1. My son, age three, cries over everything. One could clearly label him a “cry baby”. Is this something he will grow out of or can we teach him to not cry over the drop of a hat. I’m worried once he starts school, his peers will make fun of him.
Answer: The ‘sensitive child’ is often seen upset or crying over small things in life. We can talk to them, reassure them, or even punish them and none of this will help. But let’s be clear, and not dance around this behavior pattern. It does not tend to just go away. And, this will never serve them! Never! It will only make them vulnerable to the normal challenges of life.
Instead, we have to teach them how to get stronger, by believing that they are stronger! The good news is that this requires a simple solution. At these early ages, such tendencies are continued primarily because we keep responding to them. We keep giving it attention!
Remember: Their energy flows where your attention consistently goes!
In this situation, if your attention repeatedly flows into their crying, then this is where their energy goes. They become upset over the smallest of issues, and the more you keep trying to calm and fix-it, the more drama you see unfolding as they get older!
So, in short, just stop responding. You must trust your own instinct about whether the situation deserves your efforts to console and calm. Most do not.
Thus, just ignore and walk away. Will they get more upset? YES! They will. And, you must not respond to this.
Now, once the drama stops, return to normal. No discussion or efforts to explain. Just re-engage as if nothing had happened. Very shortly, you will witness more resilience and strength emerge, after a few days of very serious drama and tears. Just be prepared for it!
2. What is the best way to teach young girls (8) to be assertive, stick up for yourself and still remain kind? My daughter is always afraid she’ll hurt someone’s feelings, even if they are clearly picking on her.
This is a great question, and a situation often worked within my coaching practice. There are several ways we can address this. However, this is a lesson that takes a bit of time. Unlike the situation above, this is not resolved in days or weeks. We have to be patient, and let the lessons and methods unfold over time.
Answer: First, we must look at the primary role model your daughter is watching: mom. What are your tendencies, and proclivities? Do you tend to model the behavior you are asking of your daughters? Are you strong, assertive and clear with others, or are you a ‘people pleaser’ who tends to soften and give-in when you should stay strong?
If the answer is ‘people pleaser’ then this is the most important place to start. For some, this may be true. For others, this is not relevant. However, please just know that it is very difficult to escape the model you set for your child. All the coaching and tools won’t help if we fighting against the tide of our own parenting actions!
Next, we want your daughter to develop a clear sense of their own internal voice, so that they can ‘know’ what they really want. For such children, they often experience a weak internal voice, so then they really don’t know what to say or what they really want. We can easily help with this by making sure that we are not constantly over-riding their opinions, or in essence…devaluing their voice. Also, we can make sure we offer them choices, but not too many. Give two or three options, and wait for them to choice. This sets up the really important part, where we get to support their choice. “Sweetheart that will be great for you!”
Finally, when it comes to social situations, nothing works better than role playing. Talk is cheap, when it comes to changing social behavior. Instead, engage your daughter in role playing situations, where she can ‘practice’ staying strong and trusting her internal voice!
By role play, let me be clear. These are situations where you go to the playground, for example, when no one is there. You get on your knees, and ‘pretend’ to be a pesky peer. Then, perhaps dad or grandparent, or friend, then coaches your daughter in how to respond. Then, practice a few similar situations.
You can do the same thing at home, but the closer you get to the real environment, the better. You daughter will learn the lessons more completely.
In a week or so, do another practice session where you practice in the back yard, as if friends were over. Repeat this every week or so, with less and less direct coaching…and more of just allowing your daughter to voice her opinion respectfully and clearly.
This is real magic, and yet few take the time to invest in this life changing process!
Final note: Your goal here is to have your daughter learn to honor her own voice! While doing these practice sessions, every time your daughter is strong and clear…just remind her gently, “Sweetheart, see! You can trust your own voice!” In this way, we can build her confidence in her wishes and views on life.
Both of these brief answers are pointers that will get you on the right path. If you have more questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected].