Do you want to raise assertive kids? Here’s how to teach kids to stand up for themselves!
Everyone has to deal with difficult people at some point in their lives.
Many times I wish I could protect my 2 little girls from hurt, heartache, bullying, and all sorts of difficult situations.
But, I know that the best way to help my kids go through life is to give them the tools to manage different situations they might encounter.
One very important skill I want them to have is that they know how to stand up for themselves.
As a child, I was painfully shy. All the way through school.
As an adult, I had to learn how to be assertive and fight against my previous timid nature.
Here’s how you can empower your kids by supporting them to develop assertive skills.
But first, what exactly is assertiveness?
There are 3 basic ways people respond to conflict and difficult situations.
- fearful or timid
- aggressive (or bossy and overbearing)
The best way to help your kids is to teach them how to be assertive, which can be defined as clear, direct, and honest communication.
Assertive people know how to address a difficult situation in a calm, clear manner without shrinking away out of fear or being overly bossy or aggressive.
Benefits of being assertive
Here are some of the benefits your kids will gain by being assertive:
- understand and talk about their feelings
- gain confidence
- strengthen self-esteem
- expecting and respect from others
- developing honest, fulfilling relationships
- great communication skills
- speak up for themselves and others
- disagree in a respectful way
- develop negotiation skills
Remember that being assertive is a learned skill. If your child is very shy or uncomfortable you need to be very patient and not push.
Here’s how to teach your kids to stand up for themselves:
(Be very encouraging and practice these tips a lot!)
1.Model assertive, respectful behavior
Kids learn through seeing you model behaviors (basically by watching everything you do!)
If you want your kids to be assertive, then you need to model assertive behavior.
Not only does this mean you need to show them how to treat others, but you also model this by how you treat them.
Model kind, assertive behavior on a consistent basis.
Related: How to raise confident kids
Instead of telling them what to do, let them talk and listen openly.
Let your kids talk through their problems and see if they can come up with a solution on their own.
This can be really hard. I struggle when my girls argue or squabble and it makes me grit my teeth sometimes, but I try to listen and observe and offer suggestions to them when needed.
3. Don’t jump to get involved
As parents, we often jump in to lecture or fix something right away.
If you notice normal disputes, try to let your kid work it out first. Only get involved when necessary (for example, to prevent violence or help calm out of control emotions).
4. Practice through role-play
Role play is a great way to help kids learn to:
- handle difficult situations
- manage their emotions
- practice being assertive
Role play difficult conflicts and bullying scenarios with your kids. Make up your own or use examples from real life.
I’ve chatted with my oldest (5 years old) after situations in the park.
Once a girl ran up to her while we were in the park and got very close and started yelling loudly in her ear. My daughter stood shocked! Afterward, I chatted with her about what she could have done or could do next time something like that happens.
Teach your kids to:
- use calm, assertive phrases
- diffuse the situation by calmly walking away
- not get involved in a bully’s power trip
Help your kids practice phrases they can use:
My name is ______. Don’t call me names.
No! (and walk away)
I’m not interested. (and walk away)
Related: How to help siblings be best friends
5. Teach them about bullying
Bullying is continued aggressive behavior where one person attempts to assert power over another in order to try and be in control.
Make sure your kids understand exactly what bullying is. Give examples and talk about it.
Talk about bullies and help your kids learn to spot bullies and bullying behavior.
Tell them they can combat bullying by standing up with the person being bullied against the aggressor.
Bullying often starts small and will escalate if the bully sees an “easy” target.
6. Teach them appropriate social skills
Teach your kids how to navigate social situations.
Practice through role-play so they become comfortable and know what words to use and how to respond in different scenarios.
Related: How to teach kids to be kind
7. Practice democracy at home
Your kids have their own opinions! Let them know that you will listen to and consider their thoughts.
You can also have family debates or discussions and use this as an opportunity to model healthy ways to disagree while letting your own voice be heard.
8. Foster a strong relationship with your kid
All kids need a strong, supportive, and loving relationship with their family members, especially parents.
If you try to stay connected to your kids, you can give them your support in difficult situations and they will feel more confident in coming to you for help.
Help your kids understand the balance between aggressiveness and timidity. Teach your kids to stand up for themselves and be assertive by using these tips. Your kids will be happier and have more meaningful relationships. What other tips do you use to help your kids develop assertiveness?