Mark Leishman’s had a long and varied career as a New Zealand radio and TV broadcaster. Here’s his ten top tips for developing respect and assertiveness in our children. Tried and tested in his very own household!
Ten top tips for developing respect and assertiveness
1. Start encouraging good manners from three years on. I’m a great believer in good manners for the simple reason that adults will always respond positively to well-mannered children, which in turn means a much happier time for your child. Get them to use “Please”, “thank you”, “thank you for having me”, “excuse me”, “sorry” etc and encourage them to use adults’ names whenever they can. Insist that children speak up in a friendly way.
2. Respect the fact that children are feeling human beings too, who, like adults, need to be listened to, loved, admired and respected to function well. Everyone in the world, adult or child, reacts badly to being humiliated, patronised, embarrassed, bullied, ignored or physically hurt in anyway.
3. Being consistent and following through on what you say, is good parenting practice, but equally so is listening to your child and apologising if you have made a mistake. Parents don’t have to be right 100% of the time. It is okay if they see that you’re not perfect either and by saying ‘I’m sorry’ you are being a good role model.
4.“Love fixes everything” is one of our family’s little sayings. When a meltdown is imminent or your pre-schooler is a throwing a tantrum …take a couple of minutes to stop what you are doing, sit down and just love and cuddle them. It is really worth it. Don’t talk too much or tell them off – instead just calm them down with lots of love and reassurance that everything will be okay.
5. With older children separate yourself from the problem. When the really bad behaviour starts either give yourself, or the child, time out. But do it decisively by quickly marching them into another room, clearly stating that their behaviour is unacceptable and that you don’t want to be near them. Shutting the door leaves them a bit surprised and really offended. Like anyone, children dislike enforced separation. After a couple of minutes (or when you have cooled off) go back in, offer a hug and give them a way out of the problem. Often kids need “rescuing from themselves” and they need a lifeline from you to make things better and be able to move on. They may not be able to cope with apologising immediately, but at some stage there needs to be an genuine apology for the bad behaviour.
6. Teach the lessons later when your child is calm and able to listen to you properly. Get them to repeat back what the problem was with their behaviour and what the consequence will be next time. If they ‘own’ the problem and clearly understand the agreed consequences, but then later decide to continue misbehaving the consequence has obviously been their choice. They seem to get this logic. It’s so much easier for your child to understand if you talk about things calmly after the event. They can then see where they went wrong and don’t feel so vulnerable and out of control.
7. Don’t smack. Simply because it hurts and humiliates your child, and there’s a reason it’s illegal. Smacking is unnecessary and plainly teaches kids you can hit someone else if you’re unhappy. You can’t hit other people in everyday life so why should you hit children.
8. Teach the meaning of assertiveness around the age of nine or 10 years. Encourage them to always be a kind, fun, friend but also to be firm and confident about resisting peer pressure and not just following the pack.
9. Household chores. Teaching children to do jobs around the house in this day and age with so much pressure on family time seems very difficult. Whenever you feel like it just announce to one of your children that there are 10 jobs to be done. Make the jobs big and small and all up they shouldn’t take more that 20 – 30 mins. It could be anything from hanging up all the clothes languishing on their bedroom floor to feeding the cat. Tell them what the next job is as each one is completed. Do inspections and give compliments as they go along and warn them that if they moan an extra job will be instantly added to the list. They soon stop complaining! There is something about counting down the jobs with an end in sight that seems to appeal. The problem for the parent is thinking of enough jobs!
10. Encourage your child to listen to the voice in their head. It’s where all those values and life’s little lessons that you have taught them over the years are stored. Get them to recognise and act on that little voice that’s telling them ‘this doesn’t feel right’, or ‘I don’t think my parents would like this’.
I guess in summary we believe in loving our kids, setting clear boundaries and teaching them values for the future. Developing respect and assertiveness skills in our children sets them up to become strong-minded and confident adults later in life. Sounds easy, doesn’t it…
For more expert advice from awesome Fathers, check out our A Dad’s View section.