How to teach your child to be assertive
Does the thought of having an assertive child make you tremble a little. It really shouldn’t. An assertive child is an easier child, a delight, a child of clarity and confidence. An assertive child who can accept your yes or no and who can go out and stake their claim in the world, a child who will stand up for themselves and others.
Assertiveness is not a dirty word, It is not a sign of a bulldozing aggressor, far from it.
We have to teach our children and educate ourselves around the power and benefits of assertiveness and then how to best use it.
Its a very simple concept to learn and to perfect it simply requires practice, feedback, adjustment and practice.
Children who assert their wants /needs aggressively just annoy others or intimidate them. There is NO ROOM for aggression is assertiveness. Children who hint at what they want, expect others to mind read or cry and whine or go off in a quiet strop will again annoy others and miscommunicate.
Usually both the aggressive child and the passive child will end up with unmet needs/wants, they will also leave behind them a trail of broken friendships and difficult relationships.
So how do we show our children how to be assertive ? There are 3 simple steps:
We need to model assertiveness in our own communications – all the time.
Clearly and politely stating what we want and need. Children watch us all the time. So instead of muttering your partner is a lazy so and so and why do you have do ALL the work around the house, rather than slamming doors or sulking communicate assertively instead. Let your children hear you speak clearly, calmly and confidently about the problem with a suuggestion for how it could improve to your liking. ‘ Steve, I would appreciate you washing up every second night form now on. I have been done it every night for the past week and I want us to share the task instead. What do you think about that?’ You might not always get what you want by being assertive but it is your best chance to!
We need to give our children feedback on their communication skills and examples of how they could be more assertive: e.g when you shouted at me that you wanted more time on your DS and that I was a meanie for saying your time was up you were being both rude and aggressive so I immediately said no. If you had asked me politely and clearly I would have considered your question. Try this next time. ‘Mummy could I please have more time on my DS?’ I may still say no but I would definitely have considered it and you wouldn’t now be on a DS ban!
3, Positively reinforce assertiveness
We need to positively reinforce assertiveness and let our children know how much we appreciate the clarity of their communication. It is important to do this even if we don’t always give them what we want or like what they say e.g Mummy when you hold my hand crossing the Street I feel like a baby, Please stop. This may be hard to hear but it so much better than them quietly seething or snatching their hand away or just putting up with it, . Praise their clarity of communication let them know you appreciate it and that they should always speak up if something is happening to them they do not like.
This will keep them safe and emotionally healthy , If you value and accept their assertiveness they will be more likely to keep experimenting with it and practising it until it becomes natural to them. Stick with it even if it is uncomfortable at first.
Assertiveness is about maturity. It is all about great communication. The assertive child has a much greater chance of not annoying anyone, keeping good relationship and having their wants and needs met. It will serve a child well through all aspects of their lives and stop them from being downtrodden or an aggressor.
This is why assertiveness is a really important aspect of a child’s emotionally healthy toolkit. It is an essential aspect of positive parenting and requires energy and focus. I highly recommend this book Cool, Calm and Confident which we have been using in our family. It has some wonderful exercises in and some great examples.