My mother is a very sweet old lady. All my life I've tried to avoid upsetting her because she has been through so much. I only learnt how to say 'No' at a recent family reunion. So it's not surprising that I found it hard to say 'No' to everyone else.
As you have seen earlier, children learn how to show empathy and deal with conflict by communicating, caring and facing challenging issues within their family. This may happen when the family congregates around the dinner table and shares the ups and downs of the day or when family members share an activity together, e.g. washing dishes or cooking.
In many families the parenting patterns are based on outdated cultural traditions, their own parents' example, or are controlled by current factors such as the hectic pace of modern life, work obligations, social isolation, exhaustion, electronic gadgets, personality difficulties or marital issues. Sadly, the modern busy family schedule leaves little room for connecting and communicating (see Chapter 3).
Some parents provide a protected environment, so their children grow up oblivious to the jungle outside. Some parents manipulate, denigrate and bully. They use passive and aggressive behaviours, inconsistent boundaries and inappropriate ways to confront difficult situations.
When a child lacks or loses the opportunity to argue, negotiate or say 'No' to either parent, he can't confront a bully. Besides, if family members can't respect one another, you can't expect school peers to do so. Children learn from their families how to be targets, bullies or both. Regardless of the reasons, renovate your role modelling for your child and provide him with the confidence to cope, confront and continue.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Check the comfort level of banter/teasing at home. If it causes distress, reduce the denigration and replace it with respect.
• Encourage your children to assist their siblings or others to block bullying at school.
• Provide a stable environment and don't split role models. A child can't become assertive when one parent is supportive while the other parent prohibits confrontation or can't cope with distressing information.
• Don't allow the goalposts to keep moving. Maintain firm behaviour boundaries for your children.
• Give consistent rewards for positive behaviours and consequences for disrespectful behaviours.
• Treat your child age-appropriately with regards to his responsibilities, privileges and restrictions, e.g. chores, social activities and travelling alone.
• Monitor your child's activities carefully, including his room, hobbies and schoolwork, and make sure that he doesn't misbehave and befriend children who do dodgy, dangerous deeds.
• Become empathic, resilient, friendly and respect others' rights in order to maintain positive role modelling.
• Respect and reinforce the school's actions when they are constructive.
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