We all want assertive kids. We all want polite kids. We all want kids with great self esteem and a high confidence level. I am sure no one is on the fence here. Where the lines get blurred, is how to raise an assertive child, to teach them to get their needs met, without being obnoxious and rude.
I know an assertive kid who totally comes off as rude and obnoxious, but he definitely gets his needs attended to. I look at my big son– he is ANYTHING but rude, but we are working on his assertiveness, and trying to teach him how to ask for what he wants. My little son on the other hand, walks into a room, and you know he’s there, boy! He asks for what he wants, he gets what he needs and he’s super assertive. But with him, I have to be careful he doesn’t cross the rudeness line. God bless my two polar opposite children. Besides them both being handsome like their dad, you’d never guess they were related! Yesterday morning, I caught my little guy singing, “Shake your balls, shake your balls.” When I asked him who taught him this song, he told me it was this one kid in his class… the SWEETEST kid in his class. My husband and I don’t believe him. And when his actions evoke a strong reaction from my husband, that’s all my little one needs… he RUNS with it… “Shake your balls, shake your balls, shake your balls….”
So, back to assertiveness. What does “being assertive” mean anyhow, and how can you teach your children to be assertive without being rude. Let’s take a look.
Assertion theory is based on the premise that every individual possesses basic human rights:
- the right to be treated with respect
- the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them
- the right to refuse requests without having to feel guilty or selfish
- the right to ask for what you want (realizing that the other person has the right to say ‘no’)
- the right to be listened to and to be taken seriously
- the right to say “I don’t understand”
- the right to ask for information
The reason assertive people often come off as rude or controlling, is because most people do not like to be told what to do, or how to do it. This holds true for both adults and children. So the key to assertiveness is learning how to stand up for yourself, without making others feel imposed upon. Assertiveness is a skill anyone can develop with time and the proper practice.
Therefore, in raising assertive children that can stand up for themselves, and that aren’t rude, here are five important tips.
- You must be the role model. Your children will copy you. So, if you want them to have integrity and assertiveness, model good behavior. Don’t be weak, your children will see it. Stand up for your beliefs and views, even if it means going against the grain. You have to explain to them that standing up for what they believe in may feel uncomfortable or strange, but it is the right way to go… to stand up for their own rights, and the rights of others.
- When your child acts assertively, praise them. Let your kids know that you value people who speak their mind. Positively reinforce their actions if they displayed good behavior, for example, “Jenny, I love how you spoke up for yourself when Tyler was being mean to you.” When you show your children you value and honor this type of behavior, they will better assert themselves.
- Controversial but here goes: Try and find a few less domineering friends for your kids. If your child has the tendency to be a shyer, less assertive type, and seems to cling to a bossy and domineering friend, give him the opportunity and expose him to a less domineering friend. Not everyone may agree, but it has been proven to be a confidence booster if their spirit is not constantly being squashed by the aggressive playmate. Being around a less domineering friend may teach and encourage your child to speak up a little more.
- Provide leadership opportunities early. New studies show that kids gain confidence by entering into individual sports, team sports, activities, extra-curricular activities, group projects etc. And the key factor behind it is… the earlier the better. So provide opportunities for your children to be a member of a team, or even the team captain. Encourage them to take charge of a project or even organize the schoolyard soccer game. There are other programs you can expose your children to such as public speaking, singing, acting classes, where they can demonstrate overt kinds of leadership. These have all been proven to boost confidence.
- Teach your child C.A.L.M. assertion. There are four steps that help kids stand up and speak up for themselves or others if verbally attacked. Here are the four steps to C.A.L.M.
C – Stay Cool. If you get upset, ticked off, cry, pout you don’t appear as confident.
A – Assert yourself. Teach your child a few comeback lines to say in different situations.
L – Look the person in the eye. The best way to appear more confident is by using eye contact.
M – Mean it. Teach your child the difference between how an insecure and a strong voice sound. Then encourage your child to assert himself using a strong and firm tone–but not yelling tone–to get his point across.
(Kidscape & Michele Borba)
Teaching your children how to be assertive without being rude is no small undertaking. But remember, all the cliches are true… “you reap what you sew, ” and “you get out what you put in.” Spend the time with your kids, talking and teaching. I try my best, lord knows! My kids and I are all works in progress, but I see major improvements the more I work with them, and for me, there is nothing more thrilling. I just came from my son’s preschool graduation, and when he confidently walked over to get his graduation certificate, I beamed with pride. And then I wept….
Tell us, are you raising assertive kids? If so, what are your tips and suggestions? Have you ever seen your kids behave rudely in a public situation and not known how to handle it? Please share your thoughts with our readers.