A more generous view of others

1 Aug

A protracted sparky conversation with a friend left me feeling exhausted. Besides having a ‘bumper car’ kind of effect, this ‘should have been tete a tete’ prompted me to mull over all the times she behaved unreasonably and upset me with her sharp tongue. For the nth time I decided to stay away from her.

A long walk and some introspection  led me to keep aside my smog stained glasses of labeling and egged me on to focusing on the good in her . Sure she had virtues- energy , patience and kindness. Yet in moments like this when I am all upset I fine tune my attention towards her shortcomings.

Gradually my anger began to diminish as my mind moved away from her imperfections and focused on the goodness in her . It isn’t an easy thing to do but it’s freeing.

So this uniquely flawed me has now begun to look beyond the apparent and turn my heart and mind towards the goodness in the people I interact with everyday.

Have you noticed how easy it is to take our closest relationships for granted. Some of us cannot release our grip on the grudges we bear or the wounds we nurse for years thus leading unhappy and disturbed lives.

If we only take time to bring to mind what we value and appreciate about the other person ; look out for what’s right rather than what’s wrong we would attract happiness into our lives and perhaps bring about more circumstances that allow us to enjoy these positive attributes.

In finding the light in others…. I began to brighten the light within myself.

This new found wisdom connects me to people and the words of William ward then ring true. ‘When we seek to discover the best in others , we somehow bring out the best in ourselves’


‘Soaking Up the Good’ – Getting Rid of our Negativity Bias

24 Feb

Our penchant for focusing on the negative stuff happening in our lives is a hand me down from our cave-dwelling ancestors.

Back then, being alert and focusing on the dangers in the environment helped them survive, but today, favouring the imprinting of negative information in our brains for long periods of time, end up muffling all the positive experiences we’ve had.

Imagine, you’ve spent the day out with your family, watched a film, shopped, and ended the day with a dinner laced with laughter and bickering. Going home, your son reminds you of something he needs for school the next day – and then, you argue, and your spouse joins in and he picks on you and chooses that very moment to highlight your flaws; You get home exhausted and in a bad mood. For days you aren’t able to get over all the negative comments made on that day. You peg that day as a negative experience although only a small part of the day was turbulent. The rest of the positive experiences you had on that day takes a back seat.

This is what psychologists refer to as a ‘negativity bias’ – Our in built tendency to give more attention to the negatives rather than the positives – in ourselves, in others and in our daily experiences.

Which means, the bad stuff stick faster and lingers longer in the brain, than the happy stuff.

That’s why when I am shown pictures of me having a great time with my friends, I am quick to spot all the flaws – my hair not curling the right way or the tip of my nose looking so bulbous or me looking shorter than the rest of my friends and so forth. The good times are pushed to the back and I end up letting my thoughts focus on how unflattering my photographs are.

The very same negativity bias that served our ancestors well, is now a hindrance to our wellbeing and productivity, as all it does now, is keep our brain obsessed with the adverse experiences of life.

That’s why they say that it takes more than three compliments to make up for one criticism!

Who says you need to accept this bias? You can counterbalance this disproportionate focus towards negativity by-

  • Being Mindful of the daily happenings in your life. How do you observe the world around you? Are you one of them who pays more attention to the negative happenings in your life?
  • Making a conscious effort to value and appreciate all the positive things happening in your life. Savor them and allow them to soak into your memory and feel good about them.
  • Recognizing when negative thoughts like juggernauts begin to take over your brain. At that time break the pattern of negativity by doing something that keeps you from feeding these thoughts- go for a walk, listen to music or call a friend.
  • Talking to that inner voice which points out all your shortcomings. Be calm, gently change his perception and point out to him the bigger picture where both positive and negative experiences coexist. Be kind to yourself.
  • Practicing gratitude. Life has innumerable challenges but there is a multitude of blessings beneath the surface, which is taken for granted. Train your mind to look for them and shine your spotlight on them. It is an antidote to focusing on the negatives.

