Google, How Do I Deal With Bratty Kids?


So, you invite your bestie over for lunch and her son, Hester, acts like a Cretan who has been given his first taste of table sugar.  He slams doors, runs into every room of the house, rifles through your underwear drawer, grabs your iPad and runs toward the stairs.

You, of course, are appalled and look pleadingly to your friend who, yes, laughs.

“Isn’t he cute?” she says.

“Boy, he’s curious today!” she says.

“Give me a paddle,” you want to say.

This is an issue I have long pondered. Not that my kids aren’t ever bratty; being sinners, they can be and ARE.  But if they act up, I don’t just SIT THERE, laugh, and do nothing.

I’m not talking about isolated incidents, which are easy enough to overlook, unless that isolated incident involves shattering the urn holding your grandmother’s cremains. I’m talking about repeated, every-time-we-get-together-I-need-a-Valium brattiness.  Broken mirrors, stomping on your toes, running wild, wrecking your furnishings, that sort of stuff.

For years I dealt with this by not dealing with it and would simply stew over the items ruined or broken by bratty kids until I hit upon something brilliant: If their parent won’t step in when the child is acting up at my house, I will discipline him myself. No, I don’t pull out the paddle (although it is most tempting at times), but I will tell him to get off the window ledge or to get out of my baking cabinet. It’s not a perfect solution because the root of the problem (lack of discipline) isn’t addressed and I’m always afraid the adult involved will be offended, but what other options do I have?

So, I’m interested fellow mamas.  How do you deal with it when bratty kids come to your house? Do you confront your friend/acquaintance about his/her child? Have you ever ended a friendship because of bratty kids? What do you do if something is broken and there is no offer to replace the item?

Like the famous hooligan, George, I, too, am curious…to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’m all riled up.

Oh, p.s., I’m not talking about MY BFF here, just using ‘bestie’ as an example;)

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  • Jennimiki

    I actually tend to say too much, and I know I’ve made other mothers mad.  Since I rarely have company over, it usually happens at a relative’s or friend’s home, or at the office.  I do call them down, but I usually give parents the chance to do it first.  I’ve simply had too many precious things broken by carelessness in my lifetime to disregard such behavior.  I even made my sister mad once because she was not around and her son almost broke one of our mom’s treasures.  I didn’t regret calling him down; I felt it was necessary because not only would that item have been broken, but he might have been injured too.  She got over it eventually.

    The thing is, if someone has a “free spirit” child, they and their kids probably don’t understand why there are rules for their sweet little Bessie and Theodore anyway.  These kids need to know that others live by rules.  It is a disservice in my opinion to allow them to destroy your things so you don’t lose a friend.  At some point, they must live in the “real world”.  My house is real, my office is real, and when they destroy my things, that’s real too.  I say stand up and speak your mind.  Perhaps asking the parent to stop a behavior first is a better route?

  • Erin

    I treat ‘em like my own kids pretty much, though I don’t have to tell my own kids to stay out of my room (that’s annoying to me, that kids don’t even think twice about wandering into their parents room, let alone MY room).  But really, all my close friends and I boss each others’ kids around without a second thought, and we back each other up.  We don’t spank the other kids, but we are up front with who did what so the appropriate mom can administer the swat.
    I do have one “demon child” and I really wish the less familiar moms would not hesitate to tell me he’s been bad at their house rather than an “oh he made me so mad 2 weeks ago when he rubbed dirt in my daughter’s hair and bent her glasses.”  Don’t spring it on me later when the incident is well out of his mind!  Let me know right away so I can punish him!  Now I just have to keep him at home permanently so he’s not the bratty kid that came over and his mom never punishes him :op

    • wholemama

       Yes! If they tell you way after the fact, how are you to get the message across to your son? I think people just don’t know what to do and want to be ‘nice,’ but if being nice means they never have you over again, you both might be losing out on a potentially great friendship.  It’s quite a dilemma, isn’t it?

  • kweseli

    I just had this issue with a friend this week.  I’ve been watching her two boys once a week, and after she drops them off I often have to remind them of our house rules.  They usually have no problem with this.  When she comes to get them she ends up staying for a while, and this is when the problems arise.  She either doesn’t notice or has different rules than we have, and things quickly get out of control.  One week her two-year-old went upstairs without us knowing it and yanked on my daughter’s curtain, bending the rod and breaking enough of the clips that I had to purchase new ones.  I have a problem with disciplining kids when their parents are around because I feel like it is their job, but if it is something that will hurt them or another kid or my property then I do step in and say something if nothing is being done.  I teach my kids that we need to respect our belongings as well as keep ourselves and others safe.  If these two rules aren’t followed then I try to remind visitors of our rules.  

    • wholemama

       Have you ever asked for reimbursement for broken belongings? I haven’t, but wonder if I should with repeat offenders. I like the idea of reminding rascally visitors of the house rules!

  • valeria

    I have had one or two experiences where I looked someone else’s child in the eye and said, “Don’t do that.”  No raised voice,  no apparent anger.  Just “Don’t do that.”   And on more than one of these occasions, the look on the child’s face spoke volumes.  They seemed puzzled, as if no one had ever spoken to them directly before.  One little boy actually turned around and looked, to see if I was talking to someone behind him.    It is unfair to our children for us to let them go out into the world with no instructions.  

    • wholemama

       They probably seemed puzzled because they WERE. The boy turning around is TOO funny.

