All for as­sertive­ness

How to teach chil­dren to stand up for them­selves.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING -

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

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