About This Module
Teaching our children to communicate with confidence and not be afraid to stand up for themselves in an assertive manner is something all parents want their child to be able to do. But it’s easier said than done! Assertiveness is a skill that we need to be taught, it’s not something we naturally learn over time. WeParent psychologists believe that children who have a good level of assertiveness will be far less likely to be bullied than a child who is too passive or too dominant.
As children grow through the mid-childhood years they’re learning to control how forcefully they deal with situations. Some children are very forceful and they tend to shout and to have tantrums. Other children are more timid and don’t stand up for themselves at all.
This module in our Preventing Bullying series will give you the steps and tools to teach your child how to be assertive. A skill that they will carry through the rest of their life.
When it comes to preventing bullying, the skill of assertiveness is all about giving your child the confidence and vocabulary to know how to handle a child who makes demands of them that they don’t want to do.
What You'll Learn
Teach your child the skill of assertiveness.
Model assertive behaviour at home so you child can learn from you, their biggest influencer.
Understand how decision making contributes to developing your child’s assertiveness skills.
“WeParent is a resource I didn’t realise I needed until I started using it. It has helped me systematically review my parenting skills with my 6 year old daughter, giving me a confidence boost and substantiating the things I am doing right, and offering valuable advice and steps to take in areas where we were struggling or were worried about. I highly recommend it!”
Psychology Fun Facts
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is a life skill that needs to be learnt. To be assertive means that you can clearly express your own or other people’s wants in a calm and positive manner without being dominant or passive. Assertive children are able to get their point across to others without getting angry or upset themselves or making other people feel this way.
Assertiveness means standing up for yourself – expressing thoughts, feelings and beliefs in direct, honest and appropriate ways.
A child who behaves assertively should also learn to respect the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people as well as their own.
Assertiveness means people can act in their own best interests and stand up for themselves without undue anxiety. As well as being able to express honest feelings and personal rights comfortably without dismissing the feeling and rights of others.
Assertiveness for kids
Assertive behaviour sits between being passive and being dominant. Children who are learning to be assertive often switch quickly from being too passive to being too dominant as they struggle to find the middle ground of assertiveness. Many children need help from their parent to find an approach that is firm and assertive when asking for something.
A child who is learning to be assertive needs to judge each situation, and to match their level of forcefulness to the requirements of each situation.
How does assertiveness develop?
Babies are passive most of the time. They cry and wait for their parents to answer their cry and to work out what they want. Babies rely on their parents to decipher for them, as they are unable to put their wishes into words.
Toddlers are able to walk and to talk. They can assert themselves behaviourally by walking up to something and taking what they want. As the action skills of most toddlers are stronger than their verbal skills, many toddlers assert themselves through actions or by whining until their parent works out what they want. If a parent restricts a toddler, then the toddler might object by having a tantrum, asserting themselves using misbehaviour. Parents begin to teach toddlers to be assertive by encouraging their toddler to use words to ask for what they want, rather than by using dominant actions.
The mid-childhood period is a time to improve your child’s ability to communicate assertively by using words, backed up by suitable, confident actions. When teaching a child to be assertive, a parent needs to reduce the amount of times they anticipate their child’s needs and wants and start allowing them to decide what they want and ask for it themselves.
Constantly anticipating your child’s needs before they ask greatly limits their ability to practice being assertive.
When people are assertive, they express what they would like to happen, without being demanding. They begin many sentences by expressing their own wishes and feelings using “I” statements.
Assertiveness requires someone to have the confidence to show a little vulnerability by taking a risk that someone will say no to them. It requires a little courage to be refused and rejected.
When being assertive, people use sentences that begin with ‘I would like…’, ‘I feel…’ or ‘I think….’, for example. It requires you to take responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, and not try to make other people feel responsible for their feelings. For example, “I’m feeling angry” is an assertive sentence rather than “You’re making me angry.”
Assertive people don’t give power to others to control their own feelings. People who begin sentences by saying ‘You make me feel…’ are giving the power over their feelings to another person and, that person might not be considerate towards their feelings. A child who gives up this power over their own feelings can become a target for a bully, as the bully feels they have the power to control how they feel.
Studies show that the words we use comprise only 7% of our communication. The other 93% of our communication is all done through non-verbal signals and are very influential in our communication. Non-verbal signals include our tone of voice, making up 38% of our communication and, body language which takes up 55%. Teaching children to have confident body language and a confident tone of voice is key in helping them be assertive in their communication. We’ll cover exactly how to go about this in our strategy on Modelling Assertiveness.