Assertiveness is the capacity to comfortably communicate one’s feelings and intentions in a positive and confident manner. Once a child has established the capacity to rely on themselves age appropriately and demonstrate consideration for another, assertion has to do with how a child then communicates themselves to others.
Assertiveness is based on healthy self-esteem and an internal conviction that the child has a purpose . Such mental strengths supply the child with comfort in letting others know how they feel and what they want. Absent are frequent temper tantrums or passivity. Instead is a firm and clear expression of needs and desires.
Assertive children tend to do well in school, have many friends, and infrequently get bullied. They tend to be leaders, intelligent, and likable. Being assertive is not being selfish. Rather, it is an expression of self-love and a representation of being their own person. When assertiveness is practiced, compromise is possible. Take two children who want to both play different games. Each of them conveys their desire to the other in direct and clear ways. The outcome is the decision to take turns and play both games. Respect is then achieved for each of the players.
Parents help children learn assertiveness in two basic ways. First, the parent models being assertive with their own children by holding their child accountable for themselves and second, by validating and respecting the child’s attempts to be assertive. When 5 year-old Billy told his mom that he could tuck himself in bed at night, despite her longing for that continued ritual, she let him put himself to bed and Billy felt like a really “big” boy.
Practicing assertiveness with peers is an invaluable part of character development and assertive children are the least susceptible to peer pressure. They are comfortable saying “no”. Children who lack adequate assertiveness tend to be either too aggressive or too passive. In extreme cases, this can lead to embedded personality traits . For example, children who have impulse disorders, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder , have assertiveness failures. The either “act out” or control others as a means of getting their needs met. On the other end of the spectrum, are the “passive-dependent” children. Afraid of their own feelings and behaviors, they “give in” to others and allow themselves to be manipulated. This is the most common type of child who gets bullied.
Teaching children how to speak up for themselves is one of the most important virtues a parent can do. Work with your child on assertiveness skills. It’s well worth the effort.
Practicing Assertiveness: The Bully Game:
Take turns with you child playing a bully and a victim. Even better, team up with another family member and have two bullies and one victim. Write out 5 different bully situations such as : ” a bully comes up to you and demands you give them your lunch”. The first part of the game is feeling identification. Have each person, including the bullies, identify how they are feeling. ( Tip: Bullies feel vulnerable!). Next, collectively come up with three solutions demonstrating an assertive response to the bully. One such resolution could be “i’m sorry but that isn’t going to work for me” and walk away. Remember, assertiveness is clear ,firm , and based on strength. Practicing what I call “Bully Busting” empowers children to face their fears and resolve their plight using their parents and siblings as partners in the practice. The number of examples of practicing assertive behavior is limitless. Responding to bullies is just one of many. Design your own game based on the particular struggles your child faces in his or her own environment.
Once a child becomes comfortable with Assertiveness, he or she will then become a model to their peers about how to get one’s needs met in healthy and practical ways. For example, when peers give each other advise about how to handle something, often times that advise is used more readily than what they hear from their parents. After all, they are both the same age and also the same size and everyone knows both really matter.
Virtue, developmental milestone, or perhaps the single most valuable human trait, self-reliance is about the capacity to self-care. Once a child has achieved the notion of existing independently from their caregivers, the optimal parenting position is to assist their child in learning how to transition from receiving and internalizing love and nurturance to applying this function to him or herself. This function is the bedrock of self-esteem and true autonomy.
Each stage of a child’s development comes with age-appropriate self-reliant tasks which, when achieved, pushes that child forward in their individual development. As these tasks are mastered along various stages of development, the child then additionally feels stronger, confident , and less dependent on their parents for doing things for them that they can do for themselves.
Implicit in self-reliance however is the necessity of perseverance and parental encouragement which can often be difficult when children enjoy the benefits of being catered to by their parents. After all, who doesn’t like being nurtured, comforted and provided for? In fact, the conflict between seeking self-reliance versus remaining dependent or reliant on others is the core conflict in the development of children and teenagers alike. On the one hand, most teenagers want independence but on the other wish to be taken care of due to their discomfort with the multitude of changes and challenges facing them on a daily basis lowering their already unstable self-esteem. Here, parents fall into their own conflicts over providing for their seemingly vulnerable child versus insisting on pushing them to work it out themselves with you the parent as their Mentor. How these conflicts are managed have a significant effect on how well the child will weather the throws of adolescence and for the teens, how well they will endure the tasks of young adulthood.
