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I'd like to teach both my kids to be the kind of people who will willingly insert themselves into situations where they can do some good.

I hope to raise them to take pride in their ability to speak up for weaker kids, offer help or advice where they have it, and view the world as a place they can potentially change for the better.

My concern is how to teach them to find the right balance - there's a fine line between being known as the the person who jumps in to help moderate an escalating situation, and the person who thinks they know better than everyone else, or who is regularly lecturing others on the rules, etc.

What approach can teach the value of being a voluntary force for good without pushing in in places where you're likely to be viewed as a consistently unwelcome bossypants?

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2 Answers 2

Use the world as your classroom. Model the behaviour you want your children to emulate. When you see someone who needs help, and the kids are with you, help the person and then explain to your kids what you saw and why you decided to help. When you see a situation where intervening might be more negative than not stepping in, explain that to your kids. Engage your children in discussions about these situations. "How do you think this person felt, when someone pushed them down? How do you think the person who pushed them felt? What would you have wanted someone else to do for you, in either position?"

Even if they're not with you, when you are sharing your day with your kids at the end of the day, add these stories and lessons to the mix.

Also, catch them in the act of doing things you want them to do. Your child stood up for a bullied friend? Praise them to the ROOF. Don't be afraid to bring it up later, either. "Remember when Brian called James a name, and you stood up for James to Brian? You showed both friends that you love them. You showed James you have his back, and Brian that you love him so much you won't tolerate him putting down others." (That's an example (names changed) from my own daughter's preschool class. We still talk about it every once in a while, while discussing other situations.)

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The approach that can maintain this balance is to always have absolute respect for all those involved. Your question speaks directly to the issue of trampling the boundaries of others, and being grounded respect will allow them to act with confidence in themselves without become a "bossypants".

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