How to Teach Children to be Assertive

Assertiveness is a way to communicate feelings, thoughts, opinions and beliefs in a respectful, clear and honest manner. Although it doesn’t come naturally to all, assertiveness is a skill that can (and should!) be taught to children – this will enable them to stand up for themselves and build resilience.

Assertiveness builds up their confidence, self-esteem, and ability to form and maintain stronger relationships. 

Aggressive? Assertive? What’s the difference?

Aggressive behaviour can sometimes be confused with assertive behaviour because both communication styles involve people speaking up for themselves and feeling in control. However, there is a big difference between how you state your needs in each style. Assertive communication is direct but not offensive. In fact, part of being assertive is respecting others’ feelings and opinions, being able to take criticism in a constructive way, and being willing to negotiate when having a disagreement.

Therefore, assertive children are more likely to be able to:

  • identify their own feelings;
  • speak up for themselves and others;
  • avoid and respond to bullying;
  • disagree respectfully;
  • negotiate with others;
  • say “no” without feeling guilty;
  • build up stronger relationships;
  • build confidence and self-esteem; and,
  • feel in control.

Teaching Assertiveness

Teaching assertiveness early in life is very valuable as, generally speaking, assertive children grow up to be assertive teens and adults. Here are some ideas for how you can teach your children to be assertive

Assertiveness training starts with you! Model assertive behaviour when interacting with family members, acquaintances, and others. At times, you will need to explicitly teach your child how to be assertive. If your child is feeling left out at recess, teach him how to manage this situation. For example, you can coach him on how to join in activities or games that he enjoys playing. You can also role-play different scenarios so your child has an opportunity to practice being assertive.  Other traits to teach include: confident posture (body upright, shoulders relaxed, relaxed facial expression, and good eye-contact), and listening without interrupting. As with any other skill, learning to be assertive takes time and practice, so be consistent and persist, it will soon pay off!

If you think your child might benefit from assertiveness training or would like to know more, get in touch!


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