When your adult child is a brat
Tips to help you deal with your spoilt adult child who refuses to grow up
WHEN your young child starts acting like a spoilt brat, as a parent, you should show them how to behave and outgrow their behaviour. However, you may have a lot on your hands if the spoilt brat is your adult child who refuses to grow up. Alessandra Newton, who is a counsellor, and Erene Mitchell, a counselling social worker, both based in Joburg, give tips on how to deal with an adult who refuses to grow up.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A BRAT
In African families, grown spoilt brats are usually those who refuse to eat pap on a Sunday as they prefer to eat rice and salads, but do not contribute towards the groceries or anything around the house.
They watch TV or play music the whole day, not allowing the little ones time to watch cartoons.
They probably also drive their parents’ car more often than them, even though they do not work or refill the petrol.
Alessandra describes a grown spoilt brat as someone who really takes no responsibility for themselves or their actions. They are very choosy and often ungrateful. “These types of adults blame their parents, God or the world for everything that goes wrong in their lives. They have a sense of entitlement and everything is about them,” she says.
Alessandra says many of them still live at home and depend entirely on their parents.
She says they could be lazy and expect things to be done for them without working for those things.
“If they have children, they are unlikely to take care of them. Many of these brats never want to help out with chores such as cleaning, cooking and laundry. They use their parents for the latest smart phones and fancy clothes,” she says.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BEHAVIOUR
According to Alessandra, you need to understand that as a parent, you are somehow responsible for the way your child turns out.
She says the best way for you to deal with an adult with this kind of behaviour is to give them tough love, adding that if you have spoilt children, you probably weren't tough enough on them.
She advises that you learn to use the word ‘no’ more often with them.
She also says it is a good idea to motivate your child to get a job and contribute towards the household expenses and support themselves.
“Stop giving your child money and buying them clothes and fancy gadgets so that they can understand that they need to work hard for these things,” says Alessandra.
Erene says the truth is that family members contribute to how one of them turns out.
“The family dynamics re-enforces the behaviour of children. When parents go through a divorce,
it can affect the child negatively,” she says. “Because the child is under strain with changes in the family structure, parents might spoil the child to make them feel better, unknowingly raising a brat. It is also difficult to teach them to become better adults when they get older and the damage has already been done.”
AN UNDERLYING CAUSE OF THE BEHAVIOUR
Adding a different view on the topic, Erene says sometimes the child is not being lazy or spoilt, but may be suffering from a personality disorder which was never diagnosed.
She explains two personality disorders your child may be suffering from: Narcissistic personality disorder: Someone who has this kind of disorder is unable to feel empathy for others, has a strong sense of entitlement and tends to exploit others to get what they want.
Borderline personality disorder: People with this disorder can get aggressive very quickly, especially when they are being corrected or criticised. They are emotionally unstable and have a low self-esteem as a result experience feelings of emptiness.
Erene explains that some adults who are still living with their parents refuse to work or start their own businesses. She says they may have previously failed numerous times and are now scared to try anything with the fear that it would also fail.
“It is important for you not to be too quick to judge without understanding your child's situation. You need to see how you can encourage your child to pick themselves up and not give up,” she says.
AFFECTING THE FAMILY
Alessandra says having a family member who is behaving like a spoilt brat can affect the whole family negatively and cause tension.
She says as this child may not be used to sharing and may not be comfortable when their siblings who have moved out of the home come to visit. “They feel as though their siblings are going to take their space and the attention away from them. They could also make the other siblings resent coming home because they constantly have to part with money to give the adult child who lives at home,” says Alessandra.
“You may be on pension and wishing to travel, spoil your grandchildren or revamp your home with your pension money, but cannot do this because you are taking care of an adult who refuses to take care of themselves.”
In the case where you believe your child might have a personality disorder, Erene says your child should be taken for therapy and counselling.
Institutions such as The Family Life Centre (Famsa) help families with counselling.
“Give your child enough time and attention to help them deal with their disorder. You also need to understand your child’s disorder and how to live and manage it. Throwing materials at a person with a personality disorder will not make it go away, they will need as much support and patience as possible,” she says.
CAN CHANGE OCCUR?
Alessandra says change for such a person is tough, but not impossible. “To get help, the individual should consider counselling. Those who feel they need help should go out and find work and know what it feels like to be responsible,” she says.
“They can be creative and start their own business by selling things they made themselves or offer services such as painting and gardening in the community, provided they are good at those things. This will help them network with others and spot opportunities out there.”