Assertiveness allows your child to be considerate of others while still looking out for your child's own needs. It fosters confidence to speak up without fear of what others may think or say. Teaching children that they are not responsible for managing other people's emotions, but their own, is crucial for building healthy self-image and fosters fulfilling relationships with others.
Many children believe they are obligated to do what an adult tells them to do. This combined with an unclear understanding of physical boundaries can put a child in a dangerous situation. Start teaching your child about boundaries by pointing out physical boundaries put in place to protect our safety and privacy, such as fences, doors and traffic lights. From here, you can move on to talking about personal boundaries, like physical space and your child’s right to body autonomy. Encourage them to always speak up if these rights are violated.
Teach How to Manage Disappointment
When children express both positive and negative emotions in a safe space, they learn how to manage their emotions and assert themselves in various situations. Children should learn from a young age that their feelings are important and valued. They need a safe space to be angry or sad without fear of negative repercussions. While we teach our kids to be assertive, it is equally important that we teach them how to communicate their anger, sadness, and needs in a respectful manner that will not leave the other person feeling afraid or disrespected.
Reinforce Behavior You Want To See
Let us imagine your child refusing to kiss or hug you. You could have easily made them feel guilty with a statement like, “It makes mommy sad when you won’t give her a kiss”. It is important that your child understands that they have the right to object physical contact. Instead of getting upset, you can respond with acceptance and respect. This teaches your child that their words and feelings matter. Whenever you see children positively asserting themselves, be sure to reinforce it with a verbal praise.
Respecting your child’s privacy not only teaches them that you respect their boundaries, but it also leaves your child feeling more comfortable about sharing things with you. It can strengthen your relationship in the long run, making it easier to come to you when they really need your help.
Be aware of your interactions with family and friends, and make sure that you are teaching assertiveness by example. Keep your word. Following through with what we have said models assertiveness and fosters confidence. This skill will benefit them in both their future professional and personal lives and will give them the confidence when faced with challenging situations.
Let Them Make Decisions
Start by giving your child options so they can practice making decisions. If they make mistakes, help them learn from this experience. As they grow older, they should be able to make more decisions that pertain to their well-being, as long as it is safe ad reasonable.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Team building exercises are an excellent way for children to build confidence and exercise assertiveness. It can sometimes be a lot more intimidating to stand up to peers than to authority figures. Activities that involve teamwork can help with that.