As incredible as it may seem, assertiveness is synonymous with healthy self-esteem. It helps establish healthy interpersonal bonds and promotes positive and reinforced communication with others, where all parties feel listened to and at peace.
In reality, assertiveness is a social skill that does not come as standard and therefore needs to be internalized and worked on. For this, as with everything in life, it is better to start when they are young, as it will help them build the foundations of good self-esteem.
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness refers to a person’s ability to freely express their thoughts and feelings in a transparent, honest, and empathetic way without offending or hurting others.
Developing assertiveness helps us connect with our needs and communicate them calmly and respectfully, increasing the possibility of satisfying them healthily. Therefore, assertiveness is the middle ground between opting for passive communication, which will lead us to continuous submission, or for aggressive communication, which limits us and creates toxic bonds.
Before knowing some techniques for children to develop assertiveness, let’s remember the importance of opting for assertive communication:
- It brings personal well-being.
- It helps to defend one’s own opinions while always respecting those of others.
- It motivates us to set limits and not to be influenced by what others say.
- It promotes awareness of one’s emotional state.
- It contributes to good self-esteem and not falling into practices such as manipulating, exercising, and suffering.
Teaching a child assertiveness is just as essential as knowing how to pick a college paper writing service in their older years. Both skills will save them from unnecessary nerves and wasted time. So, how does one do it right?
Techniques to develop assertiveness in children
1. Be their best example.
Children, especially when young, are like sponges that absorb everything. That is why it is essential to take care of the way we communicate and express ourselves with others so that they have a good role model. So, work on empathy and active communication, so your message is as assertive as possible.
To reach this point, you must consider how you speak to your children: whether you are more of a dictator-type or are concerned about listening to the children’s concerns and opinions; if you talk to them with affection and serenity, or if, on the contrary, you resort to shouting, threats, and punishments; if you give them everything done or let them learn and make mistakes; if you are one of those who dialogue and negotiate or, on the contrary, indoctrinate and impose.
2. Encourage the development of empathy
Empathy is another social skill that goes hand in hand with assertiveness. Without empathy, assertiveness cannot be fully developed, and it means nothing more than putting oneself in other people’s shoes, considering how they may feel. So, if we help children be instinctively empathic, we are also helping them be more assertive. It is a way for them to understand and internalize that their words have consequences and that they can hurt other people.
Talking to them and letting them express themselves is the best way to internalize these skills, as they will gradually become more measured in their words and find the best way to speak and express themselves to others.
3. Create a pleasant environment for communication
Another determining factor for children to develop assertiveness is that they see and know that their home is a safe place to express without fear how they feel and what is happening to them, regardless of the seriousness of the conflict.
If you foster a climate of trust, worry about their concerns or day-to-day problems, listen to them attentively and give them affection, you will ensure that when this happens the other way round, they will not cut off the person speaking. They will not judge, and they will not criticize.
4. Show them how to speak with respect
You must always convey to them that things can be said and expressed without disrespect. An arduous task that is not always achieved due to the patterns we as adults already have internalized.
In this case, it would be as simple as encouraging them to say things and never go silent, but when they do, they should not disrespect (either by insulting or speaking aggressively) anyone. So let the children also say what bothers them and what they don’t like, and as long as it is something logical, negotiate with them.
If, during this process, you see that they are not choosing the right way to express themselves, then let them see that there is a better way to say it. But leave reproaches and judgments behind. Think that they are learning and need your help and understanding so that they gradually become more aware.
One of the formulas most recommended by psychologists, in this case, is to always speak from the first person and not from the second. To help you understand this, here is an example: “Your comments have made me feel bad, so I would appreciate it if next time you could say it differently” instead of “You have made me feel bad and don’t do it again.”
5. Express yourself clearly and calmly
It is widespread always to take what is happening inside our children or us for granted. But the reality is that when something upsetting happens, they feel they are being mistreated. They exercise the victimhood typical of this stage of childhood, which generates great emotional discomfort.
To avoid this type of situation, you should explain that if they want other people to take their wishes and needs into account, they have to learn to say things calmly, in a concrete and controlled way. Although it is important to remind them that this does not mean they will always be satisfied, it is just the first step. The job here will be to make them see that expressing their wishes and feelings is better than getting angry and kicking when their expectations are not met.
6. Help them to negotiate and give in
There is a false belief that if adults give in to children, that means losing our authority with them and, therefore, any credibility. The reality is that this is not the case because negotiating allows them to learn to be responsible and autonomous.
But be careful! This does not mean that you as an adult do not tuck them in along the way, but rather that you teach them to fly on their own, planting a tiny seed so that as they grow up, they can make their own decisions, even if you have already given them your point of view.
7. Teach them to set boundaries
One of the biggest tasks that not only the youngest children need to work on. Teaching them to say no and set limits is finding balance in themselves. Making them see that setting clear and logical limits will help them gain autonomy when they are children.
So, in this case, show them your unconditional love and that they can count on you, regardless of whether or not you agree with their behavior, tastes, or opinion. In this way, we will be helping children to have their own criteria and say no when they don’t like something.
8. Boost their self-esteem
Self-esteem is the foundation on which personality is built. So, building good self-esteem helps children develop emotional responsibility. A positive self-image, where you love, accept, respect, love yourself above all else, are unaffected by criticism, and are not afraid to express yourself, are the signs of good self-esteem.
In this case, as an adult, you only have to limit yourself to guiding them to build a good self-concept and invite them to know themselves. This does not mean that you impose the version of the child that you want, but that you are a mere spectator of this process and that from time to time, you serve as a guide for the child when they get lost.
9. Take care of your body language
Another important determining factor that must also be taken care of. If we want to help children to develop assertiveness, it is vital that you take care of your body posture and that you deal with issues naturally. Certain uncomfortable topics with your children are difficult to talk about, but maintaining a firm and calm posture will help children integrate this into how they communicate.
For children to internalize good use of body language, we can instill in them that when they speak to others, they should look them in the eye and without hesitation with a loud but calm tone of voice so that they can be heard.
10. Apply active listening
Active listening involves listening attentively; sometimes, you are not willing to go that far, and children notice it. So, if you choose to make them see that their point of view is not the only one and that you have to learn to listen to the needs of others, even when you don’t like what they say. Speaking clearly and honestly goes hand in hand with being an active listener, as this is the only way to achieve a genuinely enriching result for everyone.
In this process, it is also important not to deny them one reality: their feelings. No one can refute them or discuss how they feel, as they are the masters of what they experience. In the same way, they cannot do the same with other people.
11. Teach them to validate their emotions of any kind
Last but not least, it is vital that as an adult, you validate children’s emotions. Remember that there are no good or bad ones, but rather some that make us feel better and some that make us feel worse, but all are legitimate. Now, the work comes when in an attempt to help them be more assertive, we can change the way children interpret those emotions.
The result is none other than good emotional regulation, as we help them change those negative thoughts for more inspiring and encouraging ones when they feel upset or dissatisfied.