11 Easy Steps to Raise a Brat:
Paying Attention to Your Parenting Decisions
Even When Life is Too Busy to Pay Attention -- It Matters.
Deborah M. Boccanfuso
Raising a brat is easy! But is that what you want?
A simple guiding question can help center you throughout the exciting journey of parenting.
Book Description | About the Author | Table of Contents | Forward | My Assumptions
Will it Matter in 10 Years? | Many Thanks | Suggested Readings
Raising a brat is easy! Basically, it's only 11 easy steps. Follow them carefully, or perhaps even randomly, the results will amaze you. Or, ask yourself the filtering question of
"Will it matter in ten years?" to guide you to raise an adolescent who can cope with life. The decisions you make and the perspective you keep on the day to day interactions with your child is incredibly powerful.
11 Easy Steps to Raise a Brat, The Great Adventure: The Parent Teacher Conference, A Middle School Kid Moved in Last Night, The Big Scary World, and It's Just an Illusion: Making the Working Mom Thing Look Easy will pose insights that will invite you to reflect on the guiding question of
"Will it matter in ten years?" every time you pick which battle to attend to while raising your child. The
"battles" can be called "interactions" and these interactions start with your child's first breath. Hang on! It's a wonderful adventure!
You have an awesome task at hand. The task will create decisions, actions, and reactions that will help you create the perfect brat or raise a decent kid. Ultimately, the choice is yours. And your parenting decisions matter!
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About the Author
Debi Boccanfuso has been a special education teacher, regular education teacher, and public school
administrator. She is currently the principal at Middlesex Middle School in Darien, CT. In addition
to this first published book, she has authored educational articles and has had several speaking engagements
revolving around parenting and raising capable children. She has recently attained a doctoral degree
in Educational Leadership and enjoys her time at home in Norwalk, CT, with her husband, Vinnie, and their four
"early adolescent" children.
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Table of Contents
Will It Matter in Ten Years?
Part I: 11 Easy Steps to Raise a Brat
Step 1--Buy Them Anything They Want
*Delayed gratification and patience
Step 2--Never Say No
* Setting boundaries
Step 3--Expect No Manners--Let 'Em Burp
* Social manners and social graces
Step 4--No Such Thing as Bedtime
* Routines to foster self-control
Step 5--Repeat Yourself Over and Over
* Respect and trust--Aligning words and actions
Step 6--Make Excuses for Them
* Problem-solving and self-advocacy
Step 7--What's A Commitment?
* Managing commitments
Step 8--Computers Unlimited
* Limits and boundaries for safety
Step 9--Truly Believe They Are the Center of the World
* Egocentricity and faith
Step 10--Act As If They Are in Control
* Boundaries and expectations
Step 11--Let Them Yell "I Hate You" Whenever They Feel Like It
* Expecting respect
Part II: The Great Adventure: The Parent-Teacher Conference
Let the adventure begin. The teacher's perspective versus your perspective. Somewhere in the middle is your real child.
Part III: A Middle School Kid Moved in Last Night.
You thought you knew the child you put to bed, but something else woke up in the bed this morning. Your parenting decisions are put to the test.
Part IV: The Big Scary World
Temptations and influences are everywhere. For your adolescent's sake, don't be left out of the loop. Make your adolescent's business, your business.
Part V: It's Just an Illusion: Making the Working Mom Thing Look Easy
My gift to you. Tricks of the trade from one working parent to another. Techniques to find time so that you have more time to pay attention to your child's world.
What kind of kid do you want in 10 years?
It's your Choice. It's all so worth it!
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I like to think of this book as a culmination of the numerous presentations and hundreds of conversations I've had with individual parents over the past eighteen years as a public school employee. My degrees in special education, regular education, administration, and doctoral candidacy in educational leadership gave me the "book knowledge" for this book, but life experiences have been the real inspiration for 11 Easy Steps to Raise a Brat.
