How to Train a Brat: A Comprehensive Guide to Dealing with Difficult Behavior

Dealing with a bratty, misbehaving child can be incredibly frustrating and challenging. However, with patience, consistency, and the right strategies, it is possible to curb difficult behaviors and help kids learn better habits. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to train your brat and promote positive change.

Understanding the Causes of Bratty Behavior

Before diving into disciplinary tactics, it’s important to understand why kids act out in the first place. There are many potential causes of bratty behavior, including:

Developmental Factors

Younger kids with limited self-control and immature brains may have trouble regulating their emotions. Tantrums, defiance, and whining are common with toddlers and preschoolers as they learn to handle feelings and impulses. These behaviors usually improve with time and maturation.


Kids crave attention from parents and caregivers. If they cannot get positive attention, they may resort to negative behaviors to be noticed. Troublemaking and back-talking are ways for kids to get a reaction.

Power Struggles

Children have a strong desire for independence and control. They may act out against rules and authority as a way to assert themselves. Refusal to follow instructions can be an attempt to gain control.

Stress and Anxiety

Major life changes, difficult circumstances at home, or emotional issues like anxiety can manifest as bad behavior in kids. Acting out can be their outlet for inner turmoil.

Inconsistent Parenting

Lack of structure, routine, and consistent consequences at home can promote misbehavior. Kids may push against unclear boundaries and take advantage of inconsistent discipline.

Peer Pressure

Kids often model their friends’ and classmates’ behaviors. Bratty actions can stem from a desire to fit in with a defiant social group.

Unmet Needs

Kids have basic needs that fuel their behavior – things like hunger, lack of sleep, need for attention and physical activity. Difficult behaviors may indicate an unmet underlying need.

While the causes vary, the common thread is that bratty behavior usually serves a purpose for the child. Understanding where it comes from puts parents in a better position to address it constructively.

Setting Clear Expectations and Rules

One of the most crucial steps in correcting bratty behavior is to set clear expectations and reasonable rules. Vague requests and ambiguous limits routinely get ignored or challenged. Kids need crystal clear guidelines.

Keep Expectations Simple

Frame expectations in simple, positive terms. For example, “use your indoor voice” or “walk in the store.” Avoid vague orders like “be good” or “act better.”

Set Rules that Stick

Only make rules you intend to enforce consistently. Avoid empty threats like “do that again and no video games for a month!” Start with just 3-5 household rules and add more as needed. Keep rules clear and concise.

Involve Kids

Get kids’ input on household rules when possible. They’ll be more invested in rules they helped create. Of course, parents have final say.

Explain the Why

Make sure kids understand the purpose behind rules. Explaining leads to better compliance and learning. “We don’t hit people because it hurts them” goes a lot further than just saying “no hitting!”

Post Rules Visibly

Post rules where kids see them daily – like on the fridge or their bedroom door. Visual reminders reinforce the boundaries.

Positive Reinforcement: Catch Kids Being Good

Even once rules are set, bratty behavior won’t disappear overnight. Compliance takes time and patience. Positive reinforcement is key for encouraging good behavior in the process.

Notice and Praise Good Behavior

Actively look for opportunities to “catch” your child following rules and meeting expectations. Lavish praise on them when they do. Be specific – “I love how you used your inside voice when I was on the phone just now!”

Provide Incentives

Consider a rewards system, like a sticker chart, to motivate rule-following. Let kids earn small prizes, activities, or privileges for accumulating enough stickers demonstrating good behavior.

Give Attention for Positive Actions

Make sure to respond quickly and enthusiastically when kids do what’s expected, even for small things. Attention for good behaviors teaches them to repeat those actions. Withhold attention for undesirable behaviors.

Model Desired Behavior

Kids are always watching their parents. Set a good example by following household rules yourself. Narrate your own good behaviors out loud.

Focus on Progress

Note effort toward positive change, not just the end result. Praise a child trying to use an indoor voice, even if they slip up and get loud sometimes. Progress takes time.

