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Speaking Up For Yourself

When we have a baby we hope that everyone will be understanding and helpful.

Parents of new babies can sometimes find that other people including strangers, health professionals, government officers and even family members and friends are insensitive or critical.

Sometimes we are not given what we had hoped for and at other times we can be given things that are not necessarily helpful.

When you have a baby it is important to be able to speak up for yourself and your baby in a way that is assertive without being aggressive and in ways you might not have imagined.

 
           
   Parents have sometimes been told or asked things that can be offensive,
  insensitive, upsetting or even plain rude. For example:

    Your baby is very little
    Did you have this baby so you could get the baby bonus?
    You’re young to be a mother!
    How lovely to have a grandchild!
    I want to see the baby. I won’t wake her up I promise

It is important for babies to experience their parents as competent experts. This takes time and lots of practice but happens more quickly when parents provide most of the care rather than letting others take over.

Nevertheless you need to find someone you trust to look after your baby so you can have some time off to get some sleep or see your friends.

Professional help from home visitors, counsellors or community nurses, might be useful for a while as you establish these relationships.

     
   Using an assertive style, rather than being passive or aggressive is best
Passive Assertive Aggressive
  Speaks softly   States how they feel about a
  situation
  Speaks over other people
  Says nothing but feels resentful,
  frustrated
  Gives a simple, clear, message
  that might have to be repeated
  Attacks the other person verbally

  Says/does what the other
  person wants

  Is respectful of others   Speaks in an irritable tone
  Avoids looking at people   Speaks in a conversational tone,
  using eye contact
  Stares at people in a threatening
  way
  Values self less than others   Values self as equal to others   Values self more than others
  Does not have own needs met   Usually has own needs met   Doesn’t achieve a solution
  For example: “Oh OK”   For example: “It would really help
  if you would hang out that load
  of washing.”
  For example: “You only care
  about yourself, not about me and
  the baby”

Being assertive can be difficult to do. It is harder in relationships where you don’t feel comfortable or safe. It can also be more difficult where people are more distant from you, where you are parenting on your own or you are living in your parents’ house. It is a good idea to have one or two prepared assertive responses for use in situations where you feel uncomfortable.

   Think about your own responses to the following:
    If someone offers to help
    If someone makes insensitive comment about your circumstances
    If someone doesn’t understand your changed circumstances

This webpage last updated 27 February 2014.