Ha! I hope that title got your attention. Don’t get offended, the spoiled brat I’m referring to is not one of your precious children. I’m talking about the spoiled brat that lives in each of us and makes life miserable when we let it have its way. Can you understand what I’m talking about? Are you brave enough to admit that most of your anger problem comes from letting your “spoiled brat” have its own way?
The spoiled brat in me very rarely shows itself in public, but when I’m at home I’m afraid it threatens to make life miserable way too often. I’ll tell you about a time when I had to deal with this spoiled brat recently. I was supposed to call and sign my kids up for a child development fair by March 23. I knew about it for a couple of weeks but I kept putting it off. I tried calling early in the afternoon on the 23rd, but the line was busy. I forgot about it and when I remembered that evening I thought, “Well, I’ll just call in the morning.” Right away on March 24 I called the school office and asked if they had room to sign up my kids. The secretary was apologetic, and said, “I’m sorry, but they had a deadline. You can’t sign up now.” I immediately got defensive and said, “But it was just yesterday, and if you have some spots left…?” No, she couldn’t – and so I thanked her and hung up. Oh, the thoughts and feelings coursing through my body and brain! First I was mad at them for not letting me sign up just a little late. Then I reminded myself that they had set a deadline and I had not taken the time to sign up early. Why should I be given special treatment when the deadline was very clear? Then I got upset with myself, starting to cry and feeling worthless and despairing because I had not been responsible enough to call on time. Anger, despair, self-loathing, and many other negative emotions churned around in my mind. My spoiled brat wanted to run and pout in my room and not come out again for a long time. It was only 8:30 in the morning and my whole day looked bleak and hopeless. Finally I began to think rationally…”It’s just a screening to see how the kids are doing – and you know they’re doing fine”, “You made a mistake, but it doesn’t have to ruin your whole day”, “Learn from this mistake and move on – don’t wallow in it”. Finally I dried my eyes and decided to get over this minor incident. Once I did that, my whole day turned around and I wasn’t miserable anymore.
Now, this may seem a little silly to you, but for me it was quite a victory. I said “No!” to my spoiled brat and I grew from the experience. If we want to be mature, loving, caring mothers – we are going to have to learn to do this over and over and over each day. (and over and over….)
The spoiled brat in us cries: “When do I get to do what I want to do?!”
Maturity says: “I’ll do what I want to do after my kids’ needs are met.”
The spoiled brat in us cries: “I didn’t know marriage was going to be so hard!”
Maturity says: “We’re going through a rough time now, but it will get better.”
The spoiled brat in us cries: “I’m lonely, no one ever calls me!”
Maturity says: “My friends must be busy and lonely, too – I think I’ll call them.”
The spoiled brat in us cries: “Why doesn’t everyone leave me alone for once!?”
Maturity prays: “Lord, so many people need me…give me the strength I need.”
My friends, if you are struggling with anger on a regular basis, it just may be that you are letting your spoiled brat have its own way. Practice saying, “NO!” to that spoiled brat and you will be surprised to see more peace and joy present in your life.
I know that when I was going through that extended period of anger, my negative feelings often caught me in a downward spiral. I was angry with the kids, then I felt guilty, then I felt resentful, I got angrier, felt more guilty, etc., etc., etc. The same type of process can take place going in the opposite direction, too, I believe. As we choose to act in a mature, loving way when we are feeling angry with one of our children – we will feel good about our loving actions. This can give us confidence and encourage us to choose love and a right action the next time we encounter an angry situation. We cannot be perfectly loving and kind all of the time, but one angry episode doesn’t have to plunge us into that downward spiral. Your “spoiled brat” will want to pout and get more and more out of control, but you can say “no” and get rid of that spoiled brat so that you can be the mature, patient woman your kids will respect and love very much. Who knows, maybe they will even decide to work on getting rid of their own “spoiled brats.” Wouldn’t that be something?
© Robyn Mulder 1999, therobynsnest.org