8 ways to improve assertiveness, for parents and their children

Assertiveness. Something we all need but something that doesn’t always come naturally. In my last post we looked at the importance of assertiveness, what it meant to be assertive and whether or not this was something we needed to work on for ourselves and our children. 

Whilst we know that personality and the gene pool lottery can play a part in how easily or not one can assert themselves, we also know that assertiveness is a behaviour, and behaviours can be challenged and changed.

Below are some strategies to help you become more assertive, as well as those to help our children. As they begin to become more independent and venture out into the world beyond the family home, it is important that our children too are equipped with the skills to assert themselves.

When trying to assert ourselves, get our point across or have our needs met in a particular way, it is important to:

1.Be clear about what you want. Get straight to the point and refrain from long winded explanations. The more you talk in circles, the less weight your point of view will have and the more likely it is that you will be overwhelmed or intimidated.

2.Ask for more time. When somebody asks a favour of you and you are unsure how to respond, then don’t be afraid to ask for more time or for more information. Again it is far better to give yourself time to assess the situation to determine whether it is something that will work for you. To avoid saying “yes” when you may in fact need to say “No” you can instead respond to a request with something like “I am not sure yet, I need more time to work out what I am doing”.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Remember when we say no to someone we are only rejecting their request, we are not rejecting the person. 

3.Watch people and observe.  What is it about peoples body language that makes them assertive or not?  How do they word their requests?  Look at the eyes, posture, facial expression and gestures of those that are both assertive and those that are not.  Obviously these sorts of non verbal behaviours are much harder to change, but at least being aware will help you gain some control and think about the way in which you are presenting yourself.

4.Be Prepared: know the facts ahead of a foreseen situation. Be prepared for how people may respond. If we have a situation we know may result in a confrontation, then try and anticipate others behaviour. By thinking ahead about the possible scenarios you will be in a far better position to tackle any situation with greater confidence.

5.Have faith in your own abilities, knowledge and strength. Know that you are valuable and deserve to have your needs met. We all have a right to assert ourselves no matter what our personality or position.

6. Role play situations. If a child is being bullied or shy or lacks confidence, try to conjure up some situations and ask them to respond how they usually would. Discuss the repercussions of this response and try to come up with other ways they could have coped with the situation and practise a new response.

7. Expose your children to different situations and people. Children need to occasionally be moved out of their comfort zone in order to challenge their own social skills. Urge them to ask questions and make their own requests. Encourage them to say hello when others say hello. Ask them to hand the money to the shop assistant. If they want sauce with their chips, try to get them to ask the waitress rather than always speaking for them.

8.Be a role model for your children  The best way we can ensure our children acquire assertiveness skills is for them to witness those around them being assertive. If they are seeing you get what you need in a confident manner whilst all the while respecting both yourself and others they will be far more likely to mirror such behaviour.

So whether you are asking a boss for a raise, approaching a PR company to sponsor you for an international blogging event, turning down a colleagues request for a favour or whether you are a small child asking for the return of your favourite toy, assertiveness skills are something that can be taught, practised and developed and most importantly can be role modelled and encouraged by parents.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. kirri

    Im going to fess up right now and admit to being a bit of a doormat…(sometimes). I’m working hard on it! Number 2 really hit struck a chord with me…its so easy to just say Yes without thinking things through properly or coming from a need to please. I can really see the benefits of just asking for some more time…

    Thanks Martine.

  2. Grady Pruitt

    I know I need to work on number 1. I have many times where I say something, but am not sure if my meaning came across, so I keep talking in circles, confusing myself even more and weakening whatever point I had been trying to make.

    We all need to remember that WE ARE role models for our children, whether by intention, or by default. Children have this way of picking up things that we do, whether we want them to or not.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. kathleen

    I am very humbled by my inability to be an assertive parent. As a health teacher & a life coach I can easily guide my students and clients through the skills to “Say what you mean, mean what you say, with out saying it mean” but I am filled with shame that I can’t apply this tool in my home. It seems absurd that I allow my 9 year old to run the house, that I allow my 11 year to take on the guilt that everything’s is his fault and allow my 14 year old to manipulate me. I know awareness is the first step but this is quiet painful.

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