When Your Child Allows Others to Be Mean to Them

 

What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

You love that your child is sweet and thoughtful of other people’s feelings.

But when you see your child allowing other people to take advantage of them —

letting others go in front of them in line or 

letting others take something that you know your child really wants

— it breaks your heart. You encourage them to stand up for themselves, they never seem to listen. 

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Some children feel more comfortable when things are calm. They don’t want parents or siblings or friends to be unhappy, or angry, or loud.

So even though these children might want something for themselves, they ignore what they want in order to keep the peace.

And when ignoring their own needs DOES indeed lead to more calm, they learn to continue to suppress their own feelings.

Even though their parents or other adults may remind them that their feelings matter too, they still don’t know how to handle the discomfort that arises when they do “stand up for themselves.”

 

How It Usually Goes

When A Child Allows Others to Be Mean to Them

 

Scenario:

Anya and her brother Martin are playing a game. Anya is winning and Martin is getting frustrated. When it’s Anya’s turn, Martin makes up a rule that Anya prevents Anya from moving forward so that he can be in the lead.

Both Anya and Martin know that the rule is not real, but Anya listens to him anyway. She is clearly sacrificing herself for Martin. Their mom hears and steps in.

 

Mom: Anya, that rule wasn’t real! Why are you letting him DO that?

Martin: Yes it was!

Anya: Mom, it’s fine.

Martin: See, it’s fine.

Mom: Anya, why do you let him do that?

Anya (noticing that Martin and her mom are getting more upset and feeling really uncomfortable): Mom, I liked being where I was.

Mom: Martin, do NOT do that to your sister!

Martin: Mom, I’m not doing anything!

Anya: Mom, please just stop. I’m fine. I want to just keep playing.

Mom: Anya, you’ll never get anywhere in life if you don’t stick up for yourself.

 

A More Effective Way to Respond When

When A Child Allows Others to Be Mean to Them

 

Scenario:

Anya and her brother Martin are playing a game. Anya is winning and Martin is getting frustrated. When it’s Anya’s turn, Martin makes up a rule that Anya prevents Anya from moving forward so that he can be in the lead.

Both Anya and Martin know that the rule is not real, but Anya listens to him anyway. She is clearly sacrificing herself for Martin. Their mom hears and steps in.

 

Mom: Anya, that rule wasn’t real!

Martin: Yes it was!

Anya: Mom, it’s fine.

Mom (lowers her voice and speaks more slowly). OK. Martin, may I please have a few minutes with your sister?

 

CALM

Anya’s mom was (naturally) upset by Anya allowing her brother to take advantage of her. But she noticed her Yuck and calmed herself down so she could focus on what Anya needed rather than her own “stories” and fears. 

 

Martin (grumpy): Fine.

Anya: Mom, I don’t care about winning that game.

Mom: I know sweetie. You’re very thoughtful of other people’s feelings.

Anya (stays quiet).

Mom: Does it bother you when Martin is upset?

Anya (stays quiet).

Mom: Sometimes he gets really angry, right?

Anya (nods). 

Mom: Are you afraid of what will happen if you tell him he’s not playing the right way?

Anya (nods). 

Mom: So you’d rather just keep the peace?

Anya: Yes. I don’t like when he yells.

Mom: That is fair, sweetie. And I’m working with him on that. 

 

CONNECT

Anya’s mom considers the situation from Anya’s perspective. She asks herself, “Why might Anya be giving in to her brother?” Then she lets Anya know she understands her perspective so that she can help Anya out of her Yuck.

If she hadn’t connected with her, Anya would have remained in Yuck and would not have been open to any problem solving. 

 

Mom: Can I work on something with you?

Anya: What?

Mom: I want to teach you how do what you need to do for yourself even if that makes someone else upset.

Anya: I don’t know how to do that.

Mom: Well let’s say you do upset Martin. What do you need in that moment, when Martin is upset?

Anya: I need it to be quieter.

Mom: So where can you go where it’s quieter?

Anya: My room?

Mom: Could you try going into your room if Martin gets upset?

Anya: I guess.

Mom: Would that be hard?

Anya: Yeah. It’s easier for me to just give in.

Mom: I agree, it is easier. Can we try this though? Can we do an experiment so you see what it’s like to stand up for yourself and then go somewhere quiet?

Anya: I’ll try.

Mom: I’ll tell you what. If doing that is hard, let’s talk about it, OK?

Anya: OK.

CORRECT

Because she had reduced Anya’s Yuck, Anya’s mom could offer discuss tools based on what she knew was causing Anya’s behavior. 

 

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Anya’s mom used Calm, Connect, Correct, the “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If your child allows others to be mean to them and you want to help them do something different remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Anya’s mom will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if she focuses on her fear that Anya will always let people walk all over her) or

b.) she has the expectation that Anya should be confident enough to stand up to people who intimidate her

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Anya’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Anya’s mom will be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, that Anya is overwhelmed by having to stand up for herself and needs tools to be able to do so)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Anya’s mom will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she will listen to and support Anya without letting her stay stuck

b.) She has made enough deposits into Anya’s emotional needs that suggesting she do something different doesn’t make Anya feel overwhelmed

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Anya’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct Anya’s behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.