The good news is that our brains innate neuroplasticity make it possible to retrain it to spot the good things in life. We construct our reality. A large part of how we feel depend on where we choose to put our attention.

With conscious awareness and practice we can find many opportunities to weave in the sunny moments of our lives, into the fabric of our brain, thus overriding its natural tilt towards negativity.



Understanding and Raising a Child with a Difficult Temperament.

6 Feb

Right from birth, children display a distinct style of responding to the environment They have their own style of approaching the world — also known as their temperament.

Temperament is not something the child chooses and there are no right or wrong temperaments but understanding these traits is essential so that you learn to respond effectively to his/her unique personality.

As you watch your child interact with his surroundings you will discover his/her preferred style of relating to the happenings around him.

Does he/she have an easy going nature and adapt well to new situations and people, or is he/she overwhelmed by new routines? Does he/she have a cheerful demeanour, or is he/she moody and irritable most of the time? Is he/she extra sensitive to sensory stimulation? Does he/she fret and fume often? Are his/her emotional reactions intense? Does he/she take a while to warm up and adapt to changes in the environment? Is he/she timid or curious?

When parents are not attuned to the needs and ‘wiring’ of the child, then both — the parent and the child experience distress. Since the pattern of interaction between them is mutually reinforcing, exchanges between them will then produce a rise in the already existing difficult behaviour. For the child, that builds resentment and anger, while for the parent, its frustration and helplessness.

Accepting the difficult temperament of a child does not mean that you step back from helping him/her modify his/her behaviour. Instead it means that you use empathetic and caring ways to alleviate the distress they cause to themselves and others.

When there is congruence between the child’s temperament, and the expectations of parents and others in that environment, chances are that the child will do better in cognitive, academic and social adjustments than his counterparts who don’t have the same environmental fit.

To achieve this congruence, you need to reassess all your ideas and beliefs on parenting.

Parenting books and well meaning friends may offer advice on the ‘right’ way to bring up a child, but the only way that works, is to create your own guidelines based on your childs temperament.

The important thing is to be accepting and responsive to his individuality.

Parenting a difficult child can be exhausting. These children are far more sensitive to the quality of parenting than children with an easy demeanour.

No amount of yelling or punishing or giving empty threats or shutting down will help in dealing with the behaviour of a difficult child.

Calm, responsive and sensitive parenting coupled with generous amount of patience and persistence can help guide these children into behaviour patterns that increase their self esteem, self confidence and adaptability.

A few markers going forward in achieving this calm

· Understand and accept how your child usually behaves in most situations. Also be aware of how you respond in those situations. Its the way we talk to our children that becomes their inner voice.

· Consider how your actions impact the outcome of the interaction you have with your child.

· Without criticism, encourage them to take baby steps toward the preferred behaviour while praising them for the effort they have made. For e.g. Tim being shy refuses to come out to greet the guests. His parents unapologetically explain to the guests that Tim needs a little more time to start a conversation. They also reassure Tim saying that there are people do hesitate to meet new people, and tells Tim that when he feels like he could say ‘hello’ to the guests and get back to his room. This makes Tim feel at ease as his parents have understood him. By giving Tim the suggestion to just say a ‘hello’, his parents have allowed him to feel the success of having overcome his shyness in a small way.

· At times you need to tweak the environment so that your child experiences success. This requires you to reflect on the behaviour that is bothersome and rearrange things such that it minimizes the opportunities for challenging behaviour.

· Creating a reward system helps in managing behaviour. Set small, clear achievable goals which when achieved are followed by praise and rewards, e.g. Its great to see that you completed your homework before you set out to play. Being specific in praise will spur them to continue doing more of the same behaviour

· On a regular basis, spend a little time with each child individually, doing an activity that’s enjoyable to him/her. Make this time frequent and predictable, so children anticipate it. This allows a closer bond to be forged between the child and parent which make kids want to co-operate and emulate the qualities of the parent.

