My daughter who is five won't say anything when others of her age take her stuff without her willingness or when they cut in front of her while she waits for her turn to play. Just recently some child took her ball at the pool that we were together. Even though I told her to ask back for it she didn't do it and we had to go together to ask for the ball back-after insisting she does it I did the asking. Is this a normal behavior for five year olds?
It is very understandable that you want your child to learn to stand up for herself in social situations like the one you describe here, as well as in other difficult or stressful interpersonal scenarios.
What is normal for a five year old is different from what is normal for a teen or adult. Although little kids sometimes show aggressive behavior that looks like sticking up for themselves, aggressive behaviors do not constitute effective social strategies. Children have to be taught these social skills. Five year olds are still in the early stages of learning the strategies and tactics (called pro-social skills) that they need to stand for themselves in complex social situations. Until children learn how to identify and use pro-social skills, it is helpful for parents and other caretakers to do what you did--step in and help the child to manage the situation. The problem I see here is your concern that your little girl's behavior might not be normal.
Well, be reassured. You did the right thing to help your daughter, because she is only five. If she were fifteen, then likely you would already have taught her a lot about how to manage. At that age, in most cases, if you had the chance, you might choose to talk her through her options for dealing with a tough interpersonal situation, rather than handle it yourself. By adolescence kids have more of the skills they need to stand for themselves in conflictual and stressful situations. However, the reality is that teens are learning too. And in some cases, so are we adults.
Now, all that being said, how can you help your five year old to grow in her capacity to stand up for herself in appropriate and effective ways? Here are some things you can do. Try stories. Stories are excellent forms of modeling behavior for kids. You can find books that give object lessons in the standing-up-for-yourself category. You can make up stories too. I use a child alter-ego that is a rabbit named "Bumpy the Bunny."
Bumpy gets into all sorts of predicaments and the adult rabbits help Bumpy to sort out what to do. When I start telling a "Bumpy" story to a child, the child often gets so involved that she will either start telling the parts of the story that say what Bumpy is going to do, or she will insert her own experiences into the story. In any case, we are off and running with what is on the child's mind. Feel free to use my rabbit, or make up stories with your own special character.
Later, when an actual situation arises, you may have an opportunity to talk about some of the ways your story character would act. You might go over some of the things your daughter has learned from the stories, as well as from other similar experiences she herself has had. Reviewing a situation after it has happened can also be an effective learning tool. At the child's level you can talk about what, why and how the child did, or you did, what was done. You can discuss what your little one might do if she came upon a similar situation.
Here are some things to keep in mind. Expect that learning social skills is a cumulative growing experience. Although kids' abilities to be naturally assertive vary, basically children need a repertoire of skills, strategies and experiences to create a toolkit for taking care of themselves socially as well as emotionally. They need to (and will) borrow from parents' tool-kits to develop their own. In the interest of sharing tools, it is a good idea for a parent to consider their own personal assertive capacities, always staying aware that when you are supporting your child, or acting as the "alter-ego," you are modeling behavior. It is a good idea to conduct yourself in the manner you wish your child to emulate, because for sure, they will.
And a couple other thoughts. Be sure to refrain from scolding a child for not doing what she or he has not yet developed the skills to do. Kids will not understand that you are coming from caring, but rather will take a hit to their self-esteem. Instead of criticizing or acting annoyed when your child is hesitant to assert, feel reassured that you have come upon a viable teaching moment in which you can model, support and encourage the abilities and capacities your child needs to grow into a healthily functioning adolescent and adult.
Tough question. My only suggestion is to take it easy, suggest options, ask her what she prefers, talk things out casually, let time go by, might be a phase. If she's eight, then it's more of a problem. I always suspect that sports--or something like karate--is good for this sort of thing.
Girls that grow up with fathers tend to do better in school, have higher self-esteem and become more independent than their fatherless counterparts. The less fortunate girls who grow up without a father figure in their lives often go into the adult world with a specific set of psychological wounds that can create some serious struggles in their lives.