Hassling Can Be Good for You and Your Kids?

For hassling to be helpful and not hurtful – to be “Healthy Hassling” – it has to have rules. Healthy hassling meanspushing your child’s thinking by taking different viewpoints, asking hard questions, and pointing out problems with how your child is thinking.The rules keep it from turning into a lecture, argument, or put-down.
Healthy Hassling is not a way to force your opinion on your child. It should be a chance for your child to run wild with his imagination and his growing ability to think. It is just a thinking exercise, so he can attempt to “one-up” you without being considered disrespectful.
Rules for Healthy Hassling
  1. Healthy hassling is only for older children who can think about different opinions, values, and solutions – usually six and twelve. The child must be mature enough to consider many different ways of thinking about things. The child needs to understand that each action a person takes leads to another action that might be a good result or a not-so-good result.
  2. Explain the process to the child and give her lots of examples of what it is like. Both the adult and the child need to understand how healthy hassling works. See the example below.
  3. Make an agreement to hassle. Ask the child if it’s OK to hassle him a little bit. Tell him you want him to show off how sharp his thinking is. If he gives the OK, proceed.
  4. Pick a signal that says you are done hassling. It can be “I’m done,” a wave of the hand or anything else both people agree to. This signal is a safety valve. If either of person begins to feel angry or upset, it is time to stop. The purpose of healthy hassling is to stretch the child’s thinking, not to make rules or convince the child how he should think about something.
  5. No name-calling or put-downs should be used by either person. Healthy hassling is all about “Yes, but what about …” as a way to get the child to think differently about the situation. It’s not about arguing about who is right or wrong. There are no wrong answers. Do not to judge the answers.
  6. Do Healthy hassling only about things that kids actually have choices about – not about house rules: What makes for a great date night, not what should the curfew be on date night,
What healthy hassling might sound like:
ADULT:            “What if you had a car of your own?“
CHILD:             “It would be great. I would never be home.”
ADULT:            “So I couldn’t count on you anymore to do your chores.”
CHILD:             “I think if you are old enough to have a car, you are too old to have chores.”
ADULT:            “I like that thought. I won’t need to fix dinner every night anymore.”
CHILD              “Wait, I didn’t mean that. I’m not sure what I meant. I’m done.
ADULT             “OK, thanks for thinking about this with me.”
Thanks to Jean Illsley Clarke (SELF ESTEEM: A FAMILY AFFAIR) for these ideas about healthy hassling.