Yet, this quality isn’t something that comes naturally to all children. They need to be taught this skill. Your child needs to learn to be assertive, so that they can stand up for themselves and become more resilient to what others say.
The difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness
It’s very important not to confuse assertive behaviour with aggressive behaviour. Yes, both involve your child speaking up and feeling in control of a situation. Yet, assertiveness is the middle ground between the extremes of aggression and submission (when one’s feelings or rights are violated). As these two traits are actually quite different, your mini-me will need to maintain a fine balance.
“Assertive kids understand that they will need to respect the feelings of those around them. They are also usually able to handle criticism in a constructive manner.”
A child who is assertive expresses him/herself in a direct manner, but it is in no way offensive. On the other hand, aggressiveness is rude and off-putting and not at all what your child should be aiming for.
Assertive kids understand that they will need to respect the feelings of those around them. They are also usually able to handle criticism in a constructive manner and are open to discussing any disagreements that pop up. Your assertive child should be able to:
* Speak up about their feelings and opinions.
* Identify the feelings they have.
* Disagree with others in a respectful manner.
* Avoid bullying.
* Respond to bullies.
* Negotiate with respect.
* Know when to say “no”.
You can certainly teach your child to be assertive but don’t underestimate the effects that modelling assertive behaviour can have on your child.
How to teach your child to be assertive
If you feel that your child will benefit from assertiveness training, here are fun ways to teach assertiveness to your child.
#1. Let them do what they love: Encourage your child to take part in games that they enjoy ― they’ll be at an advantage if they know a lot about a specific topic. They will also feel more confident stating their opinions on topics or activities they are familiar with.
#3. Coach junior to join activities with confidence: Train your child to join activities with other children with assurance.
#4. Train them to interact with a group of people: You can teach your child how to meet a group of people. Often, children (and even adults) join a group of strangers with limited eye contact and tend to keep conversation to the minimum.
Consider how much more relaxed and comfortable people would be if your child enters a random group in a more engaging way. What if you could teach your child to approach a new group this way from young?
Parents can arrange group play dates to teach their children the art of engaging with a group of peers. Or you could suggest the idea to your child’s teacher to see if they’d be interested in such types of group activities at school.
“It can take time to practise assertiveness, but persistence pays off! Help them understand that they need to stand up for what’s right and teach them the wisdom to know when it’s better to simply let it go.”
#5. Try role-playing exercises: Role-playing activities can also be fun. You can act out different scenarios with your child in which they would need to be assertive. Traits that you can teach your child include the following:
* A confident posture: For your child to be able to feel more confident, their posture is a good place to start. A positive posture is an upright body with a relaxed facial expression.
* Speaking their mind: Two skills are handy when you teaching youngsters to “speak their mind”. First, your child needs to learn how to say yes or no in a polite manner. Secondly, they need to learn when to speak up. For example, your child needs to know that it’s all right to express the way they feel. If they are uncomfortable with a situation, they have to learn to say, “I’m not comfortable doing this or playing this game.” Teaching a child to effectively avoid being bullied is an asset that will stand them in good stead in the future.
#6. Teach them relaxation techniques and self-calming exercises: You can also use relaxation techniques to teach your child to be more assertive. Highlight a few simple self-calming techniques to junior to help them deal with any strong negative feelings.
Discuss with your child how all the parties involved in a bullying situation could possibly feel. Talk about emotions like anger, sadness, confusion, embarrassment and fear. Ask your child to think about what they would normally want to do in such a situation. Also have them consider what the other person would want to do or how they would react.
The next step is to encourage your child to describe things that they could do in the scenario to keep calm. For example, they can:
* Take a deep breath and count to 10.
* Relax your face and body.
* Take a sip of water.
* Repeat a soothing phrase like “I can stay calm”.
* Go to someone you can trust.
Again, role-playing various scenarios is a great way to for your youngster to harness these skills.
Raise an assertive child from the start
Bring up your child to be assertive from a young age ― it can take time to practise assertiveness, but persistence pays off! Help them understand that they need to stand up for what’s right and teach them the wisdom to know when it’s better to simply let it go.
Dr Lisa Lim Su Li is the clinical director and senior speech language pathologist at The Speech Practice.
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