· Teach them how to communicate. Sometimes children behave in a certain fashion in order to tell us something or achieve a goal. Look for what it is they are trying to tell us. Help them become aware of their feelings and build an emotional vocabulary so that they do not use negative behaviour to communicate.

· Be Mindful of your triggers. Be aware of what drives you crazy and and have some strategies in your parenting tool box that help you tackle those situations without reacting emotionally.

Change is a process and does not happen immediately. Some behaviours take time to change. It can be frustrating, but harsh confrontational interactions need to be replaced with a balance of encouragement and control so that the child gradually learns to be more adapting, more cheerful, and more calm.

It’s a misconception that parenting is something you automatically know the moment you become a parent. Parenting is a lot of learning. Its okay to ask for help. If you find yourself getting sapped and drained out raising your children, then its time to meet a counsellor to better equip yourself with strategies to ensure that parenting remains a rewarding experience.

Managing Anxiety During the Examination Season

20 Jan

Come February and students begin to shine their spotlight on the forthcoming examinations.

They’ve had an eventful year making memories, having fun and now with the exams not too far away fear and anxiety slowly begin to creep in.

Anxiety before an exam can range from being a little nervous to exhausting feelings of worry and fear which can get all pervasive and negatively impact learning, daily functioning and the quality of life.

It’s not just the students, parents are also saturated with stress and anxiety as the days get closer to the exams.

So, what we have then, is an anxious household; Parents who should be facilitators are themselves worked up, creating a strained atmosphere at home and perpetuating the cycle of stress.

How can we avoid this high-strung atmosphere and make sure that our child performs to the best of his abilities? Let’s first understand –

What causes this anxiety in students?

· Fear of letting down parents or teachers

· High expectations from his /her own performance

· Worried about not getting into a college of his/her choice

· Using grades as a reflection of self-worth

· Lack of preparation or not having understood the subject well

· Pressure of limited time

· Previous poor performance.

These and so many other fears cloud the minds of students and prevent them from thinking logically.

How does this anxiety show up?

Different students manifest different issues in varying intensities as a result of this examination fear; But they can all be classified into 3 categories:

· Physical Symptoms — Headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, pounding heart, feeling light headed, aches and pains

· Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms — Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, anger, Fear of forgetting all that was learnt, sadness, Negative self-talk, feeling of being unprepared even though he/she has revised his course work thoroughly,

· Behavioural Symptoms — Restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, putting off studying until the last minute, spending way too much time online, Sleep too much or too little, Irritability

How can we help them deal with their fears?

Even the best of students can get overwhelmed by examinations. Parents need to watch out for signs of stress and help the child do his/her best without working themselves up into a frenzy.

· Provide a quiet and airy place to study.

· Monitor his/her sleep pattern. At least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep is necessary to consolidate all the matter that is learned the previous day.

· Arrange for nutritious meals and healthy snacks to be available. Small meals at regular intervals are better that large meals which make the child feel lethargic and sleepy.

· Encourage regular breaks between studying,

· Have meals together as a family, during which time no academics is discussed. Neutral topics and light-hearted banter should be the theme of these family meals.

· Have realistic expectations from your child and don’t place unnecessary pressure to get a certain grade; Instead assist them in identifying their strengths and interests thus reinforcing their self-esteem and self-confidence.

· Be mindful of the content of your talk at home. Is it all about marks and admissions? Are you providing providing praise and positive feedback that’s not based only on academic achievement?

· Encourage them to exercise or play every day. Exercise produces endorphins which reduces stress and helps them concentrate better.

· Teach them Deep breathing and visualization techniques that they can use when they are anxious.

· Support them and not police them.

· Be available for your child if he/she needs you to assist him/her in creating a study time table or revising a particular subject.

· Allow them to decide when they want to study. You may think the morning is the best time to study but he /she may prefer studying at night.

· Emphasise on consistent hard work and pull the focus off their results.

