Let’s begin talking about how not to raise spoiled brats by listing the top seven methods that do create lazy, selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, entitled, bullying tyrants.
The underlying attitude that creates demanding, abusive bullies is the false idea that if children are never thwarted or forced to do what they don’t want to, they’ll be more creative and happy, and their self-esteem will be higher. This attitude is very prevalent among the helping professions; especially therapists and teachers.
What I say may anger people who think in black-while, all-none terms. Those people think that the only choices are total freedom and praise, or beatings and total repression. How silly to think that way.
My top seven attitudes, approaches, techniques, methods to create willful, domineering brats and teenagers are:
Always give them everything they want and give them control of every decision. Teach them that if they don’t get what they desperately want at the moment, they’ll never be happy. Never force them to do what you want. Always try to get them to understand that you’re right, so they’ll willingly do what you want them to. Don’t act until they give you permission.
Never correct them or say, “No.” Help them think they’re sensitive, weak and fragile. Be afraid that if their feelings are hurt, they’ll never get over it.
Never show displeasure or tell them that they failed to meet your expectations. Always tell them that their efforts are good enough; no matter how pathetic the results.
Always tell them that they should succeed instantly or that what they can’t do easily isn’t important. Tell them that hard work and struggle aren’t important. Blame everything that they don’t like on other people (bad friends, bad teachers, bad schools, bad society), not on their insufficient or mediocre effort. Always tell them that the world is supposed to be fair and to make them happy.
Be afraid that if they’re unhappy or angry, they won’t love you. Always try to be their confidant and best friend. Give in to their fits and temper tantrums in order to get them to stop. Train them that you’ll give them whatever they want if they throw fits in public.
Always excuse their bad behavior because they’re “cute” or “creative.” Always excuse them from chores because it’s no fun for them.
Instead of calmly applying consequences whether they like it or not, always let them misbehave without correction or consequences. Hold your tongue or repeatedly tell them not to do something, but don’t actually do anything effective until you can’t stand it anymore and you throw a fit. Never smack their bottoms or grab them to make your point or to let them know that sometimes they will do what you want, no matter what – even though that’s the only thing that will get them to do what you want.
If you start these approaches when they’re infants, you can create manipulative, demanding teenage bullies who think they’re entitled to everything they want and you’re supposed to provide it. They’re the kind of children who may be living at home when they’re 40. Will you wonder why, deep down, you don’t like them any more than they like you?
Of course, don’t go to the other extreme and beat them into submission.
Don’t give in to guilt when you thwart them with your, hopefully, high expectations. Don’t give in to coddling and wishful thinking when they try to wear you down.
Are you a nitpicking perfectionist? You might not think so, but what does your staff think? If so, it’s time for change. Because for all their good intentions, control freaks generally do more harm than good.
To read the rest of this article from the Business Journal of Portland, see:
Nitpicking control-freak bosses always lose their best employees
Of course you want to make sure things are just right, especially on documents that might have legal consequences or if they’ll be seen by big customers or big bosses. But what are the consequences of going too far?
For control freaks, there is no “too far.” They nitpick every document and e-mail. They red-pencil every word and choice of layout, font style and size. They’ll even correct their own changes if you feed them back a second time. They think no one is quite as good at anything as they are.
You know the type: The boss who plans the details of every small event, spends an afternoon directing exactly where to place balloons or strings of lights, designs the organization’s web site, takes a day to oversee re-painting stripes in the parking lot or argues directly with vendors about minor details.
A steady diet of bullying and correcting staff – especially in minor details or matters of taste and style – means that control freak bosses don’t have time to do their real jobs.
Inevitably, staff motivation, morale and productivity suffer. Nitpicking perfectionists gloat while using sarcasm, put-downs, negativity and yelling. Even staff not directly involved are affected by the waves of discontent and ridicule that spread to every part of the organization.
The most creative and responsible staff will leave. Those who stay are willing to endure more micromanagement because they think it ensures they won’t get blamed for mistakes.