I never thought my career would keep me entrenched in the adolescent world, yet it has. And I am forever grateful for that fact. Often I serve as a translator for adolescents as they try to communicate to their parents. On other occasions I am the interpreter for the parent whose adolescent just can't understand what his parent is talking about. In either role, I watch and think about each individual and the interactions that they share with me.
My experiences have made me somewhat of an expert in the realm of raising children. I've worked with thousands of kids--tall, short, fat, skinny, handsome, awkward, kind, mean, talented, clumsy, well behaved, and bratty. I've seen hundreds of parents try to figure their children out. The process is the same for all parent-child relationships. We can debate the nature versus nurture influences until the world stops spinning. And, suffice it to say, on any given day, I may sit on either side of the fence depending upon the argument at hand. However, my experiences tell me that parents are extremely influential in their child's ultimate ability to cope, grow, learn, and fit into our societal norms. We, as parents, have tremendous power. In the face of a comprehensive and complex world, we need to use this power productively. It is my firm belief that we have to start productively raising our children at a very early age, perhaps two, instead of twelve years old.
This book is a conglomeration of ideas. I've tried to break it into five interrelated parts, even though I have been advised to break it into five separate, expanded books. I appreciated that advice and thought about it long and hard. But then I realized, as a working mother, it is often better for me to have one book and pick and choose the parts I read at different times. Therefore, I decided to keep it as one book with five distinct but related parts. You can be the judge. Read it all at once or save parts for different times in your parenting life. It's fine with me either way. I just want you to enjoy the book and think deeply about your commitment to raising healthy and socially competent children. Always be vigilant of your goals for raising your children. It is very easy to fall into the trap of the 11 easy steps to raise a brat. Enjoy.
Love, Debi Boccanfuso - August 2004
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Parenting doesn't start when your child is twelve. Honestly, it starts way before he is even two. That's a long time before the adolescent spirit emerges to test all your fabulous parenting techniques. You are just another step along the generational chain of raising children. Some kids end up fine; others end up as brats.
Every generation believes it is faced with the most challenging parenting issues. Our generation is no different. The truth is there have always been parenting issues. I would venture to say that every one of us has a grandparent somewhere on our family tree that starts every sentence with, "Back when I was raising my kids…" and then reveals the big issues of her time. From our grandparents' mouths come the introductions and parenting fears of teen sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. These pearls of wisdom from our elders may be true, but it doesn't make our issues and parenting decisions today any less valid. Over the past forty years, parents have seen their children turn to alcohol and drugs to help cope with the demands and hectic pace of today's world. Sexually transmitted diseases are now talked about in schools with our ten-year olds. Many of them may not even know what their bodies are capable of, but now they do know they can catch all kinds of diseases. And, almost anything goes with regard to music lyrics. We now have ratings on our movies, TV shows, video games, and music compact discs to try to help parents understand the bombardment of "stuff" they need to deal with as parents of the 21st century. Our grandparents wouldn't have been able to imagine what is out there now.
The fact is, parenting has never been easy, and every generation has had its own story to tell. All generations have had their specific parenting issues to deal with. Their parenting decisions were handled as they tried to filter information and manipulate their environments to try their best to produce healthy offspring who could cope with life. Our generation is no different. The game of raising children has not changed; some of the rules, though, are now possibly more challenging.
We now live in a hectic, busy, and complex world. Many of us work outside of our homes to make ends meet and provide for our family. While we are at work, we worry about our children at home or at school. When we are home with our family, we try to fit everything in and provide our family with experiences, opportunities, and traditions. Some of us deal with this crazy multi-tasking quite well. Some of us lay way too much guilt on ourselves when our efforts start to crumble. And, some of us get so overwhelmed with the task of parenting that we want to throw in the towel.
