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Assertive Parenting

Hi Mark,

In your article about Permissive Parenting under the conditional permissiveness I am confused---as you have said to make the kids EARN EVERYTHING---yet in this article it sounds like that is Conditional permissiveness and that is supposed to be a bad thing? Can you help me clear that up please? Thanks.

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Conditional parenting is not assertive parenting. Assertive parents:
  • Say No
  • Have a detailed Plan for Consequences
  • Are Honest with their Children
  • Structure Children's Behavior
  • Foster Self-Esteem
  • Manage Parental Stress
  • Exercise Parental Leadership

With Conditionally Permissive Parenting:
  • Parental demands are usually not explicit or spelled out in detail
  • Freedom and material benefits are often given in return for behavior that reflects well on the family (parent’s ulterior motives or hidden agenda), such as making good grades or buttering up Aunt Sophie
  • Moms and dads tend to see the adolescents as mini-adults.

Prospective moms and dads often don't realize that parenting is a twenty-year plus commitment, demanding their best efforts even at those times when everyone is tired. Acting with care is close to impossible in such everyday situations. Be proactive by learning to say no, use humor, carry out consequences, be honest, foster self-esteem, manage parental stress, and exercise parental leadership. Assertive communication is often avoided because moms and dads fear aggression, yet it usually prevents hostilities.

Be Honest with Kids—Don't lie to a youngster or promise what isn't in your power to deliver. Telling a youngster that the sun will be shining for a picnic is folly at best, and can destroy your youngster's faith in your integrity. Promising that another youngster will like him or her is another dangerous parent trap, causing more distress in the long run. Being honest about life's struggles teaches kids to share feelings and deal with reality rather than deny or avoid it.

Exercise Parental Leadership—Stand up courageously and be counted as a parent, not a buddy. Young people are in need of clear, positive leadership. They already have plenty of peers. Keep a journal of successes and challenges, and jot down strategies and solutions. Forgive yourself when you mess up. Visualize yourself as an assertive parent who can say no, use humor, calmly enforce consequences, be honest, encourage self-esteem, control parental stress, and exercise parental leadership. Assertive parenting can be both your finest joy and greatest challenge.

Foster Self-Esteem—Even your choice of rewards can help guide your kids into the comfort of assertiveness. When kids learn to feel proud of themselves, they have gained a life-long skill. Say, "Pat yourself on the back" to foster self-confidence. Do that more often than giving gifts and treats.

Have a Plan for Consequences—Think before speaking, and back up those words with firm, caring actions. Thinking through consequences can be done beforehand, when things are calm. Carrying out the consequences can be done in a matter of fact manner, expressing faith in the youngster's ability to come out ahead in the end. This allows the youngster to feel a sense of family as opposed to being at odds with the moms & dads.

It's OK to Say No—It is sometimes believed that saying no too often can squelch a youngster's self-esteem, creativity, or confidence, yet the opposite is more often the case. There isn't any need for apology or guilt when "no" is needed. One of the most common pitfalls moms & dads suffer is inexactness of language. When one means for a youngster to do something direct by telling, not asking. Adults don't have to be mean, just clear.

Manage Parental Stress—Do what you can to reduce stress by dealing with temper. Deal with your own feelings on a regular basis so you can keep an even disposition with kids. Keep the number of issues to be corrected close to one -- too many can cause confusion and frustration. Develop a poor memory for the bad times and a great memory for the good times.

Structure Kid's Behavior—It is far better to tell a youngster clearly what is expected. Structure builds awareness and confidence in one's behavior. Teaching manners and social skills positions a youngster for social success and becoming an assertive adult.

Use Humor—Remember to carry the emotional first-aid kit of humor at all times. It will help the whole family through the rough spots of daily life. Moms & dads can model the skill of not taking things too seriously. Educators suggest that modeling is one of the most effective methods of teaching.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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