Parents who insist on their children to be self-reliant for their particular age tend to produce healthier offspring than those who continue to placate their child by doing too much for them. In fact, in the extreme cases of parents failing to hold their kids responsible for self-care invariably create a sense of ongoing dependency on their parents which leaves the child feeling angry and needy. If this pattern continues through high school, the then college bound young adult does not feel or perform independent enough to successfully function well enough away from home.
Parents can help their children develop a healthy sense of self-reliance by both encouraging and insisting that their child performs tasks that they can functionally master at each age. Take toilet training for example. If parents did not insist that their toddler stop wearing diapers and use the toilet, most children would remain in diapers and then pull-ups far beyond what their body is capable of managing. Here, the initially resistant toddler refuses to use the toilet but when finally does feels like a bigger boy and girl enhancing their development and growth. Vitally, the parent must tolerate their child’s potential complaining and even regressing when placed in the position of self-care, but once the child can witness their own success, a new level of self-reliant achievement and esteem is reached and the child actually becomes less anxious, more mature, and even more respectful.
Self-reliance is a virtue that is additionally needed for a child to be able to care for others and is an achievement that children can additionally teach to their peers. Recognizing one’s internal strength and practicing this attribute leads to a high functioning and helpful individual. Before a child is able to help another, they need to first know how to care for themselves. This involves the function of self-reliance and self-soothing.
Many fathers never realize how important they are to the development of their children. Yet, as early as in Infancy, the father’s participation in the basic needs of a child have tremendous immediate as well as lasting effects. For example, when fathers help with holding, feeding, and soothing an infant, this experience provides the child with a sense of two, rather than a single caregiver. Here, the small child recognizes that not just one, but at least two caregivers are there to provide relief during stressful times and leads to the establishment of basic trust.
Once children enter the toddler years, the father’s presence and time with their young child helps them to better manage separation from mother in order to develop a better sense of self and ensure a more comfortable capacity to manage stress. Toddlers and pre-school children who have invested fathers, tend to be more successful tolerating change and adaptation and also tend to be more popular.
Because fathers tend to play differently with their kids – dads tend to be a bit more “physical” then moms in their quality of play, it assists both boys and girls to manage aggression better and not get as carried away when they play with their peers. This is due to the fact that most fathers will both have fun but also calm the waters when the play gets too rambunctious. This process then becomes internalized inside of the child.
By the time kids become school age, the father then helps boys and girls better understand gender difference. Here, when boys and girls become more identified with either being male or female, fathers help boys better understand what it feels like to be a boy and give them a direct reference model. As when moms provide the same for their daughters, the parent’s gender role is very helpful in helping kids feel comfortable about who they are and who they might become.
And then there is the tween and teen years where the father becomes a frequent buffer due the conflicts between mothers and both sexes as they attempt a more complete separation from moms on the road to greater autonomy. Of course he doesn’t take sides, he rather tries to better calm the waters.
Children who grow up without invested fathers sometimes develop a condition called “father hunger”. These children often experience significant problems with regulating aggression, making friends, and feeling comfortable identifying themselves as being “male”.
Taken together, the roles of fathers are vastly important in the lives of both boys and girls and the dads who enjoy this time and dedication experience the greatest joys in being a father and rejoicing in raising healthier children.
Dr. Keith Kanner
“OUCH”. The connotations associated with Tough Love are commonly negative. It feels as though the approach is “mean” and “harsh”, rather than a “wake up” call that behavior needs to change. The approach does entail “love”, but the delivery is not done in a teddy bear fashion. It is direct and to the point. The behavior must change or there will be a consequence. This approach is based on Learning Theory. That negatively reinforcing a behavior reduces the repetition of the behavior in question. A child hits their sibling and they gets a time out because a parent will not allow their child to do something “wrong”. Tough love. What is the alternative? Reinforcing “positive” behavior? Positive Parenting? Nope, the research does not support this approach. This is why. Kids are not that simple. They are not dogs. If a kid thinks they can get away with something, they will. This is reality. When a child has a limit, they are forced to change. If they get a reward for being “good”, this has nothing to do with the “bad” behavior. Rewarding successful behavior is also essential, but, it’s not enough. Parents need to be the “bad” guy sometimes and it’s a tough position to take for most parents. Why? It is much easier to gratify a child than punish them. Most parents cringe when they feel as though they have made their own child cry. “Ouch”. Guilt is one of the most common pitfalls of good parenting. But remember, no pain, no gain. Limits promote growth and inhibit regression. Most successful schools in fact utilize a Tough Love approach and are the most effective in promoting appropriate behavior and have the fewest problems with both Bullies & Mean Girls. These school also produce the most students who go to College. Why? The students know that there are Standards that must be followed or there will be a price to pay. Kids can understand this and it is helpful, not harmful.
