Why Assertiveness is an Important Skill for Children.

22 Nov

Educators and parents both agree that assertiveness is a vital skill children need to have.

Yet many a time its they themselves who discourage the development of this critical skill because they tend to confuse assertiveness with independence or being defiant or having an attitude.

Assertiveness involves stating your opinion or needs, standing up for yourself or protecting your rights in a way that’s respectful of the rights of the other person.

Like any other learnt skill, assertiveness needs an environment where parents and educators are not only willing to allow it but also recognise its benefits.

Before you begin to teach assertiveness, you need to examine your own attitude towards it.

If you as a parent, believe you know what’s best, prefer obedience, don’t like giving explanations or letting children disagree with you then teaching assertiveness is not an easy task.

Some parents believe that its okay to be assertive with peers but with adults it is seen as disrespectful.

Consider a situation where your child needs to stand up to an authority figure who is goading him/her for an unreasonable demand. Your child needs to protect himself and do so with conviction. A child trained to never question an authority figure, will find it difficult to assertively stand up for himself.

A home where children are encouraged to ask questions and parents are willing to explain and engage in discussion, is one where a child feels safe and confident enough to express her opinion, be it to adults or peers.

Standing up to a bully or not giving in to peer demands or even being able to express his/her opinion when needed, requires your child to stand her ground and communicate clearly and fearlessly in a non hostile fashion.

There are a few ways to teach children how to be assertive.

Model assertive behaviour.

In your interactions with family members or friends let your child watch you being assertive.

Using I messages.

Sometimes you need to explicitly teach your child how to stand up for himself or ask for something he/she needs.

If your child is frustrated that someone is taking advantage of him/her, then you could teach him how to show assertiveness by communicating his/her feelings using ‘I’ messages like …I feel [state the feeling] when you [state the behaviour that’s bothering you]. For eg I feel annoyed when you constantly tease me

Teach him that body language and the way you speak matter. – Making eye contact, keeping your tone calm and audible enough and speaking slowly make ones communication more effective.

Remind him /her to express his feelings constructively.

Encourage children to role play assertive behaviour until their responses becomes second nature.

Create teachable moments when children can re-enact a situation where they have been aggressive or passive, this time using assertive responses.

During this facilitation ask them how they felt while they were being assertive and link assertiveness to feeling good about oneself.

No doubt assertiveness isn’t an easy skill to learn, especially in a society where putdowns are considered funny and aggression is considered macho. All the same this is one skill that help children to interact with peers and adults in an honest and fruitful manner.

As parents and educators let us assist children in learning to use their voice to change a situation, protect themselves, state their opinion or make a request






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