Your daughter is the one who tells the younger siblings how to play “correctly” with their Barbies.
Your son can stand firmly against your decision, presenting the numerous reasons that you are wrong and he is right.
Yet, when it comes to worries, these kids crumble. Their ability to be confident and assertive vanishes.
Parents are often confused by this contradiction.
“Teach” Your Anxious Child to Be Bossy
It seems like a silly task to “teach” your child to be bossy. Most kids have this quality down. It’s using the bossiness for a good reason that is the tricky part.
As parents, we often feel helpless when our children express anxious thoughts. We want to make it better, so we make statements like, “Don’t worry about it” Or “It will be fine, don’t worry.” Inside, we know that these statements won’t change anything, but we want to relieve their pain!
Instead of feeling the pressure to rescue your child from their worries, use their own natural talent – bossiness!
Here’s how it works
Your child feels like a slave to their anxious thoughts. They feel as if they have no other option but to think about whatever is causing them to worry.
Your job is to help them see that they have choices. They can decide how to respond to their thoughts.
- Change the way you talk about worries. It is often helpful to identify worries as statements being made by something outside your child, some people use the term, “worry bug” or “worry guy.” So, for example, if your child is worried about a big test tomorrow, you could state, “Oh no, Mr. Worrywart is bullying you again. He’s making sure you are worrying about that test.” This may sound silly, but this changes the focus from your child being a worrier, to the worried thoughts themselves. Your child already knows that their worry is annoying, now you’re labeling it as a nasty, persistent – yet, often convincing – intruder.
- Give them a voice. Use your child’s natural “talent” for bossiness to create a few come-back’s they can use when the worry thoughts come up in the future. For example, your child can say, “Stop!” Or, “I’m too busy to worry about that!” Or, “Get away â€˜worry bug!'” At first, your child may need some guidance; they may be hesitant to talk assertively to their worries. Give them permission to speak loudly (either out-loud or in their mind), to stand up straight and put their shoulders back. For some kids, drawing a picture of their worry helps them to visualize “who” they are talking to. Try saying the worry thought in silly voices. Next, try responding with different voices, “How would Wolverine talk back to this worry?”
- Give them a choice. Not every thought requires our attention. Some thoughts, especially exaggerated worries, do not require a response. Help your child visualize pushing the “delete” button on his thought, or closing the door on the worry bug. Again, it’s ok to be bossy! Your child can stomp the worry away, drop it in the garbage disposal, whatever they decide. It’s ok to put manners aside so that your child can realize that their worry thought is really a bully, and they can make a decision to let the bully in or send it packing. Next time your child starts to express a worry, ask them, “What do you want to do or say to this worry?”
This is just one piece of the anxiety puzzle. Children who struggle with anxiety may also benefit from learning how to calm down and manage their anxious thoughts. However, for some kids, knowing that they have a choice is a huge relief, and a giant step towards conquering their fears.