Most nitpickers get the wake up call the hard way: Someone tells them the harsh truth. It could be a big boss, letting you know that you’re wasting your time nitpicking and you’d better deliver on your real tasks. It could be a colleague or supervisee telling you why you’re overworked, why people laugh behind your back or why your best people are leaving.
The key to stopping compulsive nitpicking is hiring and training people who are at least as good as you are and then giving them their appropriate turf. But of course, controlling bullies usually lack the guts to have good people around them.
Turf wars are a well-known fact of life in many organizations. Lesser known, but far more destructive, are positioning wars – struggles by two or more opponents for the top spot in an organization.
Turf wars aren’t any fun. But they’re mostly defensive – people trying to protect their turf from encroachment by a real or imagined rival. Positioning wars are far more aggressive and destructive. They involve a fight to become No. 1 immediately or, at least, the heir-designate to whoever’s in charge now.
Turf battles often lead to bureaucratic slowdowns. Positioning wars can ruin the very kingdom being fought over.
The princes circle each other like birds of prey seeking to uncover hidden agendas. Unofficial power centers are established. The princes’ teams reflect their antagonism. They focus on the faults of the other team and the hidden meanings behind looks, words and deeds. They score trivia points by publicizing the other faction’s setbacks or their own minor victories.
Innocent bystanders aren’t safe. Neutral parties are inevitably drawn into choosing sides. Tension and terror activate childhood coping strategies. Everyone watches their words more carefully than their productivity.
Bad apples suck up to each prince looking for protection and power. Slackers try to turn their protector against managers who pressure them to be more productive.
Positioning wars are even more debilitating if the princes had previously been able to work together effectively. Most people don’t adapt effectively to the dramatic change in environment. They’re blindsided, feel victimized and waste time bemoaning their undeserved fate.
Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” has gotten enough publicity to make her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a best seller. She’s clear that she uses the term “Chinese Mother” to represent a certain way of treating children that may be found in people from many, many cultures.
If many people adopt her style of parenting in order to make their children play at Carnegie Hall that would be a shame. Amy Chua is an abusive bully.
She beats her children into submission and claims that they’ll have great self-esteem as well as becoming successful in the competitive jungle of life because they can accomplish the very few things Ms. Chua thinks are important.
“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.”
“Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight “As.” Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best.”
“Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem…Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.”
There’s a grain of sense in what she says, but that grain is covered by a mountain of brutality that will be successful in creating only slaves or another generation of bullying parents, not in creating fully human beings.
What’s wrong with Ms. Chua’s ideas?
She lives in a kill-or-be-killed world of desperate striving for the most material rewards of success.
She’s rigid, narrow, and all-or-none with only two possibilities.
She allows only a few criteria for success – Stanford or Yale, violin or piano, maybe ballet. I assume only one or two acceptable careers like lawyer or professor.
She assumes that there are only totally slacking children (Americans) or totally successful children (with “Chinese Mothers”). If you give children an inch, they’ll become complete failures.
She thinks that the only way her children can be successful and happy and honor their parents is to be champions at her approved activities.
There’s almost no joy in their lives. Yes, there’s a moment when her daughter masters a difficult two-handed exercise. But the best that the rest of life holds is the thrill of victory and success at winning. There’s no possibility for joy in doing activities that thrill your soul and uplift your spirit.
Ms. Chua has only one value – compete and defeat; win at any cost.
This is a great and necessary value. It has made our society the first world. But if when the only value, when she ignores all the other equally great and necessary values she becomes inhuman – a barbarian, a torturer, no better than a Nazi or Communist or Fascist.
No wonder she’s aghast at all the personal attacks. She may be a brilliant law professor and accomplished writer but she’s completely out of touch with the world’s great traditions championing other values like great character, individuality, liberty, self-determination, love, beauty, compassion, spirituality and human connection. That’s why people take it so personally. Ms. Chua is attacking our most cherished values; cherished for good reasons. These values make us human in our most fundamental American, western ways.