The difference between technology and human behavior are quite different. Technology does change , but human behavior does not. People behave consistently despite the changing world around them. For example, violent television and video games are proved to cause overstimulation in most kids if they are overexposed. Overstimulation is a human condition. However, the ways that we effectively deal with it is the same now as it was 100 years ago. Limits. Tough love. Dealing with behavior is well defined with research and clinical data. Kids need limits when they break the rules. Otherwise, they become entitled and self-centered. Parents have to sometimes be the “bad guys” because they love their children. In fact , the optimal role of a parent is to help their child to function in society, and not live in some sort of “special” bubble.
Kids who act out have problems. They have not internalized rules and the essence of right versus wrong. Limits, rules, laws, and adult intervention are necessary to keep kids on track but this does not happen a lot of the time. Why ? Parents fear setting limits. They fear their kids not liking them and fear they are hurting them. No. Limits are love. Kids need parents to draw the line. They are not yet capable of self-responsibility until they reach at least late adolescence ( 17 years + ).
Even Sigmund Freud in his landmark essay Civilization and its Discontents spelled out how without rules, laws, and holding people accountable, society would not exist,and he was right on this one. Parents need to set limits. They need to be tough when their kids are not towing their own ability to self-regulate according to their age. Infantilization is treating a kid as though they cannot follow a rule. This communicates to the child that they don’t have to. When they reach Adulthood, they become selfish, non empathic, and pathetic. “YUCK”.
So parents, don’t be afraid to be “tough” in the love department when your kid acts entitled or don’t tow the line of what they are able to accomplish. It’s okay to reinforce when they do something well but it is equally or more important to stop them from doing something wrong or stupid. That is love. Looking out for the best interests of a child’s complete development is the optimal role of good parenting. But, you have to be tough sometimes to show your kids that you really do love them.
Listen to this Blog be discussed live on the next Your Family Matters radio show on April 10th @ 9am PST . WsRadio.com. Show are also archived at that site
Considering that during the lifespan developmental transitions are inevitable, Midlife is no exception. In fact, Midlife introduces perhaps the biggest questions as to whether or not an individual has spent the first half of their lives fulfilled or not. Whereas the Adolescent transition is about weaning away from childhood fantasies and greater strives towards becoming an independent adult, Midlife is the second stage of Adult development. In early adult development, the quests have to do with financial, relational, and solidifying a secure lifestyle, Midlife is about facing the idea that life is half over. This significant difference of so-called tasks of “success “ becomes a major focus in the mind of the middle adult consciously and unconsciously along with retirement and death.
As the body and mind age, a sense of vulnerability begins to set in. Physical maturation and aging ; financial stability; interpersonal happiness; and an overview of whether or not the person has a sense of both fulfillment and enjoyment fills the mind of that middle adult. “Am I where I want to be at this stage of my life” ; “Do I feel fulfilled”.
Depending upon the particular individual, the outcome can go in a variety of directions. For some, they feel content and fulfilled and the transition to middle life is accepted and enjoyed. Within this group, the areas of finance, personal happiness, interpersonal relationships, and an acceptance of aging are met in stride and the individual continues to live their life without much change other than an acceptance of some things they cannot control such as an aging body and mind. Here, there is a preservation of their current lifestyle and some logical planning for the future, such as retirement, and a general sense of perhaps slowing down a little.
For others in entering midlife, the experience might be much different. For those who do not feel content with their life review up to this point can lead to one of two roads : eliciting active change in order to improve their well-being mentally and or physically, or in the extreme sense they go into a crisis. The midlife crisis group are the ones who struggle with either accepting the inevitable changes in midlife or who do not feel as if they can make the necessary changes to improve their present state of affairs and plan for some changes to make their lives better and perhaps the best they have ever been. Here is where haphazard actions can manifest often leading to greater conflicts and sometimes failure.
