It’s not easy when your child wields a sledgehammer where a gentle nudge would do.
I don’t blame you if you avoid confronting your child sometimes. No one wants to be slammed! So maybe you let things slide. Maybe you avoid the fray. You pick your battles.
Your kid learns that if they punch hard, they get left to themselves. They learn how to escalate the conflict just past what you can stand. That they can “win” by being loud and nasty.
It’s not just your relationship which suffers. You hope that they’ll learn from how their peers and siblings react, how their teachers and supervisors respond. They’re hard on everyone.
I’ve been that teacher! It’s tough to manage kids with this pattern, and I certainly picked my battles. I let things slide when I probably shouldn’t have. It was a struggle to maintain a good relationship.
Even so, let’s recognize what’s right about this assertive kid. They’re no pushover! A kid like this knows what they don’t like. They feel their boundaries strongly. They have access to their anger. These are good and healthy.
What they can’t do yet, however, is defend their boundaries kindly.
Somehow, long ago, they learned that they had to be this aggressive. In their minds, nothing less will work. They don’t know how to be assertive while kind and firm. Lashing out seems like the only possible option.
If this describes someone in your family, take the lead. There’s a wound here to heal, and you can be the one bandage it.
Recognize that kids blame adults for “allowing” (from their perspective) bad things to happen to them. We were supposed to stop it. We were supposed to protect them. From their perspective, it’s all our fault, we failed. They had no choice. They have to behave this way.
That means that the best way to connect is to apologize. Apologize for steamrolling over their quiet objections and forcing them to shout. Apologize for not stopping someone else from doing that. Express regret that anyone was ever allowed to disrespect them. That their feelings were ever hurt; that their voice ever went unheard.
With that connection comes a softening, a chance to truly see each other. Now there’s an opportunity for a real conversation.
You might pause here, relishing the connection, listening a lot. That’s great…and, the chance for real growth is lost if you never offer to give them a better way. Of course they’ll slide back into aggressively defending their boundaries – they have no other tool! When all you have is a hammer, everything’s a nail.
Your child needs practice defending their boundary skillfully, but they don’t know what that looks or sounds like. Give them the words, and praise them to high heaven when they use those words on you.
Feeling boundaries is one skill. Defending them well is another.
If you’re struggling with either of these, especially with how to teach your child the second skill, I invite you to join the Boundaries and Consent Bootcamp.
In just 3 months (Feb-Apr), you’ll have a new toolkit of practical and concrete tools. These are tools to
- Feel your boundary in time to take corrective action
- Defend your boundary kindly and firmly
- Respond to coercion effectively
- Normalize saying No, and respond well to a No
- Be an upstander, not a bystander
- Exit a bad situation
All these and more are covered in 6 modules. Each module includes a 30 minute video, handouts, action steps, and a Q&A call. We’ll also have a secret Facebook group where you can post questions, challenges, and triumphs, where the community and I can support you all along the journey. If your kids are 10 or older, you can even share the videos with them!
My clients have benefited tremendously from these tools and practices, and they’re not the only ones. I am so proud of my husband and 3 year old when I hear them resolving a conflict using these tools! Yes, kids young as 3. Yes, adults too.
If there’s conflict in your home which isn’t being resolved peacefully, this is for you. Register for the online course here.
In support of you,
P.S. Have a question? Not sure it’s a fit? Jump on my calendar for a quick chat.