Currently browsing parenting posts

How to Raise a Confident, Assertive Child

Let’s face it. It’s a tougher time to be growing up, and the data confirms it. Bullying is fiercer. Peer pressure is tougher. Kids are also more aggressive at younger ages. Girls are meaner. Of course we can’t always be there to pick up the pieces or help our kids stand up for themselves, nor should we. After all, the more our children see us as their rescuers, the more they learn to rely on us to solve their problems.

The secret is help our kids learn how to be more assertive and speak up for themselves. Here are seven ways to help your child learn to be respectfully assertive especially in those more difficult situations when they need to hold their own!

1. Model assertiveness

Be the model you want your child to copy. Don’t be meek. Stand up for your views even if they may not be unpopular. Let your kids know that even though you might feel uncomfortable, you always feel it’s best to stand up for your rights or the rights of others. Your child is watching your behavior and will copy. So ask yourself if you are an example of assertiveness you want your child to copy? For instance, do you speak up to your girlfriend who is pushing you to do something you may not want to do? Or what about holding your own to that relative who wants you to allow your young kids to watch that PG movie you feel is inappropriate?

2. Be a democratic household

Hold debates. Use family meetings. Listen to each child (it doesn’t mean you agree with them). When kids know their opinions count they are more likely to speak out and feel comfortable doing it.

3. Acknowledge your child’s assertiveness

Let your child know you value people who speak their mind. Reinforce your child’s assertiveness. “I like how you spoke up!” Encourage those confident, assertive behaviors in your child. Let her know you honor her opinions.

4. Find less domineering friends

If your child is a bit more timid and always hangs around a bossy playmate, provide him the opportunity to find a less domineering pal so he will be more likely to speak up and gain confidence.

Watch out for domineering siblings as well. Make sure your child has the opportunity to practice his voice and not be squelched by a brother or sister (or even other parent).

5. Provide early leadership opportunities

Research from the Girl Scouts of America says kids say their confidence in speaking up and leading others dwindles by the fifth grade. Kids also tell us they gain that confidence is by entering into activities, clubs, team building, etc. and the earlier the better.

So provide opportunities for your child to be a member of a team, take charge of a project or lead others. You might enroll your child in public speaking or theatre to build confidence in speaking in front of others!

Find a platform that fits your child’s passions, talents, and comfort level!

6. Teach your child C.A.L.M. assertion

Here’s a skill that I’ve shared with hundreds of kids around the world-and I do mean that literally. I’ve taught C.A.L.M. to kids in Taipei, Colombia, Finland, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada as well as hundreds of schools from coast to coast in the US. It is a strategy that boosts assertiveness, but also helps the child learn to defend himself to others and hold his own. It’s the basic skill to stop teasing, negative peer pressure as well as bullying and victimization.

The photo image on the right is high school students who are teaching the skill to elementary students in a near by school as part of their service learning project. The “cross age tutoring” model is also a fabulous way for children to learn a new new skill.

There are four steps to learning the skill. Each part is essential. You may need to help your child practice each of the four steps separately until he or she can comfortably use all four parts on his or her own.

4 Steps to Being Assertive and Staying C.A.L.M.

– Stay  Cool

If you get upset, ticked off, cry, pout you don’t appear as confident.

A – Assert

Teach your child a few comeback lines to say in different situations. “No!” “Not cool.” “Because I said so!” “I don’t want to.”

L – Look Eye to Eye

The best way to appear more confident is by using eye contact. If your child is timid or eye contact is difficult, suggest he look between the persons’ eyes on the spot in the middle of their forehead. I’ve also taught children on the autism spectrum to look behind (or through the person). The trick is to “appear” confident.

M – Mean It!

Teach your child the difference between how a wimpy and a strong voice sound. Then encourage your child to assert himself using a strong and firm tone–but not yelling tone–to get his point across.

7. Role-play “assertive posture and voice tone”

Kids learn best from seeing and practicing skills. So help your child rehearse assertive phrases like: “Stop it!” “No, not this time, thanks!,” “Hey, cut it out!”

Practice using the skill so your child has a firm-sounding tone and until your child has the confidence to hold his own without you. And when he does, congratulate yourself. You will have taught your child a critical skill that he will need to use in every arena of his life but now and forever.


UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at

Can Wealth Be as Big a Parenting Risk-Factor as Poverty?

Many of us are now aware of the damaging long-term effects of growing up in poverty. The stress experienced by adults and kids who struggle to meet their basic needs can put kids at risk for lower academic achievement, health problems and emotional difficulties.

On the other side of the economic spectrum, however, we are finding that kids who grow up in an environment of affluence may also be at risk for negative outcomes. This may seem hard to believe—kids growing up in a prosperous home would seem to have all the advantages. A recent in-depth study into this issue helps us understand that affluence may go hand-in-hand with some parenting practices that may not promote the ideal development for adolescents.

