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Top tips on being assertive with your child
Do you ever find yourself getting into an argument with your child but you’re getting nowhere? Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate into your everyday interactions to avoid things getting too stressful.
Telling children what you want to happen – focus on do’s rather than don’ts
One of the most common types of instructions parents give to children is a ‘don’t’ or ‘stop’ instruction - ‘don't throw your coat on the floor’ or ‘stop shouting in the house’. Turn it around into a positive phrase, like ‘hang your coat up’ or ‘I want to hear your inside voice’. Your child is more likely to respond to a positive phrase than an negative one.
Tell your child what you want to happen, be specific and clear
It’s not easy to give children clear instructions. We can simply get trapped into making vague requests such as ‘why don’t we tidy up now?’ or ‘don’t you want to go to bed now?’. These are confusing for children, as when we ask a child to do something with a question, nine times out of 10 they will say ‘no’. It’s important to use simple and definite language while being assertive; for example, ‘put the blocks in the box please’ or ‘it’s 7pm, time for bed please’.
Using the words ‘When-Then’ as an instruction
This is a very simple way of phrasing an instruction; for example, ‘when you have tidied up your toys, then you can take out the paints’ or ‘when you have done your homework, then you can go outside’. The 'when-then' wording is giving your child a choice. Always give a child time to do what they are asked with this type of direction.
Distractions – focusing a child on what you want to happen
Distractions are a brilliant way to lead your children away from getting up to mischief. The idea about distractions are for you to focus your child on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want to happen. Distraction is a great approach for young children, especially babies – praising a child when they are struggling with something is a great way to diffuse the situation.
Often, the more we praise our children when they do what we want them to do, it sends them the message that it’s rewarding to be cooperative! You may not feel like praising every time your child does what they’re told, however the more you praise, the more the unrewarded behaviour disappears. Thanking them when they do what they are told makes all the difference, too.