BRAT Syndrome

At Down To Earth, we have a good sense of humor. BRAT Syndrome is not a real disorder. When we ask a parent what the problem is and they reply, “My kid is a brat,” We reply, in a deep, thoughtful tone, “Hmmm, I see. He suffers from BRAT Syndrome.”

When a parent describes his child as a brat, we know two things to be true. 1) The child is not doing what the parent thinks he should be doing, and 2) The parent is very frustrated.

At Down To Earth, when we prepare to “treat” the imaginary BRAT Syndrome, the main goal is to provide the parent relief from his frustration. In order to do that, we have to find out what the parent wants and why he is not getting it. When the parent tells us what he wants, the first consideration is whether or not it seems to be a reasonable expectation for a child that age. Sometimes the expectation is too high and we must work with parents to lower their expectations to be more reasonable. When the expectations are reasonable, kids will meet expectations and the parents won’t be frustrated.

If the expectation seems reasonable, then we must try to discover why the child isn’t doing it. We will then assess the child to see if he has the knowledge and skills to do the thing that the parent is asking. Sometimes they don’t. Then all we have to do is teach the parent how to teach the child to do whatever it is. If the parent teaches the child how to do what he can reasonably be expected to do, he will probably do it and then the parent won’t be frustrated.

If the expectation is reasonable and the child can perform the task, then we must still try to determine why the kid isn’t doing it. The next thing we’re going to examine are the child’s consequences. What does he get if he does that? What does he get if he doesn’t? We have to make sure that the child gets more for doing it than he gets for not doing it. When the parent has reasonable expectations, teaches a kid how to do what the parent wants him to do, and the parent makes it worthwhile for the kid to do it, the kid will probably do it and the parent won’t be frustrated.

If the expectation is reasonable and the kid knows how to do it and the payoff is greater for the kid to do it and he still isn’t doing it, we simply have to dig deeper. Then it is likely that something else is interfering with the child’s performance of the task, like any of the following: the child is mentally retarded, the child is angry at the parent, the parent is an alcoholic, the parent was abused as a child, the parent feels guilty for raising a bad child, the parent is angry at an ex-spouse, the child is merely copying bad behaviors of the parent, the child has never been taught how to behave, the child is purposely trying to irritate the parent, the child is having auditory hallucinations, the child is depressed, the parent is depressed, the child has an anxiety disorder, the child has a sleep disorder …

However, it is really, really, really rare that we get all the way down to this step and haven’t discovered that kind of stuff along the way.

So, if you think your kid is a brat, go ahead and bring him in, we can help!

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