· Do not compare them to their siblings or cousins or neighbours’ children. Each child has his or her unique combination of strengths. Comparisons only demotivate them.

· Talk to them. Ask open ended questions about their fears. Listen to them. Do not belittle their fears nor amplify them.

· Remind them that it’s only natural to feel nervous before an exam. The key is to put this nervousness to positive use. Encourage them to tolerate and manage their anxiety in a healthy manner. Think aloud and ask them for suggestions about what they could do when these negative feelings or fears creep in. The goal isn’t to get rid of anxiety completely, but to learn to manage it.

· Do not Post Mortem all the earlier examinations. The past is over. Focus on what lies ahead.

· Scolding, Threatening or bargaining with your child will not get them to be inclined towards studying, instead goad them to think about their goal and how their exams are related to them.

· Don’t speak only about your own glories. Share with them about the times you also felt scared, how you managed your anxieties etc.

· List out his/her small and big triumphs of the past that will help build self-confidence.

· Engage in acts of thoughtfulness like making your child’s favourite meal, giving him/her a bear hug or ruffling his/her hair. Combine a little playfulness along with lots of love to keep the atmosphere calm and supportive.

Parents also need to manage their personal stress. You can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Even the most well-meaning parents can get so worked up and thus increase the child’s anxiety. At such times you need to engage in self soothing activities like going for a walk or any other activity that help you maintain perspective.

Kids need to feel that they are competent learners. So, encourage and support them. When students begin to feel that their self-worth is measured by how they fare in an exam — that’s pressure.

It’s important to remind oneself that academic achievement is only one part of a child’s life. The sensible thing a parent can do to support their child, is to accept the child’s potential and find possibilities within that purview.

Anxiety is something which in the right amounts can be beneficial but if it gets blown out of proportion it can be destructive. Reach out for help if you feel you or your child feel yourself getting too overwhelmed.

As they say — ‘If you see a wave coming, grab a surfboard.’

5 Jan

The first few days of the new year are usually filled with hope, and a childlike enthusiasm at the amazing possibilities the days ahead have to offer.

My mind also travels to the year gone by, the resolutions I made sitting at this very same table, the gung-ho spirit I had when I made them, and how some of them got left behind in my diary while few others made it to the finish post.

On reflection, I have come to recognise that the only force that helps me move out of my comfort zone and act on my vision is, Believing in Myself.

If January is all excitement and optimism, March comes in with its doubts and questions. ‘Are these too ambitious a goal? Will I be able to implement them? Should I even try? or What’s the point, I don’t think I can sustain.’

Self doubt starts getting in my way and the goblins in my head rummage through my mind looking for reasons why I should abandon my project. No matter how achievable or not my goals are its this lack of belief in myself that’s a limiting factor.

Trying to push through these voices of self doubt can be exhausting and sometimes I am so tempted to give in; Afterall, wallowing in self-pity is at times kinda soothing. At the same time the feeling of exhilaration whenever I’ve managed to dodge these persuasive voices and move towards my intentions is so heady, that for most times, its that feeling that gives me the courage to charge past these inner self doubters.

That’s what my new year resolution is all about.

Ideas, Intelligence, Intentions, Visions most of us have aplenty.

But, what we also have a good deal of, is our uncertainties, doubts and fears. Getting around these fears and doubts will be a large part of my agenda this year.

Here I’m sharing with you a few ways I’ve managed to get past my self doubts [Atleast sometimes] Its still ‘work in progress’.

Among the numerous thoughts we have in a day, these unhelpful fears and thoughts can be isolated, as they are nagging, persistent and copious. Fighting them is of no help. Instead I gently address them one by one. After all these monsters are also trying to protect us from any foolhardy endeavours.   Addressing their concerns take the fangs off them and infact it makes me better prepared to achieve my goals.

Challenging my irrational thoughts, and if needed even chiding my noisy brain with words like- ‘Stop it. I’m not listening to you.’ allows me to bravely forge ahead in the direction of my dreams.

