5-year-old Emma Burton of Olathe, Kansas is apparently a brat.
When her kindergarten teacher told the class to color in a picture of a Jayhawk, the University of Kansas’ school mascot, she pitched a fit. The daughter of two die-hard Kansas State fans, she not only refused to have anything to do with the project but even went so far as to throw it in the trash.
Not surprisingly, the teacher wasn’t very happy with that kind of behavior, especially when not even a reprimand could change it. So the woman took the next step in contacting Emma’s mother, Julie Burton, who had the following conversation with her daughter:
Julie: Emma, you need to color this thing. The teacher might have to send you to the principal’s office.
Emma: I don’t care. I’m not coloring it.
Julie: Hmmm… Ok. What if I make you a deal? What if I print out a Powercat and you color it purple, grey and white. Then write an apology to your teacher because you were rude. Will you agree to that?
Emma: [pouting] Fine.
Julie: Ok, but you need to color that Jayhawk for your teacher.
Emma: [silent, exhales] Fine.
Julie: You will?
Emma: Yes. But I don’t like it. And I’m wearing a K-State shirt tomorrow.
Julie: Fine. You don’t have to like it. Just do it and I want you to tell your teacher you’re sorry as well.
Yahoo! goes on to comment: “It is impossible to know what the future holds for Emma Burton. She may very well attend Kansas State like her parents did. She may attend Harvard, or Oberlin, or any number of different terrific schools from across the country. She may go on to work in science, as a writer, or even as a general in the military (given her current personality, this might be an excellent choice).”
Except for one little problem with all of those possibilities… Achieving any of them (with the possible exception of Harvard, which merely demands some special form of non-academic quality like Daddy’s money or Daddy’s connections), requires discipline. It requires the ability to take orders and listen and learn.
Achieving any kind of worthwhile success in life demands strength of character, not brattiness.
Even so, the real problem with Emma Burton’s tale isn’t that she’s a brat. Because, let’s face it, most little children are. That’s why they need solid rules and boundaries established in their little lives: so that they grow out of that kind of egocentric worldview and into maturity.
And that’s where the real problem lies: the fact that her mother – and quite possibly both parents, though the story doesn’t really mention Mr. Burton – let her get away with her bad behavior instead of punishing her appropriately. With the level of disrespect and disruption she caused, Emma definitely deserved a spanking, a time out, a lost snack or some other obvious sign that her behavior was unacceptable.
Heck! A stern talking to could have worked. Yet she didn’t even get that!
What Julie Burton gave her instead was bribery. Emma was asked what she would prefer to do in the situation instead of told what she should do, given options instead of given ultimatums, and essentially treated like a reasonable adult with a legitimate complaint instead of a small child acting like an inexcusable brat.
That’s no way to train a child. Though it is precisely why society is situated so catastrophically today.