Learning to be Assertive Starts on the Playground

My daughter, Charlotte ran to the tire swing but another girl got there first. So Charlotte silently backed up to wait. A few other girls showed up and started taking turns with the first swinger. Charlotte backed up further.

As grown-ups can attest, it's scary to speak up for yourself.
Can't we identify with Charlotte's feelings of insecurity as she wished the other girls would notice her and offer her a turn? The last thing she wanted to do was to speak up for herself.

People often stay quiet and get mad instead of being assertive. 
I watched an adult get overlooked at a fast food restaurant the other day. He didn't say a word to the (well meaning and busy) restaurant employees. He stood silent until he was so mad he shouted his complaints over the counter. 

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A New Goal in Power Struggles

My 5 year old threw her backpack and demanded I carry it home from school. She stared right at me, defiant. Heat rose up to my face. 

In the past, I used power struggles to teach kids respect and responsibility.
I would have locked eyes with her, insisted she follow directions and laid out the consequences if she didn't. I would have wanted to teach her to be respectful of me and responsible for her belongings. 

But my underlying goal would have been to get her to comply for fear that she may take advantage of me in the future and grow up spoiled. 

She would have complied.

After really examining my own feelings during power struggles I set a new goal.  
During such a power struggle I feel mad and righteous with a hardened heart. Those feelings are red flags to me that something's amiss. I thought through my motivation for using power struggles to teach respect and responsibility. "I'm afraid that she may take advantage of me in the future and grow up spoiled." I heard my fear. 

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How to Decide What to Do With the Kids Today

Have you ever known (or been) a new mom who frets over what her baby eats? When I was that new mom and my little one ate only strawberry yogurt some days, I got a great piece of advice: Stop trying to balance each meal, balance the week instead. Over the course of a week she should get a wide variety of healthy foods. Sigh of relief. I love this idea so much, I apply it to kids' activities too. 

Provide opportunities for a wide range of activities each week.
Some (nanny) kids are scheduled in tight. My families have always opted for a Simplicity Parenting approach. Lots of unstructured playtime. But I want to be sure that while we play the kids develop a wide range of skills.  

Run through a mental checklist. Have we read? Run outside? Made art? 
When setting out invitations to play for my preschool age kids, I run through a mental checklist of what we've done so far during the week and what's missing. Like this one:

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It's Okay to Micromanage the Kids (In this One Area)

My last post was about how it's okay to ignore kids because they need free time to play without input from adults. That's true. But after really thinking it over, I believe there's one area where it's okay to micromanage. 

Kids interactions with each other need our close attention. 
How they talk to other kids. Do they call names? "You meany." Use threats? "I'm not going to be your friend anymore." Do they speak up for themselves respectfully and ask for a turn on the playground. Make eye contact? Say so when they're scared

While kids interact, they learn how to be kind. Or not. 
It's emotional intelligence and social skills kids develop when we stay close and coach them to be kind. And those are skills I want kids to get lots of practice with. 

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It's Okay to Ignore the Kids (A Little)

My grandma often took care of my brother and me when I was little. Most days she'd set us up with crayons or wooden blocks before going to iron or peel veggies. 

Grandma didn't hover over us but she was available when we needed her. 
These days there's pressure to engage children every moment. The other day I got a call while my (nanny) kids were climbing and sliding at the playground. I felt embarrassed to take it, worried that I might be judged for paying more attention to my phone than them.

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Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask Before Helping Others (Prize Inside)

We nannies don't have to teach kids how to read, write or multiply fractions. Instead, we teach them to: 

Make friends 
Use their manners
Take the right risks
Become independent
Fix problems with words
Bounce back from failures
Stay calm when they're mad
Be creative, courageous and kind 
Persevere in the face of a challenge
Follow directions but think for themselves, and 
Everything else they need to know to become awesome adults

No problem, we got this. On one condition.

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This is As Good As It Gets, Kids

The little kids and I had just popped into the shop on the corner for organic doughnuts and I was sipping a latte. We were headed to the park where the big kids' field day was underway. It was the last day of school. A spring in my step, baby on my back, sunshine on my face, songs streaming out, summer starts tomorrow kind of day. "It doesn't get better than this kids! Right now, this is the best." 

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Love Bank

Dr. John Gottman, marriage and parenting expert talks about a concept called an emotional bank account. I'm just going to say, love bank. 

It's the idea that at the center of any relationship there's a piggy bank. We make deposits into it through positive interactions that build connection and withdrawals during negative interactions that strain the two people's connection. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor with married couples. But I often think of it during daily interactions with kids. 

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Let Kids Save Face

Some kids hear their names a lot. I recall a little guy in a childcare center who heard his name all day. "Sam, come down from there! Sam, walk please. Sam, stop it!" Sam had a hard time following the rules. His behavior and his attitude chipped away at the patience of us childcare providers. He needed lots of reminders. We started resenting that - resenting him. 

I think now about how he must have felt hearing his name shouted across the room.

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One Small Change to Help Kids Build Emotional Intelligence

Do you hear kids saying, "my turn" when they want something someone else has? I hear it said in a friendly way, often even without grabbing for the object. Pretty quickly the object is handed over to the kid who called, "my turn." Awesome. I love it when kids use words their words and work things out themselves. 

But something about the phrase has been bugging me lately.

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