October 14, 2021

5 ways to help your child be assertive

Does your child struggle to stand up for what they want, think and feel?

It is hard to see our children bend themselves to fit the group or remain quiet in response to an overly assertive friend. We all know the value of learning to assert ourselves, and the younger these skills can be embedded the better. Yet it can come easier to some children (and adults!) than others; if your child is quiet, empathetic, sensitive… how do you give them ways to find their voice and become assertive, whilst remaining authentic to their personality?

  1. Teach them that it is possible to be a kind person and still say no or disagree with someone. So often young children believe that to stay friends with someone, we must agree with them, like the things they like and do the things they want to do. Model to your child that disagreement doesn’t always mean a fall out, a difference of opinion can be seen as normal, healthy and even encouraged!
  2. Praise your child when they do assert themselves. Try and celebrate those small moments when your child does take an opportunity to speak up, this might involve praising them when they tell a friend to stop doing something they don’t like, when they’ve spoken up about being given the incorrect thing, or even just sharing a different opinion to a sibling.
  3. Model use of and draw attention to boundaries. Explain to your child that boundaries are decisions and actions we take to help ourselves and others feel safe and happy. Sometimes others might prefer us to make a different decision (give an example of a boundary you’ve set at home) but it’s important to stick to what is and isn’t ok for us. One simple way of applying this is listening and respecting your child when they set their boundaries – this might involve needing their personal space or not wanting to hug or kiss a relative.
  4. Encourage your child to make decisions – where appropriate. If we take away all the decision making and opportunity for independent thought, our child may struggle to assert themselves because they lack experience in connecting to what they think, want and feel. Allow them to make their own choices and decisions, knowing that there will be times when you may need to set some limits, which will only provide another opportunity to demonstrate how to assert yourself!
  5. Teach your child to use ‘I statements’. Many children struggle to be assertive themselves, simply because they don’t know what language to use and how to express themselves. Focusing on themselves as opposed to others helps them stay firmly in the assertive category; the minute we start directing our responses at others and blaming or accusing, we edge closer to the aggressive. Teach your child to define how they think, what they feel, and what they need. ‘I have a different idea’, ‘I feel upset when I’m the only one not invited’, ‘I don’t like it when you say that’, ‘I need some time out’.

At Role Models we help children age 3-15 develop a range of different life skills. We have courses designed specifically to help children develop the confidence to assert themselves, delivered as both offline and online experiences.

This article was written by Louise Treherne, Director of Character Education at Role Models. Louise has a degree in Psychology, 12 years experience as a teacher, including 5 years as a Senior Deputy Head at a London Prep school. She now works as a Professional Coach and Educational Consultant.