But don't. There is hope. As long as you can filter the information that is out there about raising children, seek the necessary skills and apply them to your day-to-day parenting decisions, there is a great possibility that a healthy adult will be produced from your home. An adult who can balance a professional and personal life, manage stress, and develop strong interpersonal relationships should be the goal of every parenting experience. Our parenting decisions start as soon as this future adult takes his first breath as a newborn. This goal can not happen without forethought and planning, quality decision-making, patience and boundaries, love and support. These ingredients are essential and, at times, needed in disproportionate amounts.
My wholehearted belief is that to raise a great kid takes a lot of important short-term decision and actions with a firm, grounded long-term plan. If you are not focusing your goals on "a great kid or adult who can cope with life," the end result could be "a brat who seems to never grow up." Be careful. Parenting today is not easy. How you handle it all now will have a huge impact on your child's overall development and coping skills later in his life.
My research for this book comes from first-hand experiences of being a middle school educator and administrator in the public school system. My professional witness of hundreds of parent-child interactions gives testimony to the awesome task of managing the parental issues of today's complex world. With my own family and career, I am living in the moment with you. I am sure someday my statements will begin with, "Back when I was raising my kids…"
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Will it Matter in 10 Years?
For many years people have said to me, "How do you do it?" What they are referring to is what millions of people do everyday--work and raise a family. I never thought I was doing anything differently than anyone else, but after several years of the same questions and more and more people telling me what "nice kids I had," I gave it some serious thought and realized something important. It wasn't that I was doing anything mysterious while raising my children. I had no magic wand. I did realize, however, I had been using a filtering question for almost every decision I made when dealing with my children, "Will it matter in ten years?" If the answer was no, I wouldn't spend much time on the issue. However, if the answer was yes, it was worth the battle; a battle I don't mind.
Parenting is a profession that no one is completely (or sometimes even remotely) prepared for when they enter it. Armed only with the skills and beliefs we've learned through our parents (for better or for worse), we are off and running the minute that tiny breath is taken and the wailing begins in the labor room. It has astonished me over the years how resilient kids are, at times and how unknowing some parents can be, at times.
As parents, sometimes we get worked up over things that don't matter and at other times we are too relaxed about things that really should matter. Sometimes it is hard to determine the short-term-doesn't-matter issues from the long-term-really-does-matter issues and vice versa. The question, "Will it matter in ten years?" needs to be asked continuously because as your child's needs, desires, and capabilities change, so might the answers to this central question change.
I do, however, remain firm in the fact that some global issues will never change regardless of the age of our children or when we decide to ask the question. These include issues around respect, trust, commitment, self-advocacy skills, and good communication skills. But, I know fully well that some issues will absolutely change depending on the age of our children and the timing of when we ask ourselves that vital question. These issues include things like rules, expectations, friendships, relationships, and desires.
At times, very honestly, parents may need to seek professional assistance from a counselor, therapist, or psychologist depending upon the magnitude of the issues they deal with. But, I do believe this is exactly why the question must remain constant as time ticks by. Parents need a framework to work within so that they can be consistent with their child in this inconsistent state of "growing up," and so they can assess their child's needs on a regular basis. How else can parents know that the issues are bigger than what they can handle if they haven't been monitoring these daily decisions and battles as they arise, with some fundamental guiding tool? This question, "Will it matter in ten years?" can be a parent's beacon to guide them through a potentially tumultuous journey of parenting.
My professional life has added another level to my parenting technique and strategies. I was a teacher, an assistant principal, and now a principal at a middle school of a thousand students. These roles have allowed me to experience first hand hundreds of parent/child interactions--some good, some bad, some sad, even pathetic, and some outstanding. Regardless of the outcome, the individuals involved always taught me something. I've tried to incorporate my experiences into this book and synthesize them into manageable pieces.
In this book I may sound sarcastic and direct at times. I make no apologies for that. My humorous moments will be shared from time to time. My personal moments with my children are out there for the world to see. Not always the winner of a Perfect Parenting Award, my experiences and reflections are here to be used as examples. Embedded in it all are my thoughts. Some may seem profound and some not. Sometimes I may sound like an expert and sometimes not. Whichever the case may be, I do believe the sincerity behind it all will shine through.