On the other hand, when a person in Midlife can logically consider their life review, they can plan some changes which could enhance their life, not complicate it. For example, in midlife when a person is not feeling financially stable or even happy with their current means of income, this might be the adaptive time to transition into some new profession or way to manage their monies. If their health is not where it should be, this could be the time to take better care of their bodies. If they do not have any friends, this could be the time to meet new people – join a club, learn a sport, or make more of an effort to reach out to people.
Changes have to do with choice and motivation once a person has determined what those changes need to be. However, by midlife, life habits have become incorporated in the person’s character or personality making transitions very difficult due to potential fears of the unknown. This is where careful planning, discussing changes with trusted friends, and taking very active steps while managing the discomfort of change becomes the quest. Keeping in mind that the outcome is designed to improve, not reduce stress and life enjoyment should be the catalyst propelling the individual to take some action to make the second half of their life better than the first.
The final stage of life is Late Adulthood. Here, the tasks are to review one’s life with pleasure, not regret, and to have a family of friends and loved ones helping to commemorate the full life that a person has lived. Dying happy and filled with love , accomplishment, and not afraid is perhaps the ultimate goal. To get there however, the Midlife individual needs to be logical, realistic, and make a plan that they dedicate themselves to follow through with realizing that with all change come challenges and managing some feelings of anxiety which are normal whenever a person makes a significant change of direction. The outcome however is worth it and lowering stress and improving the quality of one’s life has proved to extend life, not shorten it.
If you have kids, then you know the difference between an adventure and a vacation. Simply put, if you are an invested parent and your kids like you, there is no such thing as a family vacation per se, it is always an adventure and that’s a good thing. Often times parents forget that 18 years goes very quickly and if you don’t realize that daily, time with your kids will slip by. Therefore, embrace the time with your kids and make the times together fun and adventurous.
It is true that parents do need their own “down time” and it is also true that parents have to take care of themselves to be better and rested parents. But, this can be done separately from time spent together as a family. This is where the needed “date nights” for parents are essential as well as a parent vacation when the kids are old enough to allow you time away from them.
When children grow, they remember the constructive times spent with their families. For example, when families travel to foreign destinations, the learning is intensified because the parents were there invested with them. Most adults reflect fondly to these times of childhood and adolescence and frequently remember them as positive for the trip was a constructive family event that all could share together. Vacations on the other hand, are defined as relaxation. Very few parents are able to relax when they are traveling with their kids because kids need their parents because they cannot entirely self-manage themselves until they are adults. Sure, some vacation spots have kids programs, but why use them if your kids are only kids for a finite period of time?
Picking a destination should also be a family decision. Children in both grade and middle school study different cultures and countries. Consult with them about ideas of where to go. From a financial point of view, economical adventures are also fun whether it might be camping or some sort of a road trip, the most important time is family time which form memories which last a lifetime.
Why do teenagers always seem to act their worst when they are home around their families? It’s true, don’t you think ? We all become confused when we hear those stories from our friends about how polite, engaging, vocal, expressive, and endearing our little “teen angels” are at their house. And, when they tell you how lucky you are to have them, you pinch yourself to make sure this is not a dream. If they only knew what went on behind the closed doors of “home” . If they only knew… what would they really think then? Unless of course they had a teen at home too. Take Bill and Sherry. For the past two weeks their 13 year old ,not-so darling daughter Chloe has refused to speak to either of them after they took away her iPhone when she forgot to text her mother from the school dance last Friday night. Since then, Chloe has refused to communicate with either parent other than to tell them that she “hates” them, slams the door whenever she enters or leaves the house and told them that she plans to join a cult and tour North Korea this summer. Needless to say, Bill and Sherry are afraid and worried that she must be falling apart all over the place and were about ready to call my office. However, to their surprise their semi-annual parent-teacher conference yesterday left both parents in shock. As Mrs. Smith told Chloe’s parents that she was a delight in class, getting almost all A’s, was a leader and a lovely young lady, Bill asked Mrs. Smith if she was sure she was referring to “their” Chloe. Mrs. Smith laughed in delight and said, “ remember she is 13 and is your child, not mine”.