With enough praise and incentives for good behavior, positive habits will gradually develop to replace the brattiness.

Consistent Consequences: Discourage Bratty Behavior

While rewarding good habits is essential, consequences for breaking rules are also necessary to eliminate bratty behaviors. Without enforcement, kids learn they can get away with poor conduct.

Choose Appropriate Consequences

Make the punishment fit the crime when rules are broken. Match short privileges losses (like screen time) to small incidents, and grounding or chores to more severe disobedience. Don’t get carried away with extreme consequences.

Enforce Rules Consistently

Follow through each time a rule is broken. Avoid threatening “If you do that again, you’ll lose TV for a week!” unless you plan to actually take the TV. Empty threats undermine authority.

Act Immediately

Consequences should happen as soon as possible after the offense. Taking away phone use three days after the incident won’t link the punishment to the behavior effectively.

Stay Calm

It’s hard, but try not to yell or get overly emotional. Calmly state the broken rule and resulting consequence. Then stick to it.

Avoid Lectures and Arguing

Once the consequence is declared, avoid long lectures about why the behavior was wrong. Kids tune adults out anyway. Just state the facts and execute the consequence.

Consider Restorative Options

Have kids “fix” messes they made when possible – clean a wall they marked, re-wash a window they smeared food on, etc. Natural consequences make impressions.

Anticipate testing and resistance when first enforcing new consequences. But remain consistent and don’t cave. Bratty behaviors will decrease over time.

Alternatives to Punishment

While penalties have their place, punishment alone rarely teaches kids how they should behave instead. Whenever possible, seek alternatives to typical discipline that guide kids in the right direction.

Provide Direct Instruction

Clearly tell or model for children exactly what they should do in situations when they normally misbehave. Don’t assume they automatically know better choices. Teach them explicitly.

Offer Choices

Give bratty kids limited options that allow them control, but steer them toward good conduct. “Would you like to walk or hold my hand in the parking lot?”

Use Natural Consequences

Allow logical outcomes to demonstrate consequences of behaviors instead of arbitrary punishments. If they refuse to tie shoes, they trip and fall. If they mistreat a toy, it breaks and can’t be replaced.

Arrange the Environment

Reduce temptation by locking away off-limits items and making better choices easily accessible. For example, keep art supplies handy for scribbling instead of walls.

Provide Outlets

Give appropriate channels for troublesome impulses. Allow running outside for energetic kids, or loud singing in the shower for loud children.

Initiate Problem-Solving

Have kids brainstorm solutions when they argue about rules or consequences. “How can we make sure your toys stay safe when everyone shares this room?”

These proactive approaches address the root causes of behaviors and teach missing skills to help eliminate the brattiness.

Managing Emotions: Keep Cool When Tensions Run High

Dealing with defiant, sassy, or disruptive kids can be extraordinarily frustrating. It’s easy for parents to lose their cool, escalating conflicts. But staying calm helps model self-regulation for kids and leads to better outcomes.

Take a Break

If tensions are running high, call for an immediate intermission. “Let’s take a 10 minute break to calm down and think.” Breathing exercises help kids chill out.

Seek Support

Vent privately to your partner or friend about challenging behavior issues. Counselors provide objective guidance. Avoid venting frustrations at the child.

Use Coping Thoughts

Silently repeat calming mantras to yourself when you feel overwhelmed. “This is just a phase, it will pass. I can handle this. I am still loved.”

Address Your Own Actions

Reflect on how your behaviors might contribute to the dynamic. Are you available, consistent and empathetic enough? Model the conduct you want to see.

Add Some Levity

Laughter relieves stress for kids and parents alike. Silly jokes or funny faces can lighten the mood.

Take the High Road

Avoid sinking to their level. Respond gently and with poise when kids are rude, disrespectful, or trying to push your buttons.

Apologize When Needed

If you do lose your cool, sincerely apologize, then refocus on the expectations going forward. “I’m sorry I got so angry. Please ask politely next time.”

