Your Bratty Child Isn't a 'Brat' — Just 'Spirited'

stubborn girl child

The next time your child does something that makes your blood boil, think of another word to use other than brat. Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is a parenting expert and best-selling author who's here to set the record straight: A spirited child is not the same as a brat.


Well, who's a brat then?

I don't know. That person over there.


I guess the real question is whether or not you think there's a difference between a child with a lot of spirit and a brat. Were brats once spirited children who crossed the point of no return? Are spirited children simply misunderstood? Can you be a spirited child with bratty tendencies? Is the term "brat" a cop-out some people use when they don't want to correct bad behavior? What is the meaning of life (thought I'd throw that one in there)? Honestly, I don't know the answer, which is why there are experts to help provide guiding light.

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One thing I can appreciate about Mary's sentiments is the use of language when it comes to our children -- and I'm not just talking about curse words. When you label your kid with something that has such a negative connotation -- like a brat, or a butthole (let's not act like we haven't heard someone use that before) -- it becomes effortless to roll your eyes and write him or her off as a misfit that can't be saved.

However, looking at your child in a different light just might help you tweak a few things that can give you that breath to exhale. Face it, some kids have more spunk than others that might require us to go back to the drawing board -- and possibly take medicine for that likely migraine. I'm all about focusing on strengths and trying to reduce weaknesses. Whether or not you see your child as a brat or spirited is up to you.

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I'll admit there are days when my oldest tries my patience, but guess what, he's a toddler. Sure, I think he can be more stubborn than his brother at times (everyone has a different personality), but I try my best to figure out his needs and how I can turn some of that energy into something productive. This of course doesn't mean I throw my hands up in defeat and say, "He's a brat" without a care in the world. Who knows how much his spirit will help someone in life.

Thinking about what or who a "brat" is made me look up the definition. According to Merriam-Webster, a brat is an "ill-mannered annoying child." If you want to take things an extra step, ill-mannered is "having or showing bad manners." Seeing that children don't exactly raise themselves, perhaps the time has come to stop using the word brat? Then again, what if your child does display bad manners in the moment (brat might be suiting)?

I guess this is just another point to separate the behavior from being spirited. Who knows, maybe it's all semantics.

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