Problematic Parenting

In both situations of poverty and affluence the issue of resources themselves are often not the sole contributor to developmental problems in children. Both poverty and affluence create situations in which parents’ behavior may be altered to the point that they are unable to adequately support their children. In the situation of poverty, the stress of lack of resources often makes it difficult for parents to be as patient, attentive and supportive as they might otherwise be.

In the case of affluence, parents’ behavior is also altered such that they might not be as emotional available or have enough time to spend with kids. The recent study points out two particular issues that seem to be the source of problems for kids.

  • High expectations with conditional love: having high expectations for kids’ behavior, academic performance or sports is not a problem, per se. When high expectations are combined with lack of emotional support and conditional love, they do become problematic.
    • Example: if a child is only valued or loved for what they can accomplish in the classroom or on the sports field, this actually undermines their development. Among affluent families, research finds that 25% of boys and 15% of girls describe themselves as “underachievers.” The obvious implications for children’s emotional development under these circumstances are worrisome.
  • Isolation from parents: both emotional and physical isolation are more common problems among affluent families. Due to kids’ expansive extracurricular activities, families may have little time together. This, coupled with increased physical distance due to larger houses, may create a situation in which adolescents feel increasingly distant from their parents.

The statistics we see among affluent families illustrate the effects of this isolation and conditional love scenarios among teens. Affluent teens have higher rates of clinical depression (25% higher) and substance abuse (15-35% higher) compared to non-affluent groups. Teen girls, in particular, are at risk for depression—20% of affluent teen girls have clinical levels of depression.

In both conditions of poverty and affluence, the types of parental factors that can mitigate the effects of each situation are similar. If parents can remain warm, emotionally responsive, supportive and provide some structure (without becoming a helicopter parent), then kids in both situations are much more likely to have positive futures.

#MeToo in the Special Needs Community

The #metoo movement has brought the issue of sexual harassment and abuse out of the darkness. Many people are finally finding the courage to speak up and speak out. But what if you can’t speak? Some communication boards are now including pictures that will allow non-verbal children to explain what has happened. Anatomically correct dolls are another way a child can report an event without words.

What if you don’t want to speak up because you depend on the abuser for care? What if you are unaware that what is being done to you, or what you are being made to do, is inappropriate? Individuals with special needs of all ages and all genders are among those being victimized, but are not always included in the crime statistics. While the abuse may happen at the hands of another child, often it is an adult who is taking advantage of someone with a disability such as drivers, aides or anyone who comes into contact with the child, especially in a one-on-one setting.

While we all try to shield children from some of the upsetting realities of the world we need to give them at least enough information to be able to realize what is not okay. They also need to know who to tell if something is making them uncomfortable.

Just as the Harvey Weinstein case has brought out something that was going on for a very long time and was almost considered “business as usual,” individuals with special needs deal with sexual assault and abuse so much it may seem part of the norm especially in institutions and group homes. It is important that we all agree that it should not be overlooked or shrugged off.

As parents or caregivers of someone with special needs we are already vigilant, and we should also be looking out for signs of this sort of mistreatment.


  • The child gets anxious or reacts negatively around a certain person or setting
  • Bruises anywhere in the areas of hips, thighs and buttocks
  • Bleeding anywhere in the underwear area
  • New behaviors that seem inappropriate or new interest in sexual topics
  • Suddenly spending a lot of one-on-one time with someone, such as a coach or an older friend
  • Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease

For more statistics and information, go to

Video: How to Care for Your Child When They Have a Fever

Fever is a common feature of childhood infections. In this video Dr Ranj Singh explains how to help a child with fever recover as quickly as possible. Be sure to also watch the NHS Choices video on spotting the signs of sepsis  so you know what to do if your child isn’t getting better.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

Keep a close eye on temperature:

  • Babies under 28 days: check with an underarm thermometer
  • Older Children: check in the ear.  Do not use forehead strips
  • Fever is >38°C  (*100.4°F) .  It is a normal response to an infection

How to treat it?

  • Lowering temperature will not  shorten the illness or treat the cause of it.  It will simply ease your child’s discomfort.
  • Can manage pain with paracetamol (*acetaminophen) or ibuprofen.  Do NOT use both at same time.  Start with one and if it doesn’t work, try the other.
  • Dosage is on the package.  Only use while your child to treat your child’s distress and don’t exceed the maximum daily dose.
  • Do not over or under-dress them

Avoid dehydration

  • Children with a fever need to drink more to prevent dehydration
  • Signs of dehydration
    • Dry Mouth
    • Decrease in urination (fewer wet nappies / diapers)
    • Fewer or no tears
    • Sunken eyes
    • Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of baby’s head)
  • Encourage drinking – less, more often
  • Breastfeeding moms – make sure to avoid becoming dehydrated yourself
  • If diarrhea or vomiting – drink more frequent, less often, avoiding fruit juice or carbonated beverages
  • Oral rehydration solution (ORS) – can help the body absorb fluids

Antibiotics are not regularly prescribed as most childhood infections are viral, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

Additional simple things you can do

  • Check child for response to your touch during the night. If they don’t respond as they typically would, wake them and check symptoms
  • Keep them home and notify school or nursery of their absence
  • Maintain home hygiene

When to get help

  • Contact your GP (*doctor) or NHS 111 if you have concerns about your child’s condition
  • Contact 999 in the UK (*911 US) in an emergency or if they exhibit any of the signs of Sepsis mentioned in the video

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

NHS Choices logo


4 Things That Will Help Your Child Develop Early Reading Skills

Developing early reading skills in children ages 9-48 months involves enhancing cognitive skills such as sequential processing, simultaneous processing, focused attention, and inhibition.

