By: Blessing Adedimeji Adeyanju.
Updated on August 14, 2020.
Have you told your kids to do something they don’t like, and they said no, or they didn’t agree with you on some issues? How do you feel when their responses were no? Parents may perceive the response “no” as being negative and rude and may punish children for such a response.
If children communicate their dissatisfaction by saying no, then the word “no” shouldn’t be a big problem. Sometimes, saying “no” may not be the most appropriate response, but it’s surely a way for kids to start being assertive. Although they require adults support to acquire assertiveness skills because assertiveness does not only involve recognizing and standing up for our own rights but also involves recognizing and respecting the rights of others ( Tartakovsky, 2018).
If children are always expected to agree without questioning things that are being said by adults or disagreeing with things that do not make them feel good, they may grow up to be adults and still remain hesitant to assert themselves with their friends, family, or classmates.
Being assertive shouldn’t be confused with being rude. When children are assertive, they would be able to express their feelings anywhere they find themselves. They would confidently say what hurts them instead of being silent. This doesn’t mean we are always letting children have their own way, it simply means, we are attentive to them, and we are trying to acknowledge their feelings.
The fear of being punished may make children be silent when they need to speak. Also, because of the fear of loosing their friends, they may keep mute even when actions by their friends hurt them.
When a child is not assertive, being unable to set boundaries in his/her relationships, it is easier to confuse a child’s weaknesses as a positive trait of being “sensitive to others” and having “a kind heart.” The child must have traded his/her confidence and high self-esteem with fear and low self-esteem.
While it is important to let children show kindness and see things from others perspectives, they must also be taught how to be firm and how to voice their opinions when others cross their boundries. While they show kindness, it should not go too far to the point that they can’t speak up for themselves, say no, or set appropriate personal boundaries.
Reasons we must teach children to be assertive.
- To help children learn to say ‘no’ without the associated feelings of guilt.
- To help children identify and express their feelings, set boundaries, and voice their views as they respect other people’s views.
- To help children develop self-confidence.
- To help children learn how to build strong, supportive relationships.
Assertiveness is a skill that needs to be learnt by both adults and children.
Children may be passive and being unable to express themselves. Their peers may take advantage of them since they can’t express how bad or inappropriate others actions are to them. On the other hand, some children may turn out to be bullies, getting what they need in an aggressive manner since they lack the appropriate skills to express themselves. In both cases, assertiveness skills are needed to be learnt.
Ways to Help Kids be Assertive.
1. Kids can learn how to be assertive if parents model assertive behaviour: In parents everyday interaction, they can model assertiveness when interacting with family members, friends, making business calls, dealing with sales people, or person they have contact with during the course of the day.
2. Teach them how to create boundaries: Just as there are physical boundaries, there are emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries are created to protect us from physical dangers. Eg. The physical distance we have to keep to prevent people from coming too close to us. In the same way, we have to create emotional boundaries. An important way to respect these boundaries is by teaching children the power that lies in saying “no.” They must learn to say “no” to an unacceptable request from their friends or adults. It is their right to say “no” to things that make them uncomfortable. If children didn’t create boundaries, they would be taken advantage of by their peers.
3. Teach I message: children should be taught how to use, I. It makes them confidently express how they feel and how they are affected. For example, when a child is hurt because his friends call him names he doesn’t like, he can be taught assertiveness by teaching him how to use this skill. E.g. “I feel hurt whenever you call me names i don’t like. I’d prefer you call me by my first name.”
“I” messages work because they are non-judgmental. They neither blame, nor criticize, and keep the listener from feeling attacked or defensive (Louick, n.d).
Louick, R. ( n.d ). 5 key steps for raising assertive kids. Retrieved from: https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/how-to-raise-assertive-child
Mitchell, R. (n.d). Why you must teach your children to be assertive. Retrieved from: https://www.zandax.com/blog/why-you-must-teach-your-children-to-be-assertive
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Raising Assertive Kids. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/raising-assertive-kids/
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