The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Super Brat

My little brother flip flops between being bratty and kind.



































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Amber, you have a little brother who is becoming a little bit of a super brat?


Amber:            Yes, that’s correct.


Dr. Kenner:      Tell me – how old is he?


Amber:            He’s 12 years old. And he’s usually good with people, but however, sometimes when he gets really angry, he gets really hyper and even pushes someone away. He doesn’t accept other people’s points of view very easily and he gets very stubborn with anything that he wants to get stubborn with. Like if we tell him, “We’re going to get your PSB, he’d be asking for that for weeks until we actually go through with that.


Dr. Kenner:      So he nags.


Amber:            So I was just really worried about this kind of behavior, so it doesn’t lead to a worse cause. And I just wanted to get your point of view on it.


Dr. Kenner:      You’re how old, Amber?


Amber:            I’m 22.


Dr. Kenner:      So there’s a 10-year span between you. When you observe your parents, is there anything you’re noticing that you would like to tweak that they’re not doing right, that if you were the parent you would do something differently?


Amber:            Let me think about it. I don’t know. Obviously with every family, there are different kind of things that they contradict on. Like there could be certain arguments, but that’s natural. I don’t think there’s anything major that my parents are doing incorrectly, regarding his upbringing. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.


Dr. Kenner:      Is he the only kid, besides you?


Amber:            I’m his older sister, and we have a brother in between us.


Dr. Kenner:      How old is the brother?


Amber:            He’s about 18


Dr. Kenner:      He’s 18 years old. So what you’re saying is that there are times when your brother, your 12-year-old brother, is good with people, but then something can set him off. You want to look for those triggers. What is it that sets him off? What are his insecurities? What are his vulnerabilities? What makes him go on a rampage or become the super brat? Any idea?


Amber:            He sometimes, when you don’t listen to him, or accept, like if he wants to buy something and we tell him we can’t afford it or there’s any other kind of issues, he gets upset with that. Also, I noticed one thing in him, he is very fearful of certain things. Like sleeping alone in the dark or walking in the corridor all alone. He wants someone to watch him while he’s doing those kind of things, because he feels some kind of fear. We always tell him he should be brave and it’s not a big deal and God is always watching you.


Dr. Kenner:      If he is sleeping, if he’s afraid of being alone, as a detective, a psychological detective and loving sister, if he would ever let down his guard and tell you the stories, there are definitely stories behind that, Amber. When I had fears of someone breaking in my window, I saw a movie or I heard a news broadcast and it made me fearful when I was a kid. I would check under my bed for the boogieman – I mean, who didn’t – check in the closet, but there are a whole range of possibilities as to why someone would be afraid to do anything alone. And the worst-case scenario, someone may have been a victim of abuse. Very often, believe it or not, it could be a family member, an uncle or somebody. That may not be the case in your situation at all, but abuse does awful things to kids. This is worse case scenario now, because they’re afraid to speak up. The abuser has either threatened them or bribed them. “I’ll give you a gift if you don’t speak up,” or maybe they heard, again, they could have just seen a movie that scared them. It could have even been a video game that scared them and they’re afraid to go out alone. Until you get to the actual details, the richness of what’s in your young brother’s mind, if he would let you go there, you won’t understand his fear and you won’t be able to paste over it by saying anything like, “Be brave,” because you don’t know what he’s fighting in his mind. There’s some thought content there, or God is always watching you, kids say, “Huh? If he’s always watching me, then why didn’t he watch this other person? They got hurt.” It raises a lot of questions.


So, what I recommend, if you have a decent relationship with him?


Amber:            Yes, I do.


Dr. Kenner:      Do you think he would open up to you and if you just said –


Amber:            He usually does. If there is anything going on, he would come and talk to me about it. Like in school and then I’d discuss with my parents. I’m kind of the go-to person for him.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s wonderful.


Amber:            Has he come to you and talked to you about why he’s fearful of being alone?


Dr. Kenner:      No. Usually it’s worse if he has seen a movie, like you said. But it’s the little, little things. He’d come up to me and say, “I ate this. Am I going to die?” Little things. He’s very sensitive I guess.


Amber:            He’s collecting a lot of fears. He needs information, it sounds like. Am I going to die? What would make you feel like that, that you’re going to die? He may say, “Because I saw a movie or because Grandpa ate it and he died after,” if somebody had a heart attack but he doesn’t know that. Again, that’s going after what specifically is going through his mind that makes him fearful of dying if he eats something in particular? It could have been that he watched a cartoon where they poisoned some food or read in a child’s book that had that type of a theme.


Again, it’s drawing him out. There’s a skill where you want to help a person feel comfortable enough without talking them out of their fear, let them explain their fear first and then let them talk themselves out of their fear. That, in terms of his fears, that’s what I would recommend.


In terms of his acting out, getting angry, pushing people away, being stubborn or nagging, he needs really firm, consistent parenting there. You’re afraid he’s going to end up becoming a super brat, but a grown-up super brat, right? He’s got this entitlement attitude. He needs to learn self-respect, that things aren’t owed him. But not in a preachy, lecture-y way. He needs to know he can earn things. Like when my daughter was young, she really wanted a bike. She went to a private school and all of the kids were wealthy and they had private bikes. I didn’t want her just to get a bike. They all had their brand new bikes. So we went to a secondhand shop and she picked out a bike. It was $10. And she earned the money for that, and she earned so much pride that it helped her get rid, she never had that entitlement attitude. That idea of feeling good about yourself is so helpful. So I would recommend that for you.


There’s also very good parenting books, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, that you can get on my website. Listen, thank you so much for your call Amber.


Dr. Kenner:      Thank you.


Amber:            I wish you the best.


Movie clip       

Male:               You were sitting at a table with two boys. I thought we understood, no dates?

Female:           What do you mean no dates? They just sat down at our table.

Male:               I don’t want you around them. They’re nasty-minded boys. I told you no dates.

Female:           It wasn’t a date.

Male:               It was a date.

Female:           it wasn’t a date.

Male:               It was a date.

Female:           It was not a date.

Male:               It was a date.

Female:           It wasn’t a date.

Male:               Whatever it was you had yesterday afternoon, I don’t want you to have it again.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s so cute. That’s from Lolita, and you can picture your own childhood. Did you just do whatever your parents said, “Okay. I will never be around boys again, mom and dad, while I’m here or the next year or whatever it is?” Or were you the one who snuck out of the window in the middle of the night to meet a guy? Or were your parents much more laid back? They weren’t trying to over parent? They trusted you, let you date, you made a few mistakes but nothing that was major and you learned and you grew and you built a better relationship with your parents too? It is so hard for parents to go through the teenage years with their kids. It’s hard on kids obviously too, but it’s hard for parents because they’re very fearful. Oh my God, what if my son gets that girl pregnant or what if they go drinking or what if they get in with the wrong crowd? All of these fears can flood a parent’s mind. How do you deal with that situation, whether you’re the kid or the parent?