John Cowan - Assertiveness

Publish Date
Tuesday, 16 August 2016, 12:00PM
By John Cowan

You might think it is great to have kids who do what they are told.  That is okay when it is us who is telling them what to do. It’s not so good when it is their mates who are giving the instructions and our kids don’t know how to stand up to them. Kids need to learn healthy assertiveness. I once went on an Assertiveness Training Course that was so good I demanded my money back at the end. That’s not true,  but I think it is great when kids who can think for themselves and not be pushed around. 

I am not talking about rude, pushy kids but I warn you: kids do take a while how to learn to do assertiveness well, and you might go through times when their assertiveness is a bit hard to take. For example, one stage that can really aggravate parents of toddlers is when they discover the word ‘No’ (“Noooo!”). But that “No” that annoys us when they are toddlers is the same “No” that is going to keep them safe on a date when they are sixteen. Children should know what they have authority over – and that definitely includes their bodies – and know that their “No” will be respected. 

There is a way of being assertive that is poised, gracious and powerful. It is a way of expressing your will in a way that is far more likely to be complied with, and it will probably build better relationships in the process.  The basic techniques of this potent, healthy assertiveness actually look a lot like good manners – in fact, they are good manners. Manners are sometimes derided as old-fashioned and snobby – and they can be – but really good manners are fantastic social skills. Good manners are a great way of saying, “I respect you, I would appreciate respect in return.”

One skill to teach your child is how to politely make a request, and the best way to teach it is to model it yourself when you make requests.

  • Have the appropriate expression on your face (if it’s serious to you - look serious)
  • Make eye contact
  • Express what the problem is simply
  • State your request politely
  • Say how it will make you feel if that request is understood and acted on.

“There’s water on the floor from your wet coat and it’s really slippery. So please move your coat and wipe up the water. I’d be grateful and I’d feel a lot safer then.” The problem, the action, and how you’d fell.

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