Someone once told me that everyone, even very confident people struggle with self doubt. It feels good to know I’m not the only one with these uncomfortable thoughts. Am guessing any change carries with it its share of confusions and fears.  John Steinbeck doubted his quality of writing, Michelangelo didn’t think he was a painter, George Washington feared he would not live up to his people’s expectation, and yet all of them went on to do exemplary work in their field. So methinks we need not shrink or wilt away under self doubt.

Progress on the road towards eliminating my self doubts has never been linear; There have been days where I’ve tucked my tail between my legs and stayed put, and then, there have also been days when I’ve derailed my inner gremlins and forged ahead to ‘Go make that something happen.’

If you, like me are dedicated to creating an amazing year, then go ahead and share your ideas and thoughts on getting past all the internal mulling that keeps us stuck in a loop.

Self doubt is ones personal inferno; But its not invincible. There are slow but sure ways to convince that inner voice that you want to work on those big audacious designs you’ve envisioned for yourself.

Counselling — A powerful method of healing and growth.

19 Dec

s therapy really worth it?

How would the therapist understand, she hasn’t been in my shoes?

I can chat with my friends; do I really need to spend all that money talking to an unknown person?

It seems like the hobby of the rich who have all the money to spend!

Don’t you get dependent on the therapist and need to bounce off every little thing with him/her?

These and more, are some of the questions I am asked, when I tell people that I’m a mental health therapist.

Misconceptions like these prevent people from reaching out for help — timely help, which could have beneficial effects in making people more at peace with themselves and their environment.

When we encounter unpleasant or traumatic experiences, we are usually told to cope with it — ‘Its Life…You need to put it behind you and get on’. But there are many who never really learn to cope with strong emotions, or go through great distress.

That’s when you will benefit from some therapeutic intervention.

No doubt Therapy is no magic wand that that helps you get rid of all your issues; What it really does is — help you navigate through your thoughts and feelings, build helpful behaviour, recognize and challenge the negative thought patterns that recurrently pop up in your brain. Its then by building resilience and opening your mind to new thought channels, that you are able to steer your boat through life’s umpteen challenges.

Of course you could talk to a friend, but its way different. Friendships are a two-way street and it involves sharing mutual struggles. Friends may not be completely objective in their opinion. During the times when you need someone to listen to you completely, where you can talk about anything without having to listen to the other person’s experiences or opinions, its a non judgmental counsellor that fits your needs. Your counsellor, being an expert on mental health issues, would be able give you the tools to manage your life.

Most people think they can sort out their difficulties, and for most times they can; but sometimes they find themselves like in the middle of a swamp — Stuck, and maybe stuck for years. Counselling helps you identify your unhelpful thought patterns, show you the link between your thoughts and your feelings, and assist you in overcoming these unhelpful thought patterns so that you can live the life you want.

Look around you and you can see that ‘Busyness’ is in the air. There are times when there’s so much bottled up inside of you. One gets so caught up in the day to day humdrum of life that you have no time to pay attention to, or process your feelings of pain or guilt or remorse. As much as your family and friends are caring and supportive, there may be certain things you are not comfortable sharing with them. The thoughts that overwhelm us or stress us out need to be addressed. Dedicating time to talk about them and process them in a non judgmental and safe atmosphere is not just cathartic but also frees your mind of confusion and brings in the component of well being into your life.

No doubt people with diagnosed mental health issues benefit from therapy but therapy isn’t only for them. Therapy is beneficial for anyone whose –

· Thoughts and Feelings are overwhelming, so much so that it interferes in their day to day functioning or keeps them high strung all day. Sometimes you aren’t even sure why you feel so stressed. A Counsellor assists you in sifting through your feelings and helps you connect the dots.

· Low moods persist and although life seems alright on the outside but you feel stuck in certain areas of your life. Unpacking your thoughts and beliefs can help identify, and move past your perceived stumbling blocks.

