What Kids Need: Assertiveness Skills

The Search Institute’s list of the 40 Developmental Assets for Youth, #25 lists Assertiveness Skills is something kids need to learn in order to develop resilience in their lives.  I would venture to even say that many adults still have not taken the time to train themselves in the difference between assertiveness, aggression, and passivity.  Assertiveness is a confident forcefulness without being negative.  It is the ability to say what you need to say, to stand up for yourself.  This is certainly a life skill that comes naturally to some kids and to others, not at all.  Aggression involves negativity, sometimes even violence, and certainly anger and hostility.  Passivity is inaction, inactivity, a nonparticipation type behavior.  Teaching kids the difference between these three terms and when to use each of them is a life skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Education of these different behaviors can easily be seen in movies and television shows.  Take time to point them out to kids and explain the behavior and resulting outcomes.  Ask your kids what your kids how they would handle different situations.  If they have trouble articulating their views, coach them, but do not put words into their mouths.  Role-play with them different situations requiring assertiveness and help them to learn what to say and how to say it.  When we teach kids to stick up for themselves and not just go along with the group mentality, we help them learn how to voice their opinions and let others know of their needs in such a way that leads to discussion, instead of frustration.

I always recommend that parents share some of their stories about being assertive and not being assertive.  Their stories about how things went because of their action or inaction is an effective way for kids to learn for themselves the importance of this skill.  When we help kids develop the skills of putting their feelings down in writing as well as verbally, we help them to express themselves without fear in an appropriate manner.  This will serve them well over the years and develop into an adult skill that will place them above many adults, who today have not learned the subtle art of expressing themselves appropriately.  I challenge you today to sit down with your child and help them to discover the difference between assertiveness, aggression, and passivity, you will be glad that you did.

Yours for Better Parenting,