Passivity in Teens

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Assertiveness training or something else?

Sept 2011

Hi, My teenager needs to learn how to more confidently speak up for himself and speak his own mind. I'm not sure how to support him in achieving this. Assertiveness training? If so, anyone know of any classes? thanks in advance

my youngest is a tentative kid. she attended a public speaking camp through education unlimited and it was a positive experience for her that i would recommend to others. but i don't think this is a quick fix. my youngest remains reluctant to speak up in class, despite being a very strong student. i am planning to write to her teachers this weekend so that they are aware of our concerns. while i wish my youngest were less tentative, her sweetness is also lovely. my super-assertive oldest is not always the easiest to get along with. we have to love them as they are and encourage them to grow when they are ready. good luck. p.s. toastmasters may be another organization to look into. judith
Learning to speak assertively starts at home. Our teens learn to ''ask for what they need'' by practicing with us. We can learn to be really great listeners and, hopefully, on the journey they open up and explore their feelings in a greater way. Learning to speak freely comes from feeling safe to share our feelings but first we have to be able to recognize what they are. Many of us have a hard time putting words to feelings. We can help our children by really listening to the message and clarifying what we are hearing, so they can feel recognized. Notice I didn't say agreed with, but ''recognized''. I recommend a book called ''A changed Mind'' by Dr. John McKinnon. Excellent parenting too. jan

12-year-old becomming more passive, less active

March 1999

I've been agonizing for the last couple of days thinking that I am a bit paranoid about the whole thing, but I think it is time to get some feedback on this issue.

My son, 12 years old & 7th grade, becoming more passive than active than before, and I don't now how to work on this problem. He appears to be less confident than before, I think it may be part of growing up, but I cannot help worrying about him. His teachers tells me that my son is very bright, yet he does not seem to be mature enough to show more enthusiastic in the classroom (not taking charge). I often tend to keep eyes on his doing homework and so on... to make sure he does not watch T.V. or listen to radio unless he gets all his work done. I wonder I should let him fail by not getting on his case even though I know it is crucial time (7th & 8th grade) for his academic journey.

In an effort to find reasons for these recent changes in him, I changed his school when my son was 6th grade to this new school, academically more challenged and different social structure, and he seems to be doing fine after a year of struggling to fit into this new environment. There is no major crises but, this passiveness in him seems to grow slowly more as days go by. I want him to grow confident and take charge in his life, yet I feel closed in side box without knowing what to do. Would anyone have any good suggestions & books that you can refer me to? Thank you so much !

To the woman with the Passive 12 year old son. I have been having a similar experience with my 12 year old son. In an attempt to understand why he is so passive as well as not doing well in school I picked up this book on boys called The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian 1996. It has helped me a lot in understanding where he is coming from, and given me some tools and some kind of direction to go in when talking with him. This book is not just about puberty, but it does have a good section on it. My plan is to read this and then move on a book just about puberty. Good luck
Regarding the 7th grader who is too passive: I would be VERY concerned if I were you. It's at this age that our kids are coming out from under our wings and trying things on their own. If he fails now, he may stop trying to succeed. It sounds like your son isn't faring so well. Is he being taunted at school (such a vicious age), is it a group bothering him? He needs very real tools ( not theory) to know how to respond to taunts and to various situations at school. Actually practice and role play different scenarios. Hopefully your son can express what might be bothering him. Also, get him involved in things that he is interested in and excels at. Praise him whenever it is deserved. What is he like at home, is his school behevior different from his home behavior? Talk with his teachers - not once, but regularly. New to my family is wrestling. It has been absolutely fantastic as my son (also 12 and in 7thgrade) is on a team and thus identifies with a large group of kids, but it also forces him to go one on one against another. It's been excellent for him and his self confidence. Not to mention the muscles that are developing! Is your son on a sports team, or in any club? I recommend it. There's also the obvious (and irritating) - kids want to fit in - are you helping him to fit in? Yes, I'm all for not having kids succumb to fashion and fads and peer pressure, but kids this age NEED to feel good about themselves - does he have the Adidas, the Nikes or whatever to let him feel like he's cool? Does he have a stylish haircut? Kids in school look for the littlest thing for a chance to pick on another. Does he have a close friend to confide in and to bolster each other? If not, work on finding new friends. Smoking pot causes apathy, have you thought along those lines? And no, I wouldn't let him fail in school, maintain a standard for him to keep up. This isn't the age for him to fail. Sounds like he needs you more than ever, so be there for him, even if it means dragging him though his homework and studies. In all, as they say success breeds success, so, yes, you need to help him now.
Regarding the passive 12-year old: When my son was 12 (and in the sixth grade - he has a late birthday) - he went through a phase where he suddenly stopped trying in school - his grades, which had been excellent, plummeted. He got the first C grades of his life. We were shocked. He also is very bright. We got on his case immediately and had a conference with his teacher, having him attend also. It turned out that he had decided he was bored with school and was too smart to have to work hard...he had decided that his brains would serve him well when it mattered (i.e., high school and college) and until then, he could cruise. He went so far one day as to ostentatiously read the newspaper in class! We were alarmed that it could get so far and that we wouldn't learn about it until his mid-term grades came in. We and the teacher made it very clear to him in the conference that this was an unacceptable situation - and he did start to behave again. It all boiled down to an attitude problem, brought on probably by hormones and his developmental stage. It took our joint intervention with the teacher to get his attention, although his teacher never let him get away with anything like the newspaper reading. He attends a private school which has multiple levels of instruction in each grade, geared to ability, so we know from that and the C grades that the problem was not that he was bored by easy schoolwork. I thought then and still do that it was a very odd, sudden and abberational change on his part and am thankful that a good talking-to was all that was required.
Perhaps the passive 12-year old is going through the same thing. I would recommend a serious joint discussion with the teacher and the child. Perhaps seeing low grades on a report card, if that has not happened yet, will help get his attention...letting him fail rather than assuming responsibility for his getting his work done might not be a bad thing at this grade level - one time. He should certainly not need a parent to make sure he does his homework at this age. If a discussion with the teacher and child does not get to the root of the problem, I would recommend talking to the pediatrician next. It could be, though I hope not, that the child is depressed. It's not so much junior high grades that matter, as how well the child is learning in junior high. Sometimes lower grades reflect not turning in homework, or one very bad test score, rather than that the child is not grasping the material - I would ask the teacher specifically about this.
If overall performance has slipped - tests and homework generally reflecting a lack of effort and understanding - then the situation could affect high school achievement, as what he is learning now does form the basis for high school progress, especially if he eventually might be eligible for advanced placement classes.
Try joining the Boy Scouts. The entire program is aimed at building character and self-confidence that comes from being self-reliant. (but don't tell him that - It's just fun and camping and neat stuff!) Do it soon, because this is the season when new scouts are joining and signing up for summer camp.

I've been involved with the program for many years and feel it makes a big difference in the lives of the boys. Call the scout office to get contact information for troops in your area. Don't just join the closest one. Go to some meetings at several. Check them out And let your son pick his favorite troop.

Roger Doering, assistant scout master
troop 807 Hayward
Tres Ranchos District
San Francisco Bay Area Council