Staying calm in the storm prevents further escalation of tensions. It also demonstrates emotional control for kids who need to build that skill.

Special Cases: Extra Help for Big Behaviors

For recurring major issues, like aggression, impulsive disorders, or severe defiance, parents need extra support to curb behaviors in healthy, lasting ways.

Seek Professional Help

Talk to the child’s doctor about consistent behavioral extremes, and consider referrals to counselors or behavioral therapists for assessment and treatment.

Evaluate for Special Needs

Severe behavioral issues may indicate underlying special needs like ADHD, autism, learning disabilities or mood disorders. Pursue medical referrals.

Address Physical Causes

Rule out factors like sleep deprivation, undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions that could aggravate behaviors. Keep logs to identify patterns.

Consider Medication

For some childhood conditions like ADHD, medications are effective components of treatment plans. Discuss options with medical providers if behavioral therapy alone isn’t sufficient.

Implement Behavior Intervention Plans

Specialists can develop customized plans entailing close monitoring, systematically ignoring bad behaviors while reinforcing positive ones, rewards programs and more.

Pursue Family Therapy

When whole households are embroiled in major behavioral issues, family therapy can uncover unhealthy dynamics and teach better communication patterns.

Seek professional support sooner than later for pervasive child behavioral problems. Early intervention leads to better outcomes long-term. Schools and pediatricians can point you toward resources.

Working Together: Get on the Same Page with Co-Parents

When Mom and Dad (or any co-parents) don’t present a united front, kids learn to work the inconsistencies and play parents against each other. Nip this tactic in the bud.

Discuss Rules and Consequences

Have explicit conversations and agree on household rules, limits, privileges to take away, and positive reinforcements to use. Get input from kids too.

Back Each Other Up

When one parent declares a consequence, the other must support it, even if they privately disagree. Discuss differences out of earshot, but stay united in front of kids.

Share Observations

Keep each other informed about behavior issues and examples of positive progress you observe day-to-day. Track patterns together.

Outline Duties

Split disciplinary duties according to availability and strengths. For example, one supervises morning routines, the other handles bedtimes. But always keep each other in the loop.

Seek Common Ground

When co-parents clash on strategies, identify middle ground options you can both endorse, even if not your first choices. Compromise is key.

Get Counseling Help

If co-parent tensions impact the kids, seek professional help. Counselors provide conflict resolution, improve communication, and help co-parents function as a team.

Presenting a united front requires coordination, but pays off tremendously in reducing bratty behaviors. Kids need structure and consistency.

More Effective Discipline: Dos and Don’ts

As you work to eliminate bratty behaviors through training and discipline, keep these evidence-based dos and don’ts in mind:


  • Stay calm and neutral
  • Be consistent with rules and consequences
  • Follow through on reasonable penalties
  • Catch good behaviors
  • Model desired conduct
  • Explain reasons for expectations
  • Provide outlets for emotions
  • Offer choices between good options
  • Set an example of apologizing for mistakes
  • Seek support when needed


  • Issue empty threats or unrealistic punishments
  • Discipline in anger
  • Argue endlessly once a consequence is declared
  • Use harsh physical punishments
  • Withhold emotional warmth and affection
  • Criticize the child’s personality or character
  • Label the child as “bad” or “a brat”
  • Lecture excessively after misbehaviors
  • Make comparisons with better-behaved siblings or peers
  • Give mixed messages about expectations

Small tweaks toward more positive, consistent and empathetic parenting make a big difference in reducing bratty conduct over time.

Any Progress is Good Progress: Stay Hopeful!

Change takes time. Some ingrained habits can be slow to improve. But try to maintain a growth mindset when training your child’s behavior – celebrate small wins, note subtle improvements, and don’t get discouraged by minor setbacks.

The key is consistency. Stick with positive reinforcement and fair consequences. With time and maturity, bratty behaviors will fade. Focus on the glimmers of progress and know that the testing phase is temporary. Your guidance helps your child learn how to be their best self.