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Parenting Skills with Conduct Disordered Pre-Adolescents
Parenting Skills with Conduct Disordered Pre-Adolescents

Section 12
Method for Building Assertive Parent-Child Communication

CEU Question 12 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Parenting
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed 3 Misdirected Goals.  These included attention, power, revenge and the Reinforcement Technique.

On this track, we will discuss one method for Building Assertive Parent-Child Communication.  As you listen, think of your client.  How do you respond to him or her?

I felt that Marie, from the last track, might benefit from an awareness of specifically how to build assertive communication with her 3-year-old, Brock.  I stated to Marie, "As you know, Brock probably won’t do what you want all the time.  However, if Brock doesn’t know what you want, then the chances that he’ll do what you want are less likely.  I have found that children often want their parents to be happy, and knowing clearly what a parent wants can increase a child’s motivation for complying.  One way you can help Brock know what you want is through assertive messages.  There are three parts to an assertive message, including reacting to Brock’s behavior, why Brock’s behavior affects you this way and what you want to change."

3 Parts to an Assertive Message

Part 1 - Reacting to Brock’s Behavior
I explained to Marie that the first step in assertive communication is to identify feelings other than anger elicited by Brock’s behavior.  Whether Marie felt scared, embarrassed or frustrated, depending on the situation, I asked her to write those feelings down.  I stated, "Write down brief descriptions of at least two situations where Brock has misbehaved and next to each write a feeling other than anger that you felt at the time."  Marie stated, "I can tell you right now that when Brock puts up resistance during our bedtime routine, I feel helpless and frustrated."

Part 2 - Why Brock’s Behavior Affects You This Way
Second, I asked Marie to try and identify why Brock’s behavior affected her as it did.  I asked Marie to review the three situations she wrote down and the feelings she felt in each instance.  Then, I asked Marie to write a brief explanation of why Brock’s behavior affected her in those ways. 

For example, I asked, "Why do you feel helpless and frustrated when Brock puts up resistance at bedtime?"  Marie stated, "I feel helpless because my reasoning with him doesn’t work.  I feel that I can’t do anything further to make him respect me when I ask him to go to bed.  I feel frustrated because I myself want to get to bed, and I can’t unless I’ve succeeded in putting Brock to bed.  Of course, by the time I’m done with putting Brock to bed, I’m completely exhausted!"

Part 3 - What You Want to Change
I explained to Marie that in addition to reacting to Brock’s behavior and understanding why Brock’s behavior affected her this way, the third step in building an assertive message was to describe what she wanted to change with Brock’s behavior in a particular situation.  I asked her to try to be as clear and specific as possible.  Marie stated, "At another time, when he throws temper tantrums at the grocery store, I feel embarrassed.  I would like him to tell me in words, especially since I know he can, what his feelings are." 

I stated, "How might you ask that of Brock?"  Marie stated, "I would say, ‘When you have a tantrum in the store if I won’t buy you candy, I get embarrassed.  I worry that people will think I haven’t taught my son how to behave well.  And I feel helpless because I can’t talk to you when you’re in that state.  I would like you to tell me in words how disappointed you are.’"

I stated, "When you put together these three components, your feelings, why you have those feelings, and what you want, you can provide Brock with all the information he needs to make a choice about how to behave.  As you know, Brock won’t always necessarily behave the way you want, but at least he’ll have the information to make such a choice." 

Marie asked, "So, the key here is to be specific?" 

I stated, "The effectiveness of communication lies in the fact that you’re not criticizing or attacking Brock.  The ‘you are bad’ message that anger conveys is replaced by a clear statement about your feelings and expectations."

Marie asked, "If Brock’s behavior is repetitive, do I need to go through the motions every single time?"  I stated, "Not at all.  If you’ve given all the information the first time, then a shortened version might suffice on later occasions."

In general, once Marie had clarified to Brock what she wanted and expected, Brock had an implicit choice…to either meet that expectation or not.  On occasions when Brock chose not to obey Marie, it was probably appropriate that Marie gave him some consequences for those choices.  When Brock did obey Marie’s requests, however, he experienced positive consequences, including Marie’s pleasure and appreciation.  As Brock learned that he had the power to make decisions, he also learned to be responsible for the consequences that followed.

Do you have a Marie... who struggles with communicating assertively with his or her child?  Might he or she benefit from hearing this track? 

On this track, we have discussed Building Assertive Parent-Child Communication.  This has included reacting to a child’s behavior, why the child’s behavior affects you this way and what you want to change.

On the next track, we will discuss Respect for Rules.  This will include "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" Mentality, Exceptions and Rationalization.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barkley, R. A., Edwards, G., Laneri, M., Fletcher, K., & Metevia, L. (2001). The efficacy of problem-solving communication training alone, behavior management training alone, and their combination for parent–adolescent conflict in teenagers with ADHD and ODD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(6), 926–941. 

Fulkerson, J. A., Pasch, K. E., Stigler, M. H., Farbakhsh, K., Perry, C. L., & Komro, K. A. (2010). Longitudinal associations between family dinner and adolescent perceptions of parent–child communication among racially diverse urban youth. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 261–270. 

Mammen, M., Köymen, B., & Tomasello, M. (2018). The reasons young children give to peers when explaining their judgments of moral and conventional rules. Developmental Psychology, 54(2), 254–262.

“Parenting time, parenting quality, interparental conflict, and mental health problems of children in high-conflict divorce": Correction to O’Hara et al. (2019) (2020). Journal of Family Psychology, 34(1), 23.

Keijsers, L., & Poulin, F. (2013). Developmental changes in parent–child communication throughout adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 49(12), 2301–2308.

Van Heel, M., Van Den Noortgate, W., Bijttebier, P., Colpin, H., Goossens, L., Verschueren, K., & Van Leeuwen, K. (2019). Parenting and externalizing problem behavior in adolescence: Combining the strengths of variable-centered and person-centered approaches. Developmental Psychology, 55(3), 653–673.  

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 12
What are 3 parts to Building Assertive Communication? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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