Updated: Jan 9, 2020
“I’m thirsty!” my daughter says to me in an exasperated tone as she ambles into the kitchen. “Thanks for letting me know.” I respond as if she’s told me the sky is blue. “Mom! Why do you always do that?"
Of course I understand what she means. I grew up in the American Midwest learning to decipher passive statements just like this. I know what she means. The put down given through a smile and tilt of the chin. A former classmate’s disrespect conveyed through a “You've done so well for someone with your education level.” Somehow, at some point in time, stating your true thoughts and feelings became too difficult. Hoping the listener understood your ultimate wishes became commonplace.
Stating a need rather than hoping someone picks up on your passive hopes and desires can make your relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and significant others dramatically better. Teaching your child to change the “I’m thirsty” statement into “May I please have a glass of milk?” question is a subtle change that may not seem important, but it is sidestepping the passive trap.
Being able to identify your feelings and then tell someone what you need is an important skill for a young child to learn. To help promote this, teach your child to ask for a hug when they are feeling unsettled or out of control. First of all, this helps children identify what they are feeling and when. Second, hugs can make a difficult situation melt away. You can model this behavior by telling your child when you are feeling upset about x, y or z and ask for a hug. We started this quite young with our daughter, and she is still asking for hugs at thirteen years old!
As your child gets older, stating needs will become more and more important. Homework will become more difficult and time consuming. Start by asking your child what you can do to help. Try to avoid telling them what they need, but request that they say what they need from you. Again, you are reinforcing their ability to state a need as well as the specific form of help needed.
How does being able to state what you need help in the real world? Rather than hoping for a raise, you can tell your boss you deserve a raise for various important reasons. When your significant other asks you what you are thinking, you can respond with the truth rather than brush it off with a “nothing” in hopes that he/she will guess what’s wrong. When a friend puts you down, you can tell them how it hurt and ask them not to do it again. When you have a great idea for a new product line, you can go directly to your superior and ask to be included in the next brainstorming session.
In the end, the worst thing that someone can say when you’ve said what you need is, “No”. But if you can’t say what you need, you’ll never have the thrill of hearing, “Yes!”.
April Remfrey is an American special needs consultant living and loving life in Switzerland. Please feel free to share this blog post by giving credit to the author and the website link: www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com