It can break a mother's heart when she hears her child has been bullied or walked over by a peer at school. Often, moms will be confused as to what has caused the problem and be unsure as to how to build and foster assertiveness in their child, to withstand this kind of attack.
Thankfully, there are practical ways to help children be more assertive. Here are 10 ways to encourage assertiveness in a child.
10 Teach Them To Make Their Own Decisions
If you are deciding everything for your child, even though you might believe you know better, you will also be overriding their basic human need to master their own environment and use their judgments and cognitive faculties to gauge situations and make their own decisions.
Purposefully, each day, allow your little one to make some of their own decisions. Start small by, for example, asking them to choose between a few options what they want for school lunch. Then allow them to make bigger decisions, such as which extramural activity they would like to get involved in.
9 Teach About Boundaries
Personal boundaries are key in having healthy self-esteem and teaching your child to have healthy boundaries will equip them to know what is tolerable and what isn't when it comes to interactions with others.
This will also teach them to respect themselves, as well as to respect the space and needs of others. Thus, when someone steps over a boundary, they are more likely to defend it, understanding that their rights have been violated.
8 Explain The Reasons Why
It is not enough to teach assertiveness. Parenting means communicating with your child and explaining the reasons for the need to be assertive. As mom, you can sit your child down and explain that assertiveness helps to protect a person's safety and fosters trust in relationships.
Give your child examples which they can relate to to illustrate your point. For example, if your child asks for a sandwich but you give them a bowl of porridge instead, being assertive will teach them to correct the mistake in a polite way so that their needs are met and they don't build up resentment towards you. They could say, "Mommy, I think you misheard me. I asked for a sandwich not a bowl of porridge."
7 Positive Reinforcement
When your child asserts their needs in a way that is polite, direct, firm and positive, then praise them for their efforts. If your child is usually someone who remains silent about their needs and lets people walk over them, you might even implement a star chart to acknowledge this brave new behavior of their's. Remember, assertiveness doesn't mean throwing a tantrum or slamming a door when you don't get your own way. This behavior should not be rewarded. Reward the polite, firm attempts at assertiveness.
6 Don't Be Threatened By Your Child's Emotions
If your child shows disinterest or disgust or a dislike towards something, rather than being offended by this, allow them to express what is really going on in their hearts. Doing so will validate that their emotions are in fact valuable and they will feel more comfortable sharing discomfort or unease in a situation. Allow them to feel negative emotions and to express these, even when you don't agree with them. Your job as mom is to teach them to express very real emotions in a healthy, healing way.
5 Get Them Involved In Teamwork
Teamwork is an excellent way to teach a little one to establish firm boundaries and to relate to others and assert themselves when things make them feel violated or uncomfortable. One way to get them involved in teams is to enlist them in extramural activities, like soccer or netball, or basketball - through which they will regularly relate to others in a team environment.
4 Show Them How It's Done
Mom, you are not just a coach to your child. You are a role model, whether you like it or not, or whether you believe you are worthy to be a role model or not. This means that you need to show your child, through your own interactions with others, how it is done. Show your child through how you live your life that a person can hold their own ground, while still remaining polite and keeping the moral high ground. Make assertiveness and good, healthy boundaries a part of everyday life.
3 Teach Them To Handle Disappointment
Not everything in life has a good outcome and not everyone in life will like you. This is a guarantee. As moms we want our children to believe there is always the outcome we hope for. However, life has curveballs and learning this, and accepting this, will help your child to set boundaries and assert them, and to stick with them, even if it means losing friends or ruffling feathers. They need to learn that being themselves and establishing a solid identity will mean some people won't approve. But that's okay, since disappointment can be a part of life.
2 Teach Them The Importance Of Following Through
An assertive child is a child who has learned that they have some mastery over their environment and can impact change if they so desire. Kids who feel they have no say over anything will be less likely to express themselves and actively work towards having their needs and desires met. Teach your child to make a decision, but also to follow it through until the desired result or outcome is reached.
1 Teach Them To Handle Emotions
While you teach your child that emotions are important as they reveal what is going on inside of them, you also need to teach them to master these emotions and not let them affect their interactions with others. A child should learn that they can feel a certain way but this doesn't mean compromising on their boundaries or allowing other people to violate them, through taking advantage of their emotions. To give an example, when choosing friends, you can teach your child about 'deal breakers'. Let them write a list of things which they won't allow from a friend, such as stealing, back-biting, gossiping and bullying. If someone persistently does this to your child, then instead of them backing down and allowing the person to violate them, they can learn to hold their ground and tell the person they either change the behavior or they will no longer be friends with them.