This week in coaching, I’ve been working with children who feel powerless to others. They don’t have the confidence to ask for what they need. This could be a teacher in the classroom who doesn’t listen to them or appears to be constantly correcting them or a friend in the playground with bossy tendencies. In either situation, your child feels powerless or not in control. You child lacks boundaries and it’s likely that you do too – children learn what they live.
Imagine being in a environment every day where you didn’t feel respected, seen, heard or appreciated? I’m sure you can. Maybe your boss at work chooses your colleagues ideas over yours or maybe you feel as if your friend takes charge and makes plans without consulting you first? Over time you would surely become very angry and resentful or withdrawn and hopeless.
Maybe even your child is pushing those buttons in you?
I know many Mums tell me that their children don’t listen or are defiant and they certainly don’t feel appreciated as they run themselves ragged every day without so much as a thank you. Although I like to think that the rewards that your family bring out weigh these resentful feelings most of the time. You child didn’t create those buttons and you can find out where they were created in this blog post.
Have you got the confidence to assert yourself?
When you feel under attack or overlooked, do you become:-
passive – or – aggressive or are you able to stand up for yourself and ask for what you need?
In the coaching room, we have been looking at our different voices and in what situations they arise. When we can identify our triggers, we can work out how to handle them and then put these ideas or words into practise. The most common scenarios if you are interested are:
- Not being able to play their game
- Feeling overlooked by a teacher
- Saying no to a clingy / possessive friend
- Getting angry when people don’t share / take it in turns
- Over explaining or sharing to justify their position
Have a look at each type of voice and see which one you and which one your child uses most.
Quiet Voice: Passive, fearful, stuffs down feelings, is afraid of upsetting others, tells tales, can be manipulative, quietly complains that things aren’t going their way but doesn’t do anything about them. Feels powerless.
Loud Voice: Aggressive, hurts people, shouts, name calls, shames, blames, pushes people away, angry. Has too much power and does not use it appropriately.
Powerful Voice: Tells the truth, owns their feelings (is accountable), makes requests clearly and calmly and sets boundaries to protect ourselves when appropriate.
The 3 Steps to a Powerful Voice
- Name it by saying what you see. ‘Hey! You took my ball when I was playing with it and kicked it all the way over there!’ or ‘I don’t like it when you take charge and tell me what to do!’
- Say How it Makes You Feel ‘I’m getting angry!’ or ‘I feel like you are not listening to me.’
- Say What you Want to Happen ‘I’d like you to go and get it back now.’ or ‘Can you give me a turn and play fairly?’
There is a 4th stage if the person doesn’t respect your request…..
4. If you can’t play fairly or nicely, I won’t play with you today (set a boundary and stick to it)
Children feel unsafe when they have too much power
It can take courage to use our powerful voice when we feel small or feel under attack. If we had parents who didn’t respect our boundaries or were very authoritarian in their parenting style, it is likely that asserting ourselves will be scary as we fear not getting our needs met. Are you that parent now to your child without realising it? Or have you swung too far the other way avoiding challenging conversations and situations so as to not make your child feel small?
Step into your power!
Here are my top tips for creating a safe space to nurture your child’s powerful voice:-
1. Allow your children who they need to be in the moment – resist fixing, controlling, pacifying or rescuing.
2. Adopt an attitude that says ‘I believe in you’. One that shows very clearly that you have the faith in them to figure it out for themselves. This is a very different energy to one which dismissses your child’s wishes and wants them to do as they are told.
3. Nurture trust by staying calm when they are brave enough to tell you how they feel. No ‘OMG you did whhhaaaaat now?!’ You can say it inside your head 😉 or speak to a friend / your partner to offload your fears.
4. Make eye contact with your child when you speak and hold eye contact to watch how their body talks. Children give a lot away about their fears, worries and big scary feelings with their body language.
5. Listen.….really listen with your whole being and be present for them.
6. Put yourself in their shoes and show them you understand where they are (even if you don’t necessarily agree).
7. Validate their feelings by giving them a name and reflecting their feelings back to them. ‘You are angry because you really want sweets before tea. I understand. It’s not what you want to hear.’
8. Adopt a no blame household – children who think they are going to get into trouble are more likely to be avoidant or tell fibs. When children feel like you are on their side, they won’t feel uncomfortable expressing their true feelings.
9. Try alternative discipline strategies to time outs and consequences. Have you read my free eBook on connecting through love languages? Or may you want to download my mini training course ’30 Days to Rediscover the Magic of Parenting in a Busy World.’
10. Find ways to give your child a voice when it comes to problem solving. In order to get to problem solving they need to be able to express their emotions first in a safe and non-judgemental space. You can learn more about emotions in my online learning den.
Can you see yourself in there too? Who and what triggers your loud or quiet voice?
Here are some examples that I see regularly in my work:
The Doormat: Doesn’t want to be judged in public and knows that what she has to say will cause a meltdown with her child. Adopts a quiet voice and stuffs down her requests to ‘keep the peace’ and save embarrassment.
The Shouty Shamer: This parent has sadly become a bully (not always consciously but wants to maintain control at all costs. Uses her loud voice in public to make her child feel small because she doesn’t know any better. More than likely her parents did the same to her and she carries shame. She inadvertently hands the hot potato of shame over to her children.
The Flipper: Keeps allowing unacceptable behaviour and adopting a quiet voice until she has run out of steam / had a bad day / can’t take any more and then flips into loud scary voice without any warning.
The Complainer: Constantly tells you about how her husband / her children aren’t helping her, but won’t ask for help or support because she doesn’t want to upset anybody and finds it hard to ask for what she wants.
The Sue Barker: Feels unheard and turns the volume up with every request. She barks at her children and they shout too. They also zone out when she has something to say because they know she’s just going to shout anyway. She has lost her power and keeps shouting because nobody listens; it’s a vicious circle.
Quiet Voices are Prime Targets for Bullies
This is why bullies (loud voice) seek out quiet voice people because they know that they can behave and say what they like without consequences. It shows a complete lack of respect on their part and if somebody doesn’t tell them it’s not OK, they will not stop. This is why we need to give our child a powerful voice to protect them. We don’t want them to keep the peace and not be a trouble maker. We want them to calmly and firmly say how they feel and stand up for themselves. And guess what? They will still be ‘nice’ children 🙂
In the case of our children when they are being loud, it’s because they are not being heard or they have too much power and feel unsafe. Setting boundaries with empathy and role modelling assertiveness is essential for healthy relationships and effective communication. It is also essential for self respect and self care. Sometimes we just need to say ‘no!’.