There are various parenting styles, ranging from an authoritative type that values obedience and uses strict discipline – to permissive parenting that imposes few limitations and little or no correction. Assertive parenting is a flexible style that is well suited to a rapidly changing world. It doesn't impose a concrete concept of right and wrong. Instead, it helps kids and teens learn to make choices. It takes certain skills to use assertive parenting effectively.
Are you a passive – or an assertive – parent?
Let’s find out…
A passive parent:
- Allows their kids to cross boundaries - “I’m tired of your constant whining. It gets on my nerves. I want you to stop it. OK?”
- Is prone to begging, pleading, bribing and whining - “If you kids would just do what I ask then I wouldn’t have to repeat myself.”
- Makes wishful and questioning rather than assertive statements - “I wish there were less yelling and arguing. Is that asking too much? What is the matter with you kids?
- Removes the blame from themselves and places it on the kids - “I have spoiled-rotten, entitled kids. They expect everything to be handed to them.”
Clearly, if one has already established a history of passive parenting, making the change to being an assertive parent won’t come overnight. Mistakes are prone to happen and, as parents, we tend to fall back onto what feels comfortable. But the cycle of passive parenting leads to abused and harassed parents - a cycle that should be broken as soon as possible. As moms and dads, we’ll never be perfect. The very best we can do is practice.
An assertive parent:
- Kids are given lots of practice in making choices and guided to see the consequences of those choices.
- Kids are part of deciding how to make amends when someone - or something - has been hurt.
- Kids learn to accept responsibility, make wiser choices, cope with change, and are better equipped to succeed in a work-force which relies on cooperative problem-solving.
- Clarifying issues, parents give reasons for limits.
- Parents establish basic guidelines for kids.
- Teaching children to take responsibility is a high priority.
- Misbehavior is handled with an appropriate consequence or by problem-solving with the youngster to find an acceptable way to get desires met.
- Out-of-control kids have "cool-off" time, not punishment.
Being assertive does not equate to being aggressive or threatening. Instead, assertive parenting incorporates the use of statements that do not place blame and are direct. Assertive statements are designed in such a way as to not leave room for questioning and will often use the word "I".
- "I want the arguing to stop now."
- "If you do not finish your homework in the allotted time, I will have no choice but to eliminate television time."
- "When you whine, it really bothers me. I would prefer you use your regular voice when you would like something."
These statements all clearly indicate what needs to be accomplished without resorting to aggressive or threatening behavior. Often kids like to push back and see what the limits really are and, in these cases, establishing clearly what the consequences will gives them the guidelines they require.
How To Be More Assertive In Your Parenting—
1. 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 his faith in your integrity. Promising that another youngster will like him 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.
2. Communicate Your Expectations Clearly— Assertive parenting involves being very clear in your expectations. A youngster cannot behavior properly if she does not know exactly what that entails. For example, you might say, "Clean your room" and then be upset when she makes her bed, does a cursory pick-up of the floor and considers the job done. To her, that may be "clean." Specify what you want by saying, "Change the linens, vacuum the floor, put your clothes away and take out the trash." Then she knows exactly what you want her to do and can perform accordingly.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Offer Choices— Assertive parenting is focused on teaching kids to make choices and to take responsibility for the outcome. Discuss the situation with your son or daughter before any action is taken. The youngster can identify various options, and the parent can guide the youngster through a discussion of the probable outcomes of each choice. Then the youngster can select her preferred choice based on this analytical approach.
6. 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 moms and dads.
7. Impose Consequences Directly Related to the Misbehavior— Assertive parenting involves using discipline that is directly tied into what the youngster did wrong. For example, if the youngster breaks something, he would be required to fix it or to earn the money to do so. The parent might impose the consequence, or she might discuss the situation with the youngster and get his input on what an appropriate punishment would be.
8. Impose Cooling-Off Time in Response to Outbursts— An assertive parent directs her youngster to a cooling-off period when the youngster is throwing a tantrum or having an emotional outburst. This takes the place of punishment. Instead, the youngster is taught that expressing emotions is okay – but not in an inappropriate way. The cooling-off time provides times for reflection so he can calm down and decide on a more effective way to express himself.
9. 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 and dads suffer is vagueness of language. Parents don't have to be mean, just clear.
10. 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 (1). Trying to tackle multiple issues at once creates confusion and frustration. Develop a poor memory for the bad times – and a great memory for the good times.
11. Monitor Your Success— Keep a journal of successes and challenges, and jot down strategies and solutions. Forgive yourself when you mess up.
12. 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 and dads can model the skill of not taking things too seriously. Modeling humor is one of the most effective methods for parenting assertively.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents