Teaching assertiveness is essential if you want to develop strong and confident children. Assertive youngsters understand how to defend themselves (and others) without being cruel or mean. They can say “no,” speak properly, and establish productive relationships that meet both their own and others’ needs.
Few of us are naturally aggressive, and the fear of appearing unpleasant or self-centered might keep us from speaking out for ourselves. Fortunately, with practice, we can help children master this strong skill and reap the numerous benefits of assertive communication.
With practice, we can help children master this strong skill and reap the numerous benefits of assertive communication.
1. Discuss It
Inform children that there are three fundamental communication styles. When we communicate or interact with others, we use one of three approaches: passive, aggressive, or assertive.
We can determine our communication style by observing our words and actions:
Explain to students that there are three basic communication types. We utilize one of three ways when communicating or interacting with others: passive, aggressive, or assertive.
By observing our words and behaviors, we can discover our communication style:
- Praise children for employing aggressive or “owl” communication while dealing with a difficult issue (“I appreciate how you spoke out!”).
- Read Pat Palmer’s “The Mouse, the Monster, and Me: Assertiveness for Young People”
- Mention passive, aggressive, and assertive behavior in their favorite movies and TV shows (Officer Judy Hopps in Zootopia and Anna in Frozen are excellent examples of assertiveness). Take note of how the characters surrounding them respond to each category.
Finally, consider communication to be a spectrum, with passivity on one end and violence on the other; assertiveness is the “sweet spot” in between. Remind children that they can learn to be assertive regardless of which style they now utilize!
2. Establish Boundaries
Discuss how the world has boundaries or lines that should not be crossed. These exist on a physical level, such as stop signs or “personal bubbles” (the space around our bodies), as well as on an emotional level (things that hurt our feelings).
Discussing the power of “no” is one method to respect these boundaries. Whether it’s an unpleasant hug from grandma or a pushy friend on the playground, children need to learn that assertively saying no is not only appropriate, but also their right.
Consider the following:
- Explain how setting boundaries (saying “no,” “stop,” or “I don’t like it”) protects and heals our bodies and minds.
- Encourage children to say “no” to negotiable matters (not wanting to wear certain clothing, hug someone or read a particular book are good places to start)
- Read Gabi Garcia’s “Listening to My Body” to stay connected to the crucial physical and emotional clues our bodies send us.
The Big Life Journal 2nd Edition (ages 7-10) is an excellent place to start when it comes to assisting youngsters in developing strong Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and growth mindset abilities. Your child may learn how to believe in themselves, tackle problems with confidence, and more via inspiring stories, beautiful drawings, and engaging guided activities!
Assertive communication entails thinking about the needs of others, but never at the price of our own. “If it’s not kind to you, it’s not kind at all,” I regularly tell my baby.
3. Teach “I” Messages
The “I” message is my personal favorite among conflict resolution tactics. It’s simple to use and fixes issues like no other.
Here’s how it works: “I feel (insert feeling) when you..” (insert behavior). I’d like you to (insert request here).”
When my kid encountered a dilemma at the playground (other kids told him he couldn’t play with them), we put my advice into practice:
“I’m irritated when you tell me I can’t play. Please allow me to participate.
My niece then came up with her own:
“I’m offended when you leave me out. “Please stop saying I can’t play.”
Know that “I” messages are effective because they are nonjudgmental. They avoid blaming or criticizing the listener and keep them from feeling attacked or defensive.
You could also try:
Using comparable aggressive phrases: “I need more space”/”I don’t like it when…,”/”I believe…”
Practicing in front of a mirror (check for eye contact and confident posture)
“I enjoyed how you used the ‘I’ message to tell me what you wanted,” one person said of the good impact of “I” communications. It made me feel compelled to assist you.”
4. Improve Your Friendship Skills
Not only are assertiveness skills required for dealing with the playground bully. It is typically our closest friendships that compel us to express our wants and feelings.
Begin by discussing with your child the qualities she seeks in a friend. What characteristics define a good friend? How do buddies behave?
Share the qualities YOU seek in a friend, and make it clear that you work hard to be the kind of friend you desire.
Next, talk about how friendship conflicts are common and may be used to improve your assertiveness abilities. Make a list of some of the most typical points of contention. This could include:
- Not participating in the same activities at recess
- Feeling left out while your friend is playing or conversing with someone else
- A buddy who frequently boasts
Identify 1-2 solutions for each of these instances and role-play how to deal with them (an ‘I’ message is a good place to start). While there is no such thing as a “perfect friendship,” all relationships benefit from the openness and honesty that assertiveness allows.
5. Model Self-assurance
We know that what we do is more important to children than what we say. If we want to raise confident children, we must speak assertively in our own lives. It is not always the easiest thing to do!
You could begin by:
- Speaking up when necessary and showing your youngster that you can say (and stick to) “no”
- Discuss how you struggle with assertiveness and how you overcome it via practice.
- When expressing your opinions, use a calm, confident tone of speech.
- When you perform well, praise (and even reward) yourself.
Active listening is another method to demonstrate assertiveness. Before responding to a quarrel, simply rephrase what the other person has said. This is especially effective when the issue is with your child: “You’re not wearing the blue dress today.” “I understand,” or “You really want to see the fireworks.” “It appears that all of the other youngsters get to stay up late.”
For all of us, assertiveness requires practice. Modeling assertive communication, on the other hand, allows both ourselves and our children to receive its strong benefits, such as confidence, good self-esteem, and healthy relationships.