Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022
How to Teach Kids Assertiveness (And Why It's So Important)

Being assertive allows children to understand that they have rights, that they can ask us for help, makes them be respectful, with themselves and with others… and have good self-esteem. Assertiveness is not something you are born with, but is taught: we tell you how to teach your child to be assertive.

What is assertiveness?

There are three main ways of behaving with others: the passive style, the aggressive style and the assertive style.

The passive is characterized by being silent, by not expressing their needs “so as not to disturb”, because those of others go before or because… for what? They don’t ask because they don’t think others will spend their time helping them.

We are passive when we let others choose (movie, menu, destination or bigger things), when we later beat ourselves up for not having said what we really wanted.

The passive child is the one who lets others choose the game, the one who says nothing, but then feels sad because “I never play what I want.”

The aggressive person expresses his needs, yes, but in the worst way possible, with bad manners and making others feel bad. He also does not see them as needs but as mandates that have to be attended to yes or yes.

A child with an aggressive style (not to be confused with aggressive behavior, because it is not the same) is the one who monopolizes the game, being “bossy”, the one who yells when he wants something, the one who tells the other that his toy is a poop because his is cooler.

On the other hand, the assertive person is one who expresses and demands that their needs be met while empathically respecting those of others. The assertive child talks about how he feels, what he likes and what he doesn’t (and this is key, we will see it later), proposes and doesn’t just get carried away.

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Why is it important for our children to be assertive?

Assertiveness helps us get what we want, what we need, but it also leads us to love and respect ourselves and others .

Assertive children (and adults) :

  • They resolve conflicts better (and feel less bad about them). This means that they manage the situation better emotionally, with a lower component of frustration.
  • They make friends more easily.
  • Because they know that their opinion, their ideas and their actions matter and must be respected , they have better self-esteem.
  • They have confidence in themselves and know that they can say no, which is very important for many things, including preventing abuse or bullying at school .
  • They are also less likely to bully other children as they understand the importance of respecting others.
  • They are more empathetic

assertive rights

There is a series of assertive rights that our children are worth learning and integrating, they are the best basis for being assertive adults. Among these rights, five are especially important:

  • Right to have your own opinion, ideas and beliefs.
  • Right to ask for help (physical or emotional).
  • Right to feel and express pain.
  • Right to be treated with dignity:
  • Right to say no.

How can we teach our son to be more assertive?

As I always tell you, because it is true, not for anything else, the best way to teach our children something is by example . The good thing about this, the wonderful thing about being parents, is that teaching them obliges us in a certain way to put it into practice ourselves, and it is great for us! If you tend to be passive or aggressive you will see what a difference!

Every day gives us thousands of situations in which to deploy our assertiveness. For example:

1. Asking for our rights to be respected without being aggressive

If someone sneaks up on us in line at the supermarket, we could be passive and say nothing, let it get in our face and then, in the car, lament because it got in our way.

We could also be aggressive and put on a number worthy of a Tarantino movie, making everyone feel bad, starting with our son. Or we could be assertive and calmly tell that person that there is a queue, that it is our turn, to please stand at the end of the line and let us go to pay. Without scandals, without insulting, without history bothering us beyond what is necessary.

2. Saying no

It is also important that they hear us say “no”, that they see that you say “no” to those things with which you do not feel comfortable. Example: “My boss has asked me to put in hours again, and they are not going to pay me and I am the only one who… […] so I have said no”.

If they see that we accept everything, that we put the needs of others before our own, they will learn to do it too.

3. Listening when they speak to us, with attention

Active listening , paying attention when they speak to us, when they tell us something, is the best way to show respect and therefore, when it comes to significant relationships, affection.

If your little one is going to tell you something, pay attention to him, especially if he tells you about his feelings or relationships with his friends. You will feel good and you will also understand that listening is important.

4. Respect your child

He is small but he has the right to have an opinion, that opinion is not the same as yours or that he does not like something that you propose. And not only that: he has the right for you to take all this into account.

Be careful, this does not mean that we have to accept all their refusals (the “No” stage would be the shit then), but it does make them see that we listen to their opinions, that we weigh them up… we must talk to them, negotiate and present arguments , no return a “no for a no”.

5. Allows and encourages you to express your emotions

“Don’t go crying over this . ” Have you ever said something like that to your child? Many of us have missed it at some point, but we must try to avoid it. What is nonsense for us is important to them and it makes no sense for us to force him not to express what he feels, to deny what he feels.

By minimizing, ignoring or denying their emotional expression, we are telling them that they should not talk about how they feel, that their emotions are not important or that they bother them, and this encourages them to develop a passive or aggressive style instead of assertiveness.

Being assertive will make your child feel better about himself, treat others better, and have better self-esteem. Being assertive “vaccinates” him against future emotional discomfort , gives him the foundation to become a happy adult, and best of all, as you have seen, it can be taught. Start tomorrow!