What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

You want your child to be considerate of other people’s feelings. But when your child is regularly putting other people’s needs ahead of their own, you worry.

When someone takes something from your child and they don’t speak up for themselves

…Or when they give in to their friends whenever there is an disagreement

You’re concerned about their happiness and the fact that they are so clearly prioritizing themselves last. You wonder if they will ever respect themselves, and what it means if they don’t. 

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Children often learn their place in the world by what is going on around them

When they are treated as if their perspective doesn’t matter

… when a more “high maintenance child” gets more attention

… when they always hear that they need to “be nice to others” (even if it’s at their own expense)…

They start to believe that others’ needs matter more than theirs.

Often they are so used to putting themselves second that they don’t stand up for themselves. And even when they do try to say what they want, they are so uncomfortable that they don’t push too hard. It’s easier to just give in.

 

How It Usually Goes

When Your Child Puts Their Needs Last

 

Scenario:

Jeff really likes his neighbor Calvin, even though Calvin sometimes takes advantage of Jeff. One day Calvin comes over and asks Jeff if he can borrow his favorite video game. Even though he is right in the middle of playing with it, Jeff gives it to Calvin anyway. Jeff’s dad notices. 

 

Dad: Jeff, why did you give Calvin that video game?

Jeff: Because he asked for it.

Dad: But weren’t you playing with it?

Jeff: Yeah.

Dad: So why didn’t you tell him that?

Jeff: I don’t mind him taking it.

Dad: You could have at least told him that you were playing. 

Jeff: Dad, it’s not a big deal.

Dad: It is! Why should he matter more than you do?

Jeff: I don’t want to tell him no. 

Dad: Why  not? You need to learn to stand up for yourself.

Jeff: It’s OK, Dad.

Dad: It’s not, Jeff. You can’t let people walk all over you.

Jeff: I DON’T! Please just leave me ALONE!

 

A More Effective Way to Respond

When Your Child Puts Their Needs Last

 

Scenario:

Jeff really likes his neighbor Calvin, even though Calvin sometimes takes advantage of Jeff. One day Calvin comes over and asks Jeff if he can borrow his favorite video game. Even though he is right in the middle of playing with it, Jeff gives it to Calvin anyway. Jeff’s dad notices. 

 

Dad: Jeff, why did you give Calvin that video game?

Jeff: Because he asked for it.

Dad: But weren’t you playing with it?

Jeff: Yeah.

Dad: Were you done?

Jeff: No.

Dad (trying to see Jeff’s perspective): OK. (He pauses). Can I ask you something, Jeff?

 

CALM

 

Jeff’s dad is frustrated by Jeff’s behavior. But he knows that neither yelling at Jeff nor lecturing him will build Jeff’s confidence. If anything, it will only make him feel worse about himself.

Jeff’s dad reminds himself that he can handle the situation focuses on something in his control — treating Jeff with respect. 

 

Jeff: Sure.

Dad: What’s it like for you to stand up for yourself to Calvin? 

Jeff: I don’t like it.

Dad: How come?

CONNECT

Instead of immediately focusing on making this a “teachable moment,” Jeff dad asks Jeff what this situation is like for HIM.
In that way, he is offering evidence that Jeff’s perspective matters, which is exactly what Jeff needs to learn in order to feel better about himself.  

 

Jeff: I feel like Calvin might get mad at me. And everyone in the neighborhood listens to Calvin, so then no one would play with me.

Dad: Wow. It seems like he has a lot of power.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dad: Do it bother you to give Calvin that game?

Jeff: I wouldn’t have minded so much if I could have finished it before I gave it to him.

Dad: Can you think of any way to tell him that?

Jeff: No.

Dad: Would it be OK if I gave you a suggestion? 

Jeff: OK.

Dad: What if you said to Calvin, “Calvin, this game is awesome! Let me bring it over when I’m done!”

Jeff: I don’t think he’d want to wait.

Dad: Well I haven’t been your age in a while. I’m not sure what would work with Calvin. But I do know that I believe you when you say that you telling him wouldn’t work. 

Jeff: Yeah.

Dad (is silent).

Jeff: Maybe I could have asked him to play with me for a few minutes until I finished.

Dad: You think that would have worked?

Jeff: I’m not sure. But I would have gotten to finish my game, and I don’t think Calvin would have been mad.

Dad: Makes sense, Jeff.

Jeff: Yeah.

 

CORRECT

To improve Jeff’s self-esteem, Jeff’s dad had to show that he trusted Jeff. Even when he gave Jeff a suggestion, Jeff’s dad asked Jeff for permission to give some advice. In that way, he demonstrated through his actions that he believes in him. 

 

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Jeff’s dad 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 is puts others’ needs ahead of their own and you want to build their confidence, consider:

 

Depositing into CALM

Jeff’s dad will not be able to stay calm if

a.) his own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if he believes that Jeff is giving up his power)

b.) she has the expectation that Jeff should naturally stand up for himself at all times

When he makes sure his own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Jeff’s dad 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

Jeff’s dad will be able to connect if

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

b.) he understands those reasons (in this case, that Jeff needs to be treated with respect if he is going to act as if he is worthy of respect)

When he becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, he 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

Jeff’s dad will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) He has demonstrated consistently in the past that he can listen to Jeff while also expecting him to solve issues that he faces

b.) He has made enough deposits into Jeff’s emotional needs that suggesting Jeff stand up for himself doesn’t make Jeff want to stay stuck in his own perspective

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