Face it, Parents have the ability to bring out the best and worst in their children. So much of how our kid’s act has to do with how we choose to parent and respond to them. Also it has to do with the child’s temperament and phase of development they are going through. Remember parents, Adolescence is a phase… okay a tough phase… but it is a phase nevertheless with a beginning and end. They will grow up to be an adult, it just takes a Village to get them there and we hope healthy.
Teenagers are confusing. They are confused themselves. Sandwiched between both wanting to be independent but still needing their parents for lots of things while going through a multitude of both biological and psychological changes, they are vulnerable creatures. Gauky bodily changes, body hair, pimples, homework, social status and the agonizing list continues. Just ask a teen. They do love to complain and and yet this is one way to get them to actually talk to you. They do get physically tired from life and also from growing so sleeping in on the weekends is sometimes because they are genuinely tired, not just lazy.
To love an adolescent you have to know them and what they are going through. This is difficult though because they don’t like to talk to their parents much anymore – a phase thing – they will talk again when they feel strong, but parents generally need to “infer” what’s going on with them based on remembering one’s own teenage joys and blunders, and responding to them with empathy, love and needed limits to help them manage those tough times. Teens do need limits or they may not make it to adulthood as their natural level of judgment is at best “inconsistent” as they often feel immortal . It’s a teen ego-thing. The healthy teens seem as though they have the world by the tail outside of home because they save their plethora of feelings and needs for where they feel the safest…at home. As a baby they should’ve learned that mom and dad take away their stress and make it all better. This is a good thing and the teens have this experience stored somewhere in their mind. Therefore, there is a sense of comfort being able to let down the outer image when in a safe place. It’s the savvy parent who can realize that those home battles are in the service of healthy development and it helps to laugh ( inside laugh) at some of their dramatics as long as no one gets hurt or something broken. I could say “ encourage your teen to talk about their feelings with you”, but that’s not developmentally going to work at least for most teens. A few words here and there… telling you all of the things you do wrong as a parent and straining to be respectful, is more realistic. Don’t ask them questions, make comments about things you know are going on for them or comment on their mood – “you seem happy today”. You may get a sentence of a response this way rather than some sort of grunt.
So, how do you survive a teen at home? Ride out the storm with them. Assure them that you are in for the ride by sitting next to them serving as their wingman when they can’t steer the ship on their own. But, when they do navigate well make a big deal about it and tell them they should feel good and proud. Teens do love to feel good. This they do have in common with adults.
Finally, to help you better understand what you are dealing with here is how to understand emotionally where a teen will often be developmentally at home. Merely take the first digit off their teenage age and you will see the toddler-equivalent : 13 = 3, etc. By 18, ( 8 ) , they start to become more rule bound and not so random. Once into the 20’s, no need to take off any digits, they have become “real” adults who talk to you again like an old friend and magically ask you about your day.
So the next time your 13 year-old say (more…)
When parents fight, kids suffer. Most become worried and anxious. This is certainly the case for 9 year old Kaylee every time her parents get into a loud altercation in their home. The pattern is always the same. Her parents get into an ugly argument, call each other names, makes idle threats, and then go their separate ways for a range of hours to days. Kaylee then cries herself to sleep; worries about her parents getting a divorce; and then, usually gets into some sort of trouble at school the next day. Her teacher, Mrs. T, an old soul with 30 years of teaching has identified the pattern and has developed a loving and caring rapport with Kaylee when such days manifest. Her teacher manages to calm her down, keep her focused, and reassures her that she is loved and will be safe. Parent conferences begin next week and Mrs. T is planning on bringing up the pattern to Kaylee’s parents, but she has had numerous experiences of parents refusing to consider that their behavior has such traumatic effects on their children. (more…)
Background: For most parents, concern about their children developing successful friendships is as important as academic dedication and solid morals and family values. But, as all adults realize, friendships are both complicated and confusing especially for children as most do not understand that friends are anything but perfect and at times can be very supportive, but at other times either overly competitive or envious. By adolescence, most boys and girls take this into stride and manage to accept ups and downs in their friendships as “normal” unless or course there is a break-up with their best friend (BF) or a boyfriend or girlfriend which can feel overwhelming. (more…)