Speaking with your child face to face, drawing attention to characters and actions on the written page and practicing how oral-motor sounds relate to phonemic representation, are skills we can model and teach through playful interaction. CLICK on the 4 Activities IMAGE below to download a printable version to help you keep these fun, yet meaningful activities front of mind.

Ages 9-18 Months, enhance visual tracking skills by reading picture books with your children for a few minutes daily.  Turn the pages of the books and use your finger to point out characters, movement, and action.  Talk about what the children see on the page.  “The doggie is running.”  “Where is he going?”

Ages 18-24 months, speak with your child face to face.  Children develop phonemic awareness by experiencing the kinesthesis of oral-motor movements.  When you speak with your child face to face and enunciate your words, your child watches how your mouth forms the sounds.  So sit face to face while you speak, playfully encourage your child to make the phonemic sounds with you,

Ages 24-36 months, reading fluency is correlated with rhythmic patterns and sounds.  When children are able to read with meter, the recurring pattern of stresses or accents that provide the pulse or beat of music, they become more fluid readers enhancing foundational skills that underlie comprehension.  As you read books like Dr. Seuss, enjoy the rhyme and rhythm.  “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Ages 36-48 months, sequential processing is a foundational cognitive skill that underlies both cognition and movement. We read, speak, play and even move in a sequential manner.  One step comes before the next.  So enjoy noticing and talking about patterns with your children.  Be it in the car, while cooking in the kitchen or on the playground, explore what you are doing in words and talk about what comes next.  “First we walk up the stairs, then we climb on the slide, then we slide down, Zoom!”


bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at



Is Your Teenager In An Abusive Relationship? You CAN Help!

Violence can happen in teenage relationships, so make sure you know the signs and can help your child.

Abuse in relationships – including those between teenagers – can happen to men and boys, but it’s much more likely to happen to women and girls. It also happens in same-sex relationships.

Different types of abuse

Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, and pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity.

Emotional and verbal abuse involves a person:

  • saying things that make their partner feel small or stupid
  • pressuring their partner to do things they don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • checking up on their partner – for instance, by text – all the time to find out where they are and who they’re with
  • threatening to hurt their partner or someone close to their partner, including pets

Warning signs your teen is being abused

Signs of abuse can include your child:

  • no longer hanging out with their circle of friends
  • not doing as well at school, or skipping school altogether
  • constantly checking their phone
  • being withdrawn and quieter than usual
  • being angry and becoming irritable when asked how they’re doing
  • making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • having unexplained scratches or bruises
  • showing changes in mood or personality
  • using drugs or alcohol

Warning signs your teen’s partner is abusive

It’s a sign of controlling or violent behaviour if your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • gets extremely jealous
  • monitors texts, messages, calls and emails, and gets angry if there isn’t an instant response
  • has trouble controlling his or her emotions, particularly anger
  • stops your child seeing or talking with friends and family as much as they’d like
  • uses force during an argument
  • blames others for his or her problems or feelings
  • is verbally abusive
  • shows threatening behaviour towards others

How to help

  • Talk to your child about what’s OK and what’s not in a relationship. Some teenagers believe violence is “just the way things are”, or is “just messing around”.
    • Make sure they understand that violent or controlling behaviour is not OK, and that nobody should put up with it.
  • Some girls believe that if their boyfriend gets jealous or checks up on them, it means he loves them.
    • Let your teenage girl know that this kind of behaviour is not about love or romance, it’s about control and her boyfriend making her behave in the way he wants.
  • Some boys might believe that controlling their girlfriend’s behaviour makes them more of a man.
    • Make sure your teenage boy knows that using violence does not make someone a man.

Talking tips

Before you start the conversation with your teenager, think through what your concerns are.

Consider talking about it confidentially with someone like your GP (*doctor) or a friend. This will help you understand your own feelings so you won’t be too emotional when you talk to your child.

Try not to talk to your teenager in a confrontational way. Say you’re worried about them and ask if everything’s OK.

Even if they don’t talk to you at this point, they might go away and think about things, and talk to you later.

Show your support

Tell your child they can always come to you, no matter what.

Victims of abuse can feel ashamed and believe (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Make it clear that being abused is never your child’s fault, and you will help them if they come to you.

You can also tell them about helplines, such as ChildLine (0800 11 11)** or the NSPCC (0808 800 5000)** in the UK, which they can call if they don’t feel they can talk to you.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States

NHS Choices logo


Next Page »