Saturday, November 14, 2015

How Not to Raise a Spoiled Brat

You can often hear them before you ever see them in the grocery store--ear piercing screams, loud fits of crying followed by mumbled phrases pleading for the prize they want. A few second pause...then it begins again.  Screaming. Crying. Whining. Pause.  I'm not sure what the longest recorded time for one of these episodes is, but I'm  pretty sure I have experienced a contender.  Or two. The little hellions, pardon the French, can hijack an entire ten thousand square foot building in a matter of seconds, leaving hundreds of weary shoppers reeling from the display.  I've seen the checkout lines grow exponentially during one of these tantrums, people frantically hurrying to grab the last items on their checklist and  beeline it to the front of the store.  Store clerks with eyes glazed over, scanning, packing, bagging items at record speeds.

I don't know about you, but I have actually found myself pushing my cart toward the raucous. Curiosity just gets the best of me.  I need to catch a glimpse of  the poor soul who birthed this urchin. Part of me wants to see if there is something I can do to help the floundering parent.  Part of me just wants to witness evidence of bad parenting.   I want to mentally run through a checklist of their parenting flaws, feel a little better about my own skills,  and be on my merry way.

There, I said it.

I need to find a reason for children-behaving-badly.  Secretly, I want to assess the evidence of a child-directed tantrum, point an imaginary finger at neglectful parents, and walk away with my head up and shoulders back. Now, can I say that oftentimes, it's obvious the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree? Because if the voices were the same, I would be hard-pressed to figure out who the parent is. Any attempt to give advice during the storm and I would probably be pouring gasoline on an already blazing fire and have it turn on me.  But, really, how badly do I want to help?  Deep down, do I desire to relieve a tired and weary parent's burden and lift their heavy load?  Or do I want to tap them on the shoulder, tell them their child is disturbing our peace, and suggest the obvious--he or she and their little peace-disturbing noisebox need to leave.

Inevitably, I do neither.  I walk away, finish purchasing my necessary items, push my cart out the door, pack the bags in my car, and drive home.  With purse slung over my shoulder, I grab for as many bags as I can clutch in each hand at a time, push my hip against the car door, and hobble up the sidewalk to the front door.  Managing to elbow the front door latch open,  I hoist my load onto the kitchen counter and plop it down.  Soon I hear footsteps of eager home-dwellers making their way from the far corners of our home to assess my purchase. " Food, yay!"  "Did you get anything good?" "Where's the chocolate? ""Hey, how many times have I told you that I like strawberry, not raspberry fruit gummies?"  "Where's my coconut, extra-volume, high-shine, (insert name brand) conditioner?" "Did you forget it AGAIN?"  "Why can't you ever buy (name brand) cereal, yogurt, chips, toilet paper, lunchmeat?"

Said children, simultaneously manage to grab a bag of generic chips or granola bar, humph, turn, and stalk off to their clothes-laden rooms, iphones in hand.  All around the kitchen and family room is evidence of everything eaten that morning--wrappers, crumbs, half-empty soda cans, dirty plates, cups, bowls, spoons strewn about.  Dirty, rolled-up socks and tennis shoes litter the floor.  Last night's  jackets, purse, make-up, hair ties and papers are carelessly piled on the corner of the sofa.

I assess the morning's aftermath and then it occurs to me.  The only difference between me and the tantrum-enduring, weary parent I left at the store is that my kids are older, and I managed to escape from my house to the store by myself.  That's it. The same entitled, "I want it" attitude dwells richly under my own roof.

How did we get here?  Was it the portrait-filled walls that greeted them every day, a constant reminder that they were the most important people on earth?  Was it the constant giving in throughout the years to the latest toy just witness on a tv commercial, the name brand jeans that everyone was wearing,  the fast food run that they would die without? Was it my unselfish desire to give them those things, those experiences that I lacked growing up in a home with limited means that eventually turned them into self-absorbed, unsatisfied, frustrated mini-dictators?

Maybe I could have used a lesson or two in parenting.  Maybe I was the one who consistently chose peace over justice, overlooking bad behavior because giving in was easier.  Or worse yet, maybe I have modeled the very thing I am seeing in my children.

I have heard it said that what parents do in moderation, their children will do in excess.


I need to take a good hard look at myself first.  How many times have I secretly longed for more--a more beautiful house, fashionable clothes, a thinner, more toned body, newer car, more stuff?  How many of my purchases throughout the years were a reflection of nothing more than meeting my own selfish wants?  Did we really need that new throw rug?  Was my comforter all that worn that it justified a whole new bedroom makeover?  Is my ever-growing body evidence of an undisciplined life feeding it what it craves instead of what it needs?  The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree here at my own homefront.

The question remains.  Where do we go from here?  How do we become less self-absorbed, spoiled and undisciplined?  How do we get to the place where we are satisfied whether hungry or well-fed, whether there is chocolate in the house or not?  I believe the first step is to identify the root cause--selfishness.  Pride.  Seeing ourselves as different than those in the world that have been given much less and are still satisfied and grateful. Believing that somehow the rules change for us.  That we deserve more. Thinking that starving, homeless, parentless people aren't as deserving of God's blessings as we are.  Thinking that it's our portraits that line God's walls, that we are the most important people on earth.

It's time to get a new dose of perspective.  And I believe the starting point is on our knees.  Pray that the Father of all of the world's children, who fiercely loves them all equally would birth a passion in us to truly love our brothers and sisters.  Pray that we would see ourselves as the spoiled brats we really are.  Pray that we would catch a glimpse of our condition and begin today to make changes.

How do we raise a spoiled brat?  How do we raise ourselves up to become people who overcome the selfish nature of the flesh and embody the fruit of the Spirit? By getting low. By seeking, praying, asking for a new heart that sees others as equally important and deserving as ourselves. Finding someone today to give ourselves to.  Someone we haven't noticed before. Someone who has been overlooked.

How do I keep from raising a spoiled brat?  By realizing that I am one myself.