As I wrote in the foreword, this book has five parts. Some may be more important to you than others, but in fairness I will give you my rationale for each.
"Part I: 11 Easy Steps to Raise A Brat," is based on the premise that it is truly unbelievably easy to raise a brat. Many parents are doing it every day. We know these brats by their fresh mouths, their need for immediate attention from the adults and peers, or the parents' pride as their child wreaks havoc on the school playground. This chapter title is somewhat sarcastic in nature, but points out the incredibly important lifelong societal rules children learn by the parenting decisions we can make each day using the filter, "Will it matter in 10 years?" Each step, within Part I, elaborates the consequences and messages, both spoken and unspoken, that are sent through our actions and inactions. We need to be careful of the messages embedded in our parenting decisions that we send all the time.
"Part II: The Great Adventure: The Parent-Teacher Conference" focuses on how parents can have productive conferences with their child's teacher to gain insights into their child's education. I've included this chapter in the book because children will spend more waking hours with teachers and peers they hardly know than with their own family members. That's a reality for all parents, not just working parents who don't have the option of home-schooling their children. This is an important relationship that needs to be fostered and nurtured by each side. Either partner in the relationship, parent or teacher, could "blow it" if the relationship is not attended to. The question, "Will it matter in ten years?" is a filter by which parents can choose to share information or decide how to react to receiving information throughout the many parent-teacher conferences parents will have regarding their child's education.
"Part III: A Middle School Kid Moved In Last Night" was included for two reasons. First, babies turn into adolescents before we know it, and for the vast majority out there, they will continue to live in your home during their adolescent years. Second, it is in the adolescent world that I have chosen to spend my entire professional life. Therefore, I chose to include it. I am passionate and intrigued by this age child. To me early adolescence is a myriad of parts working hard to come together--a kaleidoscope of body parts and emotions mixed together with some raging hormones. Just like unique fingerprints, no two early adolescents are ever the same. What a powerful thought. For most parents it is a terrifying time. The angel they put to bed one night wakes up the next day as an ugly monster who speaks but often seems to make no sense. Sometimes this transformation literally seems to happen overnight. In my dealings with hundreds of parents, many of my conversations come back to what the early adolescent needs in order to "make it through" and what the parents need to "get their child, and themselves, through" this period of time. Therefore, this part of the book is hopefully one of enlightenment and awareness about adolescents for most readers. (Good luck.)
"Part IV: The Big Scary World" seemed to be a natural flow from Part III. If this "creature" evolves and now lives in your house, it can only help to understand the daunting environment one must become familiar with. At a certain point, parents may want to become intimately familiar with various aspects I will point out, but for now, in Part IV, I have offered just an overview. Parents tell me they can't stand their kids' music so they turn off their kids' favorite radio station when they are alone in the car, or they leave the room if the kids want to watch their TV shows. I beg parents to listen to the "cool station" when they are alone in the car, pop in their kids' CDs, or watch what they are watching on the TV. Parents need to stay in tune with what their children are bombarded with. This section highlights only ten "scary world" concepts, but there are dozens more; maybe even hundreds. The ones included are not in any order, nor are they heavily documented with empirical research. They are, however, there to open minds, spark a conversation, and raise awareness. Every one of these concepts matters now, and/or potentially will have a great impact on our child in ten years.
"Part V: It's Just an Illusion: Making the Working Mom Thing Look Easy" is my gift to everyday parents. It is my personal favorite. Dads are invited to read this chapter as well, but it has been written from my point of view--a working mother's point of view. Working mothers who dream of doing the best for their children, must ask themselves, "Will it matter in ten years for me?" They must not lose themselves while raising their children. Yes, parents need to sacrifice some things and delete some personal time from their schedule, but they should guard against losing themselves and forgetting that when their children grow up, become taxpayers, and leave the house, they themselves will need personal interests, hobbies, skills, friendships, and their own personal relationships. They shouldn't have to start from scratch, if they've nurtured their own spirit along the way. This section is meant to give parents strategies to help them manage time and organize their kids' lives and their own lives so that there is time to continue to do the things they love. Readers can use some of these ideas in Part V or throw them all out and create their own. Parents should ask, "Will what I am doing with my time and energy matter in ten years to me?" The answer may be surprising.
