Love, Family

What To Do When Your Guy Acts Like A Big Bratty Baby

baby man

On the surface he seems like the man of your dreams. He's absolutely charming when you head out for a date ... until he pitches a hissy fit at the restaurant when there's a 15-minute wait for your favorite table. Suddenly, your delight evaporates.

You live in the same metro area and rush hour traffic is an unpleasant part of the "urban dwelling" package (every city-goer knows this). But your prince whines and complains during every rush hour backup, and takes someone forgetting to use their turn signal as a personal affront. Meanwhile, you sit silently wishing you were anywhere but right there with him.

So, what's a woman to do when your otherwise-great-guy lets his Inner Brat side show a little too often? Time spent with that side of his personality is hardly pleasant. What gives? Here is some insight about how to handle men who act like this. 

Perhaps your man has a case of the Bratty Inner Child Syndrome.

It's been diagnosed by mothers since the beginning of time. Somewhere in the toddler years, previously angelic humans begin to battle with their parents whenever the world deviates from their own toddler-inspired plans. We call it the Terrible Twos, and generally laugh about it after our last child grows out of it. But what happens when they don't grow out of it? All of that brattiness is entirely normal (and occasionally adorable) for a 2-year old … but not for a 22, 32, 42, 52, or 62-year old! The problem is, each of us retains at least some of that Bratty Inner Child.

We don't let go of our childlike attributes when we grow up. 

And that can be a good thing. Much of adult joy (launching out into a snowy day or the seaside surf) stems from still approaching things with a bit of childlike wonder. Think of the fun, romantic memories of you and your man playing in the leaves while raking, or even when letting a little playfulness be part of your more private exploits. That "fun" was courtesy of your Pleasant Inner Child. Congratulations, you each have one. But that angelic sprite has a cantankerous twin—the Bratty Inner Child. It pops out in your man anytime he's inconvenienced or feels frustration. And I'll bet it pops out in you, too. (Remember the day you lost that bid for the Manolo Blahniks on eBay? Or the last time he gave you pink roses when you wanted red?) But the real question here is: why does his little brat emerge so often, while yours only peeks out on rare occasions?

It's probably a case of uncontrolled entitlement. 

I imagine that a heavy dose of entitlement fuels anyone's Bratty Inner Child. Many of us grew up feeling entitled because we had no effective limits or boundaries as children. With consistently few responsibilities and many privileges, we grew up expecting the world to cater to us just as our parents did. Yet, even if we had plenty of childhood limits and responsibilities, some of us grew up instead always wanting what others had that we didn't. We entered adulthood feeling like the world owes us, and we're intent on making it pay up. Regardless of the starting point, without proper restraint, an overwrought sense of entitlement expands throughout childhood and blooms in adulthood. When that happens, the darling Pleasant Inner Child we carry around gets dwarfed by the frequently visible Bratty Inner Child. And we show up acting more like obnoxious children, and less like light-hearted adults. 

So how should you respond to your Prince of Brattiness? 

Step 1: Take responsibility for your own Bratty Inner Child. Recognize your own penchant for tantrum-fueled entitlement. Control it, and start responding to life as the adult that you are. If this offends you, pause to consider the wisdom of letting two cranky toddlers go one-on-one. What good occurs when two adults' bratty inner children tussle and tangle? It's time to put on your big girl pants and stop expecting from him what you aren't willing to personally give.   

Step 2: Establish limits on what you will (and will not) tolerate in the relationship. Effective parents do this all the time. They set ground rules with natural consequences, and even toddlers learn what is and is not acceptable. So with your adult wisdom, think carefully and set limits that help you set boundaries around what you value without trying to control him. Your limits control your own behavior: if he does X, you will do Y. If you skip this step and acquiesce every time he rages or whines, your inaction reinforces his bratty behavior.  

Step 3: Have a talk with your man when tempers are calm. Explain the bit of brattiness you see in yourself, and in him. Describe how those fussy, dramatic petulant displays make you feel, and invite him to discuss your concerns. As one adult to another, calmly tell him the limits you've set for your own behavior. Frame it in a way that indicates this is how you will take care of the relationship and yourself. But only reveal to him what you are fully prepared to carry out.   

Step 4: Consistently follow through with any limit you've set. It may feel really powerful to tell your guy what you will or won't tolerate. But odds are he won't high-five any of your powerful pronouncements. And, he'll definitely test your limits. It's time for action. When he pushes a limit, you must act as you've stated you would, or his entitled ego may expand. Think about that mother in the grocery who tells Junior he can't have candy and caves 10-minutes into his meltdown. Don't emulate that woman! Don't let your guy's brattiness manipulate you.

Here's an example of the steps in action:

Jen's hubby has an extreme case of Bratty Inner Child Syndrome. He won't even talk with her about the problem it creates in their relationship. So, one day, she respectfully communicated that if he raged in a public setting again, she would remove herself. One night they were at a special restaurant, prepared to have a leisurely dinner. Sure enough, something in their conversation irritated her husband. He started on a long tirade, and Jen remembered her limit. It was impossible for her words to penetrate his reason, so Jen calmly collected her purse and left the restaurant. She started walking on the sidewalk, and headed to the car. A few minutes later, her husband came out, and they went home. An evening was cut short, but a healthier process began. 

What I really think:

Some people believe adulthood means all aspects of our inner child needs to grow up. But I don't. I think it's time for our adult selves to stand tall. We can handle our own Bratty Inner Child, and we can, instead, revel with our Pleasant Inner Childall within appropriate limits, of course. If either Child has free reign in our lives, havoc ensues, and adults fail to be responsible partners, parents, coworkers, and friends.   

Is the Bratty Inner Child Syndrome wreaking havoc in your relationship? A relationship counselor or coach can help you tame the Bratty Inner Child, and confront problems as adults. If you're in Northern VA, contact me. I understand the problem, I've used the steps and I'm here to help. 

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