Kids should learn how to stand up for themselves, kindly and determinedly. Here are tips on teaching children to be assertive in social settings.
At the library, my toddler was playing with a block when a younger child walked over and took it away from his hand. The boy didn’t do it in a mean way. Like most kids his age, he assumed that the toy was his for the taking, and take he did.
Meanwhile, my toddler didn’t try to get the block back. When kids take toys from him, he assumes a carefree attitude of, “Sure, go ahead,” or “Let me find another block.” (Where is this carefree attitude when he’s making demands at home? Hmm…)
Other times he’s confused about what just happened. Whichever the case, I let him know it’s fine for him to get the item back if he wants it.
In other words, I want him to be assertive and stand up for what’s important to him.
Teaching children to be assertive
There have been times when he did just that. We were at the playground when he retrieved a pine cone that another little boy had grabbed from him.
I’m grateful he doesn’t immediately react with aggression when others take things from him. I’d like him to handle social conflicts in a calm way without resorting to whining, hitting or crying.
But I want him to know we don’t always have to share our things. And if we’re not done with something just yet, it’s fine to hold on to an item a bit longer until we’re ready to let it go.
So when another child takes a toy, I follow these steps to teach him to be more assertive:
- Ask him if he wanted to keep playing with the toy.
- Let him know that he can tell other kids, “I’m not done yet” when he doesn’t want to part with the toy.
- Say that if he wants something, he can hold on to it and not have to give it away.
- Say, “Looks like you’d rather play with another toy” (if he looks like he could care less).
At home and among adults, my toddler has zero problem with letting us know of his demands. And even then, we don’t dismiss his emotions, and instead acknowledge them first. We want him to voice what he wants and acknowledge and respect that he has wants, even if they’re not always met.
We don’t encourage him to use force or aggression, but we do want him to know he can stand up for what he wants.
This may be the reason I’m against stepping in and solving social conflicts among kids. While adults are more likely to oblige kids in what they want (“Oh, you want this ball? Sure, go ahead.”), other kids prove to be tougher play mates.
I don’t force him to give up a beloved item. Or remove him if he wanted to stay, or take the item away. I prefer to act like a moderator between the kids. Then he can identify his emotions, understand the proper ways to act and learn to assert himself.
Get more useful tips:
- 7 Ways to Teach Your Toddler to Share
- 23 Children’s Books about Being a Good Friend
- 9 Playground Rules You and Your Kids Should Remember
- How to Help Your Social Child Handle Peer Rejection
- 6 Mistakes Parents Make When Socializing Your Child
Tell me in the comments: When have you had to teach your child to be assertive? Should we encourage assertiveness or is that raising aggressive kids?
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