  • Kimberlyhoyt

    This is a tough one! I used to ignore it (as much as possible) if the parent didn’t step in, but the older I get the less patient I am with poor behavior. It’s not helping the child to let them go wild. It is not “cute” now and becomes less so the older they get. If it’s in my house, it’s my rules. It gets awkward when you’re out with someone though, say at a restaurant or in the library. If it’s obviously bothering the other patrons, I’ll step in. If it’s only bothering me, I keep quiet. I haven’t ended friendships, but I’ve definitely curtailed them because of out-of-control children.

  • Mary Jo Kelso

    I am nice for a little while, then I’m nice with a little muscle.  I think some parents don’t like to discipline their kids in front of others, or feel like they are off duty when they are at another persons house.  I have pretty much decided that I would rather offend them by speaking to their child, than be bitter by not speaking to their child.  Once the parent knows my rules, they are usually better about speaking to their child themselves. 

    I had one parent of a toddler come in my house and start taking things off my coffee table and placing them up on shelves.  I walked in the room and noticed my bare table and asked about it.  He acted like he was doing me a favor by baby proofing.  I walked over and put it all back right in front of him and said…”don’t worry, we’ll just watch her.”  I don’t know what he thought, but I’m still friends with his wife…which is all that really matters.  :)

  • Kristen indallas

    I trot out my 2 year old for a “teaching moment.” When mine starts acting crazy and there are well behaved kids around (whether I know them or not) I will point out the good behavior for my son and encourage him to do what the “good girl” is doing. Generally the kid or parent will be in earshot and appriciate the compliment.
    Similarly if I see another kid getting out of control, I’ll point out the bad behavior to my 2 yo, saying something like “She’s not being very careful is she? Is she going to fall down/ get an ouch / break the toy, etc? You aren’t running around though, you’re listening and you’re doing a very good job, I’m so proud of you.” Again, not really bothering to care if the kid or parent is in earshot. I don’t say anything in a catty backhanded way, and try to make it as much about me educating my child as possible. Most parents are just having a “moment” with an otherwise good kid and seem to appriciate it, they let there 10 year old hear me praise my 2 year old for good behavior, or similarly use mine as a teaching tool for theirs (good beavior or bad). The parents with completely wild kids are generally too oblivious to notice anything antyway, but sometimes the kids do. I’ll catch a little sideways glance and hope it made a dent.

  • wholemama

    Thanks, all, for the great suggestions.  I find that I was more patient when my kids were little, and now that they are older, less so.  I tend to give kids lots of grace until they prove themselves perpetually ill-behaved and then I crack down with the fear of the living God.  But you’ve given me lots of ideas to chew on…my biggest concern is preserving friendships in these circumstances.  Sigh, gulp, ugh;)

  • Kristi

    Long before I had children one of my friends brought her daughter to my house and wandered in and sat on the couch. I ran to the bathroom quick, and when I came out the daughter was AWOL. I asked the mom where she had gone off to and she replied, “oh, maybe upstairs.”. Hello, the only thing up there are bedrooms, NONE of which have children’s toys, or had they been childproofed. I have a collection of Native American arrow heads that my dad and I found in our garden, and she went straight to them like a beacon and shattered the biggest, most beautiful one. My friend looked at me like it was no big deal and suggested to her daughter to come back downstairs. I TOLD the daughter to come down and locked all the bedroom doors before I followed.

    That incident has stuck with me, and now that I have a wild man boy, I don’t sit still at other people’s houses. I am always on the ready for anything he may bump into or decide to pick up and throw. When kids act up at my house now, I usually tell them they’re lucky they are not my kid because they would be spanked and let them know the rule for guests is, if you can’t behave, you have to go wait out on the porch, and I don’t really care if you think I am mean or not. I haven’t had a kid test me, yet, but all but that one friend actually disciplines their children. Thank you God!

    • wholemama

       I like the porch idea, Kristi…at least your belongings are safe out there!

  • Mary Chris

    One idea might be to state things positively:  few parents object to someone calmly saying “Walking feet, please.” instead of  shouting “Stop running in the house!” 

    I think we should remember, too, that occasionally a friend will feel on the spot.  Sometimes they’re not having the best day, they just freeze, they don’t know what to say or do when their child behaves badly.  They are not in their own home, so they’re not sure what the limits are.  Even good friends can be taken by surprise by their child’s stunning behavior and become immobile.  I tend to take action and say things like, “Do you mind if I go ahead and speak to her about running in the house or would you rather take care of it?” 

    I’m glad you started this conversation.  It is good to hear so many ideas on how to handle these situations. 

    • wholemama

       I love the idea of giving children a picture of what they are TO do, rather than just telling them what NOT to do. “Please put your hands on the cart” is a lot more effective than “Don’t get into trouble.” Great thoughts, thanks for sharing!

  • Tabby Cat

    It’s simple, really: the child is in your home, therefore, you have a right to discipline them. If the parent doesn’t like it, they should leave and take their destructive creature with them. They’re not respecting you or your property by allowing hooliganism in your home, so why would you want them as a friend in he first place? Why would you CARE about offending them when they are allowing their child to destroy your home?

  • Ryan Porter

    I’m a Researcher working for The Steve Harvey Show on NBC. We’re looking to book a segment on bratty daughters in the upcoming weeks. If you would be interested in talking please email me at

    Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you!

  • Gena Avila

    i have issues with my current boyfriends daughter.She is 7yrs and I don’t know what to do. she doesnt listen to me when he’s around but he does back up what i say. She lies constantly to get what she wants,sometimes pitting us against eachother. i’m so fed up with her disrespectfulness. when i was her age i wouldn’t even dream of talking to people like that. when he’s sleeping she throws mild tantrums and now i have even overheard her lying to my boyfriend about me,which i corrected as soon as it came out her mouth. I have a 2yr old pitt bull who acts better than she does. I love him so much and i don’t wanna lose him, please help!!!