|How to be assertive rather than passive or aggressive--
When you want something from your kid, use the following
1. Clearly state your expectation.
"Be sure to wash the dishes." "It’s time for you to get the
trash out." "I need you to pick up your dirty laundry."
2. If your child does what she is told to do, reward her
with acknowledgment and praise.
"You did a great job of doing the dishes." "Thank you for
getting to bed on time. "I appreciate that you picked up your
Note: "Rewards" such as hugs, kisses, and high-fives increase
your children's motivation to do what you ask them to do.
3. If your child refuses or ignores your request, then
a clear warning (with your best poker face) should be
given immediately in the form of a simple “If/Then”
"If you choose to ignore my request, then you choose
the consequence, which will be ________ " (pick the least
restrictive consequence first, such as grounding and no
phone privileges for one evening).
4. If the warning is ignored, then allow her to make a
mistake - do NOT save her from making the poor choice
to ignore your request - then follow through with the
"Because you chose to ignore my request, you also chose the
consequence, which is grounding and no phone tonight."
5. If your child refuses to accept the consequence (e.g.,
she gets on the phone anyway), take everything away
(or at least her "favorite" stuff and/or activities) and
ground her for 3 days. If she has a rage-attack when she
finds out she is grounded for 3 days, the clock does not
start until she calms down. If she violates the 3-day-
discipline at any point, merely re-start the 3 days rather
than making it 8 days or longer.
Consider the following --
1. Make the discipline fit the “crime.”
2. Make your time-line anywhere from 1 evening to 7
days (3 days works best).
When disciplining strong-willed children, grounding and taking
away all privileges (e.g., TV, phone, video games) works best.
However, consequences should be short-term (usually no more
than 3 days).
Remember, we are taking everything away! Therefore the
consequences must be short-term to keep children from feeling
as if they are on Death Row and from subsequently rebelling
because they think they have nothing else to lose. Short-term
consequences work because they fit the way children think, not
the way parents think (3 days is an eternity to a kid).
If your child is grounded and breaks the same house rule
that got him into trouble to begin with, parents should never
lengthen the time of the restriction (e.g., "O.k. Now you're
grounded for 2 weeks!!!"). Simply restart the time of the
For example: A child completed 1 day of a 3-day discipline for
truancy. On the second day, the child sneaks out of the house
to be with friends. The parent should just start the same 3-
day discipline over again. Using this technique, parents keep
restrictions from piling up on their children. Children are more
likely to hang-in when they can see light at the end of the
3. Let your children know exactly what they must do to
earn their way off the discipline – be very specific!
The child must (a) stay in the house since he is grounded,
(b) avoid engaging in the withheld privilege (e.g., stay off
the phone), and (c) avoid repeating the original offense (e.g.,
shoving his mother and calling her a "fuckin' dumb ass").
4. Avoid power struggles at all cost.
Power struggles can create frustration, anger and resentment
on the part of the parent and the out-of-control kid.
Resentment can cause a further breakdown of communication
until it seems as if all you do is argue with her.
In order to end such arguments, it must be the parent that
begins to take charge in a positive way. However, the most
effective step, to simply stop arguing, can also be the most
difficult. It sounds quite simple, just stop arguing, but in
reality, it takes discipline and effort to change the pattern of
behavior. By refusing to participate in the argument, the power
of the out-of-control kid disappears. She only continues to
have power over you if you allow her to.
To stop the power struggle, prepare yourself ahead of time.
Sit down, after your child is in bed for the night and it is quiet,
and make a list of the times that you most often argue. Is it
getting ready for school, doing homework, completing chores,
getting ready for bed, etc? For each situation, determine a few
choices that you can give her.
When preparing the choices, make sure to list only those that
you are willing to carry out. If, for example, you are not willing
to pick up your kids and bring them to school in their pajamas,
don’t threaten to or they will know that they still have control
of the situation. Once you have decided on the choices you will
give your child, stick to them and practice your self-control to
not yell. Walk away, leave the room, and wait outside if you
have to. But an argument can only happen if there is more
than one person. With just one person, it is simply a temper
Some examples of choices to give your out-of-control kid:
Always reiterate to your children that their behavior is
their choice. They will reap the rewards or deal with the
consequences of their behavior. As difficult as it may be,
do not yell, and do not talk to them after the choice has
been given. Let them struggle with the decision of which
choice to make.
Old habits are hard to break, so it may take awhile for your
out-of-control kids to understand that you are serious and are
no longer being controlled by their emotional outbursts. Keep
your cool and continue about your day, not letting them see
the frustration you feel. And always, always, follow through
with the outcome that you have described to them. Be
consistent. Most importantly, when they make the right
decision, be sure to give them a dose of intensity (in the form
of acknowledgment and praise) and let them know how proud
of them you are.
5. Speak in the positive rather than the negative.
Because children tend to tune-out negative messages, we as
parents want to focus on the "does" instead of the "don'ts."
Examples of changing don't into do:
Negative: "Don't leave the milk out."
Positive: "Put the milk back in the refrigerator."
Negative: "Don't park your bike there."
Positive: "Your bike belongs in the garage."
Negative: "Don’t yell at me."
Positive: "I’ll listen when you speak softer."
6. Problem-solve rather than vent your anger.
Children get a payoff in the form of your intensity and energy
whenever you react in anger. Thus, their misbehavior is
reinforced, and they will push you the same way again and
again and again.
Examples of problem-solving rather than venting:
Your son spills the juice he is carrying-
Vent: "How many times do I have to tell you to watch where
Solution-oriented: "Here's a sponge. Wipe it up and try
Your seventh-grader slams the door and yells "you're not fair"
after you break up a sibling argument-
Vent: "Don't tell me what's fair! You're getting a smart
Solution-oriented: "It's not easy to settle arguments. When
you're ready to talk it over, come out and we'll see if we can
solve this problem together."
Your 17-year-old daughter racks-up a huge cell phone bill-
Vent: "That's it young lady. I'm tired of paying these
outrageous bills. Give me that cell phone!"
Solution-oriented: "You will have to do a few extra chores to
help pay this bill. I'm going to get you a pre-paid cell phone
with a limit of 90 minutes per month. If you choose to go
over that limit before the month is over, you choose to go
7. Discipline rather than punish.
Discipline is a means of helping the child learn acceptable ways
to deal with personal feelings and desires. Punishment, on the
other hand, is a reaction to misbehavior that is usually hurtful
and may even be unrelated to the misbehavior.
Punishment is ineffective because it does not teach appropriate
behavior. Though it may prevent a repeat of the behavior in the
short-term, it does not teach the child "what to do instead," so
it rarely works in the long-term.
Punishment may release the parent's angry feelings and make
the parent feel better, but it can create fear or humiliation in
the child, and rarely leads to the creation of a respectful
Children are punished when…
· their behavior is controlled through fear
· their feelings are not respected
· they behave to avoid a penalty
· they behave to get a bribe
· the parent only tells the child what NOT to do
Children who are punished...
· feel humiliated
· try to hide their mistakes and misbehavior
· tend to become angry, aggressive and resentful
· fail to develop “self-control”
· blame others
Research supports the conclusion that discipline works better
than punishment. Children who are punished become very
different people than children who are disciplined.