Ms. Chua represents inhumanity justified by Darwin and Marx. She represents a revival of B.F. Skinner’s way of raising his daughter in a “Skinner Box,” as if she was a pigeon. When she grew up she sued him.
A better approach:
Have you observed your children individually and carefully? One approach does not fit them all.
Which children need you to provide more structure and which will be dedicated and determined on their own? Which children respond better when they’re encouraged and which respond better to having their imperfections pointed out? This is where expert coaching is helpful to design approaches that fit you and each child.
What are your children passionate about so they become energetic and determined on their own? Are following an artists path, playing the oboe, writing “silly” stories like “The Little Prince,” learning to program computers, studying bugs and strange sea creatures, mastering any sport, being a person who inspires others to be the best they can be, dedicating yourself to raising independent and creative children living rich and full lives, being a craftsman who makes great pianos or violins, coaching basketball teams at “minor schools” like University of Connecticut or UCLA to set winning-record streaks, being entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, making movies, loving children and a thousand other endeavors worthwhile to you? How can you encourage and nurture your child’s dedication and skill in those areas?
Character is critical. All of the world’s great literature points to the deficiencies of social climbers, bureaucrats and people whose only focus is to win at all costs. What would Ms. Chua have created if she could have gotten her hands on the children who became, for example, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens or Alexander Solzhenitsyn? Or great figures in the world from Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen and Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. or Aung San Suu Kyi, to name only five of thousands.
Don’t be a victim of your parents’ ideas about what constitutes success and how to achieve it. You can give your children the tools of the mind, will and spirit and let them create their own lives that they’ll love.
By the way, Ayalet Waldman wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response in the Wall Street Journal, “In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom.” In part she defends her children’s choices and her catering to those choices. In part she also defends her selfish desires to discourage her children when their activities would inconvenience her. That’s not the answer either.
All of the poles in this discussion are the wrong places to be – being a wimpy parent or an uncaring, selfish parent or a brute.
"Energy Vampires" are bullies at work. They’ll suck your motivation and drive, and destroy morale and productivity. But because they’re usually not recognized and labeled as bullies, they’re allowed to flourish.
Rather than give a wordy description, let’s identify and label some common examples of their bullying:
The Know-It-All. He’s right about everything – what the president should do to solve everything, why our sports teams lose, why kids are worse today, what’s wrong with our education, health, and legal system, why the ocean is blue. Arguing with him is a waste of time and most people have stopped trying. But just hearing his voice gets you too frustrated and angry to get back to work.
The Angry Victim. Her life stinks because everyone picks on her or “the system” is a mess and doesn’t adjust itself to her needs. She’s indignant if you dare to disagree or if you’re not sympathetic or helpful enough. If you don’t give her all the credit she wants, you’ll pay. Since she goes on and on about co-workers and bosses who are jerks, you know she’ll run you down to everyone if you don’t please her. There’s no reasoning with her; she’s too angry to see anyone else’s side of things. So you try to be invisible or walk on eggshells. Of course, you’re too scared to be productive or creative.
The Blackmailer. He won’t give you the reports or data he’s supposed to unless you listen to him babble for an hour. You’d better listen or he’ll bad-mouth you publically as unfriendly and not-a-team-player. He won’t send things electronically; he insists on lengthy personal contact. By the time you’ve told four friends his latest antics, you’ve wasted half a day.
The Mousy Victim. She’s hurt and weepy, but tries to put on a brave face. Everything anyone says or does hurts her feelings; she’s a genius at taking things the wrong way. Her hyper-sensitivity has rallied everyone to come to her defense and cater to her every whim. She creates a continual soap opera revolving around her hurt feelings. Everyone must take their precious time and energy to salve her feelings and bring her identified persecutor into line. The result is another day focused on melodrama instead of work.
The Loud-Mouthed Bigot. He frequently makes sexist, racist and other intolerant and vicious remarks about co-workers and anyone else who attracts his attention. He’s more interested in broadcasting his opinions and winning arguments than in getting work done. If you engage him, you’ll come away too drained and angry to get back to work.