· Trauma, like the loss of a loved one, divorce, job loss can send you reeling. You sometimes simply don’t have the resources to cope with what’s happening in your life. Times like these require you to seek professional help so that you do not get sucked into a spiral of negative thoughts that make you feel helpless or hopeless.

· Unexplained physical ailments like frequent headaches, stomach upsets, aches and pains leave you feeling preoccupied with your health, so much so that you disconnect from activities that gave you pleasure earlier.

Therapy works and the the earlier you get help, the easier it gets to resolve the issue and live a life that you were meant to live.

There are those that believe that therapy is expensive — If one would look at therapy as a way to maximize your wellbeing, much like you would work with a personal trainer to get physically fit, then therapy is a worthwhile investment towards your mental health.

‘Nothing in the world can torment you as much as your own thoughts.’ So money spent on alleviating your distress is definitely money well spent.

There are many reasons why one might choose to go in for therapy and none of them need you to be ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’. Going for therapy requires courage- Courage to lay bare your thoughts and feelings and allow another to help you understand yourself and alleviate your distress.

No doubt its hard work, but the end result is well worth your money and time.

Enduring the Change

27 Nov

Online quizzes are entertaining, and like many others, I too am vulnerable to clicking on these quizzes. They beckon you to take harmless challenges in the confines of your home where only you will know whether you are clueless or clued in on the subject being tested.

The other day I took a quiz on menopause and wasn’t quite surprised when I scored a whopping 98%.  I had to – I am in the thick of it, and paddling furiously through its agonising symptoms that currently dominate my life.

Two new accessories have taken a permanent place in all my handbags – a fresh napkin and a hand fan. Right in the middle of a conversation at work, I sometimes feel a burning sensation sweeping through my body which eventually intensifies, leaving the entire of me in a pool of sweat. People around me watch helplessly as I try hard to look attentive to whatever is happening while internally I’m dealing with ninety seconds of the intolerable heat that’s generated out of my body.

Night time presents its own set of challenges, with hot flashes and night sweats disrupting my sleep. Most of the night goes by in adjusting the temperature of the air conditioner or sipping cool water while the rest of the world sleep oblivious to my discomfort.

The joys of ageing don’t end here. Pounding of the heart, Anxiety and Mood swings – things that I never really related to, except in my teens are back with a bang.

I always thought it would be a happy thing to get rid of the painful five days of bleeding every month but now instead of five days I have thirty days of distress going on inside of me.

Doctors are clueless on how long the menopausal symptoms last. “Each woman’s journey is unique,” they say with that calm smile.  “Menopause doesn’t carry with it a fixed beginning or a fixed end period. It can be your guest and remain with you for as long as it likes”; which means I could go through years of hot flashes, crappy sleep, mood swings and selective weight gain.

I now have a stubborn bulge around my waist. It seems like the weight from my cheeks and everywhere else has concentrated around my waist by some gravitational effect.

My only favourite part of all of this is the savings I make by not buying any makeup anymore. What’s the use? With all the hot flashes, makeup don’t stay on my cheeks for more than 12 minutes. Am I glad that the sans make up look is trending these days!

After meeting numerous doctors and chatting with friends I’ve come up with a few tips I’ve used to help me tide through this midlife torment.

