guiding through the manifestations of respect in everyday life – from giving privacy and space to a child, telephone manners, to table manners at home and dining out.

She discusses why it is alright when a child says “I hate you!” and the difference between “talk back” by youngsters and their natural expressions of feelings brewed up in the midst of a heated parent-child battleground filled with conflict, anger and tension.

“Respect is not born from screaming, belittling, embarrassment, humiliation, or intentional pain,” she says, “…Genuine learning…comes from a healthy understanding of what is going on.”

Chapter 8: “IS THIS THE ONLY PRESENT I GET?” – Making a Gratitude Adjustment in Your Child

Braun believes that children who understand that they will not always get what they want when they want it, are being taught to wait, work and save for what they want, will feel deep appreciation when their desires are eventually fulfilled. Desire is a great motivator and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification is a valuable life skill.

Kids should learn to satisfy a material desire other than through object ownership, by sharing, practising acts of kindness and gracious giving.

Consciously teach the child to “see the good in the not so good” – “It’s raining so we can’t go to the park. But we can watch old family videos.” is a powerful way for Daddy to show a child that there is always something good to appreciate. One only needs to look for it!

Chapter 9: “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!” – Eliminating Spoilage in Your Child

Braun explains why the parent is both the problem and the answer to spoilage in children. She discusses how increased affluence, technological advancement, changes in values system of families and society, have led to changes in the parenting act. When things come too easily for children, they develop feelings of “entitlement”.

A child needs to understand that the family’s well-being is more important than any single member’s happiness.

Parents should learn to say “No!” to desires for instant gratification and consumerist attitudes. It is much better to provide rich, memorable gifts of experiences for children instead!

Chapter 10: “KNOCK, KNOCK. WHO’S THERE?” – Bringing Humour into Your Child’s Life

Braun affirms play as “the language of childhood” – children learn through play; humour grows out of playfulness and contributes towards a child’s intellectual, emotional and social development.

A child capable of seeing humour in things is able to think at an abstract level, developing her intellectual, creative skills. The ability to look at the lighter side of things and laugh at oneself, is often overlooked by parents as an effective way to help the child learn to cope with stress and anxieties. Cultivating this quality boosts social interaction skills and enriches his life.

Bust The Brat; Not Your Confidence!

Braun’s candid sharing of sensible and effective techniques, tips and scripts will prove useful for parents who digest and put them to practice.

This ‘brat-buster’ book will boost a parent’s confidence and optimism in brat-proofing his 4- to 12-year-old!

1. Betsy Brown Braun. 2010. You’re Not the Boss of Me – Brat-proofing Your 4- to 12-year-old Child. Or visit New York Harper (

ISBN 978-0-06-134663-7. Available for purchase; loan from National Library Board Public Libraries (Call Number: English 306.874 BRA -[FAM]).

About The Author : The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

 First published in 18-07-2013.