How to raise assertive children

Being assertive is a very important skill. Help your child learn it


While plenty of children are very vocal about what they want in life (tantrum-throwing could be their Olympic discipline), others are more meek and more inclined to give in.

Sometimes finding their voice doesn’t come naturally and they need a gentle push in the right direction. Being assertive is a very important skill, and, according to Carmen Benton, an educational consultant and the founder of Mindful Ed, assertive children know how to ask for what they need without being overly demanding
or unreasonable.

Benton explains teaching is best done through modelling a response, or giving feedback on the way you heard them express (or not) themselves. She says: “We need to clearly define the difference between being assertive and being aggressive, by showing that the aggressive part is the demanding and forceful way of getting what we want and being assertive is the way we express ourselves in a respectful yet firm way.”

According to experts such as Benton, by following this formula children will understand it is okay to ask for what they need. It does not mean, however, they will always get it, and if rejected they need to walk away, strong and confident. Studies have shown that children who are raised globally are often more resilient and easy-going, but not always. Some children can find this kind of lifestyle unsettling and it can have a negative impact on self-esteem and confidence. Benton emphasises the importance of listening to the child and letting them have their say.

Some strategies that might help, she says, include:
• Creating time and space for safe talking. A safe talk is one where feelings will be validated and you are able to talk without fear of any blame, shame, criticism or judgement and without any interruption.

• Show empathy for how they are feeling and model an empathetic response. Support and encourage any moments where you see them standing their own ground while also being able to see how their friend was feeling.

• Role-play situations. Conjure up some situations and ask them to respond how they usually would. Discuss the implications of this response.

• Move them out of their comfort zone by getting them to practise their social skills in a variety of situations.

• Accept your child for who they are. When a child feels accepted, they will value both themselves and others and go on to express themselves with confidence.

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