Many parents confuse the act of being an assertive parent with aggression. There isn’t anything wrong or aggressive about clear, direct, and honest communication when done appropriately. You’re merely clarifying your needs to another person – in this case, your child.
Assertiveness is being able to express your feelings clearly while still respecting others’ feelings.
Assertiveness is an essential skill that can significantly reduce the amount of conflict in your home. Assertive parents voice their own needs respectfully, listen mindfully, and model integrity. They tend to be socially and emotionally healthier individuals with much less stress in their parent-child relationships.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, passive parents may see themselves as victims. They may become resentful and angry until one day they explode.
To help you avoid piling up resentment, I’ve compiled some techniques you can use to become a more assertive parent.
1. Stick with the facts. When approaching your child about a problem, instead of exaggerating the situation by saying “You ALWAYS _____” or “You NEVER _____,” state the facts of the current case.
For example, let’s say your child’s bedroom is a mess. Instead of telling them their room is ALWAYS a mess or that they NEVER clean up after themselves, say, “Put the wet towels in the laundry room and make your bed.”
It is also helpful to talk with your child during a time of calm and connection. (These conversations do not do well in the heat of the moment!) Problem-solve with your child, discussing how they can remember to attend to their responsibilities independently. Give them room to contribute solutions.
2. Begin with “I” instead of “You.” When you start a conversation with “you,” it seems like an attack and usually puts your child on the defensive.
Beginning with the word “I” focuses on you – how their behavior has affected you and how you are feeling.
Rather than criticize your child, show them how their actions affect you.
Here is an example. Instead of saying, “You never put your dirty dishes in the sink. You have no respect for me or our house.” Try something like, “When I see dirty dishes on the table, I feel upset (irritated, frustrated, ignored, resentful, etc. – pick one feeling).”
3. Don’t assume that you already know your child’s motives. You may be surprised to find they aren’t the sneaky, lazy, selfish person you thought they were being by doing what they did.
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you might not know all the details of what’s happening from your child’s point of view. An easy way to find out your child’s point of view is to ask! Again, make sure you ask during a time of calm and connection (not in the heat of the moment). You might say, “I noticed your laundry is not getting done until I remind you a few times. What’s up?” or, “I noticed your laundry is not getting done until I remind you a few times. Tell me about it.”
4. Listen and then ask questions that seek to understand. Instead of concentrating on how right you are, jumping into a lesson, or offering a solution that makes sense to you, remember to listen to your child’s point of view. Try to understand where your child is coming from – even when you disagree with what they say.
Ask clarifying questions to make sure that you fully understand what your child is saying.
Your child may express that they are not attending to their chores because they do not have time. You may disagree with your child. You may think about the time they spend playing video games, talking to friends, and making TikToks. However, this is not the time to voice your concern or judge your child’s point of view. Instead, see their sharing as an opportunity to understand your child’s perspective and build trust. You will need this information to problem-solve with your child.
5. Collaborate to find mutually acceptable and truly doable solutions. Once you know your child’s concern or understand their point of view, next express your concern. Then, invite your child to create solutions!
The best solutions are ones that address your concern AND your child’s.
6. Evaluate the situation. Every situation is different, so you’ll need to assess the circumstances to determine how much assertiveness is appropriate.
7. Acknowledge your successes! Being assertive may not go well in every situation, especially when trying something new.
When it doesn’t go well, reflect on it later and determine what you can learn from it. Think about what could be different next time.
Acknowledging your success brings you the confidence to continue being an assertive parent.
You may feel guilty about asserting yourself because it can feel selfish to speak up about your own needs. (Inauthentic societal norms have created that false message.) Just remember that you, too, deserve to be treated with respect. Only you can teach your children how to treat you.
Being assertive is extra difficult when you have a challenging child, and parents tend to fluctuate between being the a) the parenting monster or b) the parenting doormat. This is where Mindful-Ish™ Parenting comes into play.
Mindful-Ish™ Parenting is my body of work- an energetic approach for healing your inner child while strengthening your current relationship with your child, no matter the circumstances.
It stops the endless search for “right” answers about parenting, discipline, and behavior. Instead, Mindful-Ish™ Parenting strategies increase your ability to choose who you want to be and how you want to be in parenting moments- creating transformational change in your children.
I’ve worked with so many families on developing Mindful-Ish™ techniques to create a more harmonious home life with their children and decided to make the techniques, skills, and support accessible to all families through Mindful-Ish™ Parenting Programs.
Ultimately, it is a reminder that you are not alone. We are a group of parents who want tools to experience more joy and ease in parenting and familial relationships. We are willing to learn from each others’ experiences.
I coach parents from a mentor’s lens- sharing my knowledge, skills, and experience while you develop and grow! Likewise, I learn and expand my awareness from you as well. These programs are offered in a variety of settings.
Mindful-Ish™ Parenting is for all parents and a must for parents with challenging children or for parents going through a difficult time. If you are interested in learning more about which Mindful-Ish™ program is right for you and your family, you can book a call here.
– Coach Franny
I empower parents and teachers to feel calm, capable, and confident so that they can problem-solve and create new possibilities with their children.
Check out my FREE parenting resources.
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