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Since 1989, Kidpower has been helping people of all ages and abilities to change habits of using weak, rude, or other ineffective behavior to habits of using powerful and respectful behavior in their relationships with others, with themselves, and with the world around them. We have seen again and again how people change their behavior more from what they DO than from what they are told to do or wish they would do.

Kidpower’s Positive Practice™ Teaching Method provides rehearsal with in-the-moment coaching so that our students are successful in dealing with problems with people in very specific situations that are directly relevant to each person’s age, abilities, and life situation. Success creates a foundation for more success when learning to act effectively under pressure.

For example, many people, especially girls and women, have the habit of being “pleasers” and asking questions instead of setting boundaries. They will be less likely to have bad experiences and more likely to have better relationships if they develop the habit of sounding and looking like they mean what they are saying.

If someone has the habit of saying”Please stop, okay?” in a sweet questioning voice, we show how this is not very effective in getting someone to listen. Instead, we give students practice in saying “Please STOP!” using a strong voice and clear body language when telling a friend, acquaintance, authority figure, or family member to stop messing up their hair, pushing them, poking them, kissing them when they don’t want to be kissed, or pressuring them to do something unsafe.

Other people need to change the habit of sounding and acting angry or rude when they want to set boundaries, which is likely to make the problem worse rather than better.  They need to develop the habit of acting powerful and respectful even when they feel indignant, upset, annoyed, anxious, or afraid.

We give these students practice in staying firm, calm, and respectful while setting boundaries in situations that are personally relevant  – such as a neighbor yelling at you for breaking a glass,  a child running around wildly in a store,  a boss demanding that you stay late when you have another commitment, or a family member saying something insulting.

We also work on developing the habit of persistence instead of the habit of giving up. Because most people dislike being told what to do, they are likely to have a negative reaction at first when someone sets a boundary. For this reason, we give students practice in persisting in setting effective boundaries using different kinds of strategies even when the other person is very defensive, uses emotional coercion, or refuses to accept the boundary.

To give a personal example, successful skills practice can also help to change a habit of negative self-talk to a habit of positive self-talk. I used to have the habit of picking on myself for my squeaky voice. My voice is somewhat better after a lot of work but still basically squeaky, which is embarrassing for a self-defense instructor.  Even though we practice with our students how to protect their  feelings from the unkind things others say to them or they say to themselves by throwing hurtful messages away and replacing them with positive messages, I still found this hard to do for myself.

Finally, a group of developmentally delayed young adult students asked me if there was a hurtful thing I said to myself that I wanted to throw away – the first time anyone has asked me this question in all of my years of teaching. I said, “I wish I could stop being unhappy about my squeaky voice but I don’t know anything kind to say to myself about that.”

My students consulted with each other and then decided, “Tell yourself, ‘My voice says things that make people happy!'” They made me practice with them right then and there! And do you know what? I’ve finally developed the habit of laughing when I sound squeaky instead of feeling embarrassed ever since!

Kidpower has countless stories from our students – and from our own personal experiences – where one successful practice even in a simulated situation has made a huge difference in changing a habit of using negative or unsafe behavior in dealing with a problem to a habit of using effective, positive and safer behavior from then on. Even when behavior doesn’t change right away, having had this successful experience gives people a basis from which to work towards developing habits such as staying aware, calm, respectful, and confident with each other, themselves, and their world.

Additional Resources
Fullpower Boundaries for Adults With People We Know
The Power of Positive Practice™
7 Emotional Safety Techniques from Kidpower
Unsafe Words We Use on Ourselves: Kidpower Skills for Unlearning Negative Self-Talk

About Kidpower

Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International is a global nonprofit leader dedicated to protecting people of all ages and abilities from bullying, violence, and abuse by empowering them with awareness, knowledge, and skills. Since, 1989, Kidpower has served over 2.5 million children, teenagers, and adults, including those with special needs, through its positive and practical workshops, extensive free online Library, consultation, and publications. Instead of using fear to teach about danger, Kidpower makes it fun to learn to be safe! Our K-12 curriculum is used by families, schools, and youth organizations for their own child safety programs. To learn more, please visit




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Published: January 11, 2014   |   Last Updated: January 11, 2014

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.