The Bore who’s Fascinated With Her Life. She’s so wonderful and important that you must listen to all the excruciating details of her life – especially the very personal ones about her bodily functions or love-life. You want to close your door and hide. In order to appear caring, you almost feel compelled to tell her similar details of your life. She counts on your politeness not to throw her out. In this case you feel more slimed than drained, but you’re still too upset to get back to work.
The Whining Slacker. He’s lazy and won’t lift a finger to meet deadlines; he’s a no-show at crunch time. He whines, complains and wants sympathy and help. Everyone has to pitch in and do his job or the team looks bad. He’s never grateful and doesn’t return the effort to help others. Since they keep paying him for slacking, you grit your teeth and feel like slacking also. Slacking is a communicable disease.
These energy vampires control the turf and productivity plummets. They leave a wake of frustration and anger; co-workers and managers feel drained by every interaction, like someone took a quart of blood. And then we go home and drain our families, either by repeating the details of what happened or by taking out our frustration and stress on our loved ones.
These vampires go from team to team, leaving a wake of corpses, but hiding their harassment and abuse behind good-sounding excuses and justifications. It’s always someone else’s fault and everyone’s against them.
Energy vampires can be purged by a concerted effort of managers and their teams. If you aren’t willing to do that difficult work, you must start looking to work in another department of your company or for a new company. But wait; there’ll be vampires there too!
There are many methods that even well-meaning parents use to raise spoiled brats instead of wonderful, creative, well-behaved, civil, strong children. The fundamental factor in raising arrogant, selfish, nasty brats is their parents’ consistency in attitudes, approach and actions.
The underlying attitude that creates demanding, bullying tyrants is that if children are never thwarted or forced to do what they don’t want to, they’ll be more creative and happy, and their self-esteem will be higher. This attitude is very prevalent among the helping professions; especially therapists and teachers.
What I say will anger people who think in black-while, all-none. Those are people who think that the only choices are total freedom and praise, or total repression and beatings. How silly to think that way.
What do you see other people doing to train their children badly?
My top 10 attitudes, approaches, techniques to create willful, domineering brats and teenagers are:
Always give them everything they desire. Don’t teach them that they might not get what they desperately want at the moment and that they can still be happy. Give them control of every decision. Never force them to do what you want. Instead, always try to get them to understand that you’re right so they’ll willingly do what you want them to.
Never show displeasure or tell them that they failed to meet your high expectations. Always tell them that their efforts are always good enough; no matter how good or pathetic the results.
Always tell them that they should succeed instantly or that what they can’t do, isn’t important. Also, tell them that hard work and struggle aren’t important. Blame everything that they don’t like on other people (bad friends, bad teachers, bad schools, bad society), not on their insufficient or mediocre effort. Always tell them that the world is supposed to be fair and make them happy.
Always let them misbehave without correction or consequences, instead of calmly applying consequences whether they like it or not. Hold your tongue or repeatedly tell them not to do something, but don’t actually do anything effective until you can’t stand it anymore and you throw a fit.
Always give in to their fits and temper tantrums in order to get them to stop. Train them that you’ll give them whatever they want if they throw fits in public.
Always excuse their bad behavior because they’re “cute” or “creative.”
Always allow them to avoid chores or helping out because it’s no fun for them.
Be afraid that if they’re angry, they won’t love you. Always try to be their confidant and best friend.
Never smack their bottoms or grab them to make your point or to let them know that sometimes they will do what you want, no matter what.
To raise spoiled brats, consistently give in to them and excuse their bad behavior. Of course that doesn’t prepare them to succeed in the real-world they’ll face as adults.
If you start these approaches with infants, you can create manipulative, demanding teenage bullies who think that they’re entitled to everything they want and you’re supposed to provide it. They’re the kind of children who may be living at home when they’re 40. And you’ll wonder why, deep down, you don’t like them any more than they like you.