Do you have a child who is constantly worrying? How about a child who is always telling those around them what they should be doing? Both of these behaviors – typically very much unappreciated by peers – are signs of anxiety. Here are two questions that I have taught my kids to ask themselves when they start to feel worried – questions that lower anxiety and end bossy behavior!
Two Questions that Lower Anxiety and Stop Bossy Behavior
Children who struggle with anxiety worry about everything. This is exhausting for them AND the people around them. These two questions can help children re-frame their anxieties into a more rational world-view – calming their own nervous systems and making them a lot more fun to be around!
Here are the two questions I have taught my children to ask themselves:
- Is it unsafe?
- Does it hurt anyone or anything?
I have taught my children that, if the answer to both of these questions is no, they need to leave the person alone. Different people make different choices, and sometimes this means they see people doing things that they do not think are a good idea.
If the answer to one of these questions is yes, I have taught my children to first explain calmly to the person why they think they should stop. They can only do this one time. The person may or may not stop, because everyone makes their own choices. I teach my children that, if the person continues to do something unsafe or something that is harmful to themselves or others, they need to find a responsible adult and ask them to help.
My children understand that it is very important to stop someone from doing something that harms an innocent third party, but sometimes you cannot stop someone from doing something that might harm only them. For example, my kids are concerned about the college students in our area who bike without helmets, but they cannot make them stop. College students are adults who have the right to take personal risks. My children can choose not to play near our neighbor sitting outside smoking, and they can stop the neighbor from smoking directly in front of our condo*, but they cannot stop our neighbor from smoking.
*Our neighbor has never tried to smoke in front of our condo; they don’t even smoke around their dog – this is for illustration purposes only.
The thing I love best about this approach is that these questions also apply to me as an adult. When people around me do something that seems questionable, I still ask myself:
- Is it safe?
- Does it hurt anyone or anything?
If the answers to both of these questions is no, I know that people make their own choices, they have their reasons, and that making these choices is their right. If the behavior harms an innocent third party, I have a moral and ethical obligation to do what I can to end the behavior. If I see someone doing something that seems to harm them, I should only say something if it seems they are unaware of the risk. Taking personal risks is part of being an adult.
Looking for more tools to help anxious children? Read these posts:
- Parenting: Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety
- Unique Strategies to Help Your Child’s Self-Regulation
- Can You Tell a Tantrum from a Meltdown?
- Activities to Help Kids Calm Down and Stay Calm
I also recommend the books When My Worries Get Too Big and What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety for children who struggle with anxiety.
How do you lower anxiety and end bossy behavior in your children?