  • Go easy on yourself. Slow down and accept these changes. Make them your ally. You don’t need to be a cranky menopausal woman. Take some time off to explore what works in addressing your symptoms.
  • Sometimes binge watching your favourite show helps when you are in a crummy mood.
  • Make physical exercise a part of your daily routine. Getting off your car/bus at an earlier stop and walking back home or Joining a dance class or climbing a flight of stairs can help even the busiest of us to weave exercise into our day.
  • Avoiding hot drinks, spicy food and sipping a lot of cool water helped me manage my hot flashes in small way.
  • If you have trouble sleeping – take a few catnaps during the day.
  • You are not the only one who needs to understand the symptoms of your menopause. Very many times your family and co-workers may be flummoxed by your moods and forgetfulness. Talk to them about menopause – tell them about how you feel physically and emotionally so they can understand and support you in this new chapter of your life. You don’t need to suffer silently.
  • If you are someone who experiences palpitations or pounding of the heart, then it helps to sit down, relax and slowly take a few deep breaths. Visit a doctor to make certain that your palpitations are only due to menopause.
  • Put yourself at the top of your ‘To-Do’ list. Take care of yourself and your health. Take time out to think of what ‘you want’ as opposed to what ‘you must’. Reflect on what you value the most and live that life.
  • Lean onto the amazing bond we have with our tribe. Meet up with girlfriends to share experiences or to vent or to give advice or learn about ‘going through menopause’. Although a taboo subject, I’ve learnt that it helps to talk about the transition you are going through.

Menopause is a journey every woman needs to take and while one goes through it …it seems eternal.

All the symptoms we feel are not ‘just in our heads’; They are very real.

All the same it need not be all misery. Accepting that it is a natural stage of life has made me view it as a time to make changes in my lifestyle, and look inwards. And although the world at large may never understand my hormones working like gremlins, I know that as long as I hang in there and embrace it for whatever it offers, I’ll be fine.





Why Assertiveness is an Important Skill for Children.

22 Nov

Educators and parents both agree that assertiveness is a vital skill children need to have.

Yet many a time its they themselves who discourage the development of this critical skill because they tend to confuse assertiveness with independence or being defiant or having an attitude.

Assertiveness involves stating your opinion or needs, standing up for yourself or protecting your rights in a way that’s respectful of the rights of the other person.

Like any other learnt skill, assertiveness needs an environment where parents and educators are not only willing to allow it but also recognise its benefits.

Before you begin to teach assertiveness, you need to examine your own attitude towards it.

If you as a parent, believe you know what’s best, prefer obedience, don’t like giving explanations or letting children disagree with you then teaching assertiveness is not an easy task.

Some parents believe that its okay to be assertive with peers but with adults it is seen as disrespectful.

Consider a situation where your child needs to stand up to an authority figure who is goading him/her for an unreasonable demand. Your child needs to protect himself and do so with conviction. A child trained to never question an authority figure, will find it difficult to assertively stand up for himself.

A home where children are encouraged to ask questions and parents are willing to explain and engage in discussion, is one where a child feels safe and confident enough to express her opinion, be it to adults or peers.

Standing up to a bully or not giving in to peer demands or even being able to express his/her opinion when needed, requires your child to stand her ground and communicate clearly and fearlessly in a non hostile fashion.

There are a few ways to teach children how to be assertive.

Model assertive behaviour.

In your interactions with family members or friends let your child watch you being assertive.

Using I messages.

Sometimes you need to explicitly teach your child how to stand up for himself or ask for something he/she needs.

If your child is frustrated that someone is taking advantage of him/her, then you could teach him how to show assertiveness by communicating his/her feelings using ‘I’ messages like …I feel [state the feeling] when you [state the behaviour that’s bothering you]. For eg I feel annoyed when you constantly tease me

Teach him that body language and the way you speak matter. – Making eye contact, keeping your tone calm and audible enough and speaking slowly make ones communication more effective.

Remind him /her to express his feelings constructively.

Encourage children to role play assertive behaviour until their responses becomes second nature.

Create teachable moments when children can re-enact a situation where they have been aggressive or passive, this time using assertive responses.

During this facilitation ask them how they felt while they were being assertive and link assertiveness to feeling good about oneself.

No doubt assertiveness isn’t an easy skill to learn, especially in a society where putdowns are considered funny and aggression is considered macho. All the same this is one skill that help children to interact with peers and adults in an honest and fruitful manner.

As parents and educators let us assist children in learning to use their voice to change a situation, protect themselves, state their opinion or make a request