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 to develop resilience in their lives.  I would venture even to 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.

Assertiveness is indeed a life skill that comes naturally to some kids and 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.

Examples of these different behaviors are readily available 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 not put words into their mouths.  Role-play with them different situations requiring assertiveness and help them 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 a way that leads to the discussion instead of frustration.

I always recommend that parents share some of their stories about being assertive and not being assertive.  Processing events after a child’s decision is an effective way for kids to learn the importance of this skill.  One technique is having them put down in writing the event and their decision.

I have another post on Assertiveness at Assertiveness Skills – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

For a decision making worksheet, please see Decision Making Worksheets – Learny Kids


Yours for Better Parenting,