When it comes to arguments or fights, children below the age of 6, will most likely react in two ways. One, they will retract and begin to feel sad where they may possibly cry or sulk. Two, they fight back and become angry or even aggressive.
As parents, we do not want to witness our children becoming victims nor do we want to see them turning into bullies. How do we teach our children to know when and how to stand up for themselves in an appropriately assertive manner?
#1 Give them the language
A lot of times, we tell children “Be nice” or “Be gentle and kind”. However, we seldom realise that children do not know what it is to be nice or be kind. Likewise, when we tell children to talk things through, we do not realise that they do not know how to. It is up to you to give them the language and show them how to do so.
When your child is caught in a nasty situation such as someone disturbed them or another child took something away from them, you can say some sentences for them to copy. For example, kneel down to your child’s level; look at the other party and say, “Please stop. I don’t like that,” or “Please give that back to me, it belongs to me. If you like I can share it with you later.”
#2 Teaching them to apologise
To take things one step further, we can teach them that apologising is a part of life. No one is right 100% of the time. When it comes to apologising we need to show children that we do not just say “Sorry” and move on with life. We engage them in these few steps to ensure that they mean it.
- Apologise for what you did
Example: “I’m sorry for taking your toy.”
- Explain how you may prevent that from happening again (and to show that you really are sorry)
Example: “I will try not to do that again.”
- Ask for forgiveness
Example: “Will you forgive me?”
#3 Role model
By modelling good behaviour, your child will pick it up as well. Imagine being at the local supermarket with your child. In one hand you have your basket of groceries and in the other, you are holding the hand of your preschooler. You had just joined the line to check your items out and are waiting to pay for them. Out of nowhere, a man cuts your cue.
How would you react in this situation? Would you confront the man in an aggressive tone, or ignore him completely? We want to show children how to approach a situation like this while remaining calm.
Possible reactions could be when you approach the man while keeping your cool. By doing so, you are showing your child that you are not aggravated by the situation and at the same time, you are standing up for yourself.
#4 Taking a step back
In the moment of heat, we sometimes do not know how to react or they need to figure out the way they feel. Children sometimes feel the same too. What we can do is take them aside so that they can reflect on their actions. It is sometimes best for them to stop with whatever they are doing just to take a breather.
By Bianca Tan.
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