All for assertiveness
How to teach children to stand up for themselves.
YOUR eight-year-old never stands up for herself among friends or siblings. How do you keep her from getting walked all over?
> Help bolster your child’s confidence by involving her in activities she enjoys. Also, discuss situations where she failed to find her voice and help her practise what it sounds like to speak up.
> We had the same issue with my eight-year-old, who was tallest in her class last year, being picked on by the smallest in the class. We encouraged her to stand up for herself, and if it didn’t work, to tell the teacher. As a last resort we pointed out that, if need be, she is larger and could get up and walk away or put out her hands to push away the offender.
Before you set out to embolden your child, determine if she is unhappy with her lot in life.
“It can be a mistake to assume that something that bothers most children also bothers your child,” says Erika Carpenter Rich, a child psychologist in Los Angeles who runs social-skills groups for children. “Parents need to discern whether it is because their child is picking their battles — a good thing – or not recognising when their rights are violated — not so great. “For example, some children don’t mind giving away their dessert and never getting anything in return. Maybe dessert is not important to them, or maybe their reward is seeing how happy it makes their friend. This is in contrast to the child who allows others to take things from them and may not recognise that this is not OK. Or the child who is bothered by these situations but doesn’t know what to do.”
For the latter, Rich suggests the following:
> With siblings: “For minor squabbles, it is important not to step in and to allow your child to have a chance to try to negotiate for herself. Sibling rivalry is completely normal and cannot be avoided – and shouldn’t be, as it provides a template for conflict negotiation with peers. For major disagreements, parents can step in and provide problem-solving options, such as flipping a coin or using a timer for taking turns, listening to each person’s perspective or figuring out how to make amends.”
> With parents: “Do roleplays, either in person or with puppets, to help her come up with the language she needs to stand up for herself. Pick situations that come up frequently. Parents can then do pop quizzes in the natural environment. For example, if your child is not able to stick up for herself when others take her toys, grab her toy during parent-child play and give her the chance to respond appropriately. This helps her remember how to handle it when it comes up for real.”
> With friends: “You will embarrass your eight-year-old by intervening. Do a postmortem with your child at bedtime or another relaxed time. Ask her what happened, how she felt about it and what she could do differently next time. Use this situation for a new role-play.”
> Day to day: “Point out different situations that come up on television or with others that require assertiveness, and discuss the techniques used and others that could have been used. Be sure to point out how the person’s rights were violated, which indicates the need for assertive behavior,” Rich says. – Compiled by Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers / McClatchy-Tribune Information Services