So now, "Will it matter in 10 years?" We, as parents, have made the choice of taking on the incredible responsibility of raising our future. These children come to us with no manuals. Our mentors may be just as inexperienced as we are. Although our skills have been shaped and reinforced by our own parents, our jobs as parents are becoming more complicated as the world gets smaller and more complex. The Internet, music videos, scheduled sports programs, movies, and economic issues have all impacted our child-rearing in ways that were not an issue for our parents.
This book is full of advice, professional experiences and insights, and my personal examples. Some pieces of advice you will like and other pieces you will hate. Either way, it is fine with me. This book is about your decisions, not mine. Take what you like and leave the rest. That is your personal choice.
There is one vital piece of advice I must give before you read any further, though. Please try not to ignore this one. Try your best to get to know the parents of your child's friends. There are not enough hours in a day for you to get to know everyone your child will befriend. Therefore, you must network. Take the time (although that may seem impossible) to get together to talk, drink wine or tea, and laugh with your own peers so that you can get a sense of what's going on in your child's world. (P.S. This time dedicated to being with other adults also gives your child the illusion that you know everyone.) My Republican dad would hate to admit this, but perhaps Hillary Clinton was right when she titled her book, It Takes A Village. We all are a part of an incredible village capable of helping each other raise our children. Try your best to know who is in your child's village.
I have already provided you with a synopsis of each of the ensuing chapters. They are meant to be thought-provoking, inspiring, and challenging. Read them with an open mind. Refer back to your own parents' parenting skills. Contemplate your family's values and what type of child or teenager you want living in your house and functioning in society. Listen to the words. Listen to your heart. Know and feel the love you have for your own child.
I know and can appreciate that advice is always easier said than done. I also know that the decisions you make may or may not be influenced by this book, but if nothing else, the next time you have to address a behavior with your child you may just pause to think, "Will it matter in ten years?"
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I wish to thank Stephanie, Melissa, Kevin, and Vincent for being "my brats" who inspire me every day to ask "Will it matter in 10 years?"
and Vinnie for his continuous support and love regardless of how many crazy dreams I can come up with.
A special thanks to Mary and Charlie Keller, my parents, for being great roles models for me,
and to Leslie, Lisa, Danny, my friends, family members, colleagues, and the parents I interact with every day.
Thanks for helping me keep life in perspective and focused on what really matters.
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The following are suggested readings I have enjoyed that you may also enjoy, while raising your children. From some of these I have learned a tremendous amount; some have made me stop and reflect quite a bit. Some of these just help to keep life in perspective.
Bolman, L. & Deal, T. (2001). Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit(new & revised). Jossey Bass, CA.
Bradley, M. (2001). Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy: Loving Your Kid without Losing Your Mind. Harbor Press, Washington.
Giannetti, C. & Sagarese, M. (2001). Cliques: 8 Steps to Helping Your Child Survive the Social Jungle. Broadway Books: Random House, New York, NY.
Gurian, M. (2002). The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters. Atria Books, NY.
Niven, D. (2002). The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People. Harper Collins Publisher; New York, NY.
Pearson, A. (2002). I Don't Know How She Does It. Alfred A. Knopf, NY.
Pay It Forward - Great movie to help adolescents see how their actions can impact those around them in powerful ways. Watch it with them. It is wonderful.
Simmons, R. (2002). Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. Harcourt Books, FL.
Tarbox, K. (2001). Katie.com: My Story. Penguin-Putnam Books, NY.
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