If someone called you assertive, would you consider it a compliment? Do you equate assertive behavior with aggressive behavior, viewing both as bold, or even rude? Or, do you see assertive behavior as something to strive for, a way to stand up for yourself without hurting anyone else?
I subscribe to the second definition, but readily acknowledge that if adults are divided in our opinions about assertiveness, that our children must be really confused. Even in today's society where bullying prevention programs abound, many adults still equate assertiveness in children with disrespect. And, many kids prefer playmates who are passive, because those are the children who willingly accomodate others' needs with little regard for their own.
But assertiveness is a life skill. With all the choices and challenges our kids face, it's more important than ever that they learn to stand up for themselves and their beliefs in a non-threatening way, and that they learn that respect (including self-respect) and problem-solving can coexist.
Girls, in particular, struggle with this. Concerned about being "nice" and maintaining relationships, they are often tempted to deem their own needs less important than others' needs in order to avoid conflict. But if they can't learn to demand respect from their girlfriends, how will they ever do so with boyfriends and spouses?
When I wrote Acting Assertively, I was teaching these lessons to fourth and fifth graders, boys and girls alike. Ten years later, I am still teaching these lessons because I still believe that the key to problem-solving lies in mutual respect and that unless we expect others to treat us with respect, they are often content not to do so. And now, as the mother of a soon-to-be teenage daughter, I want to make sure that I am raising a child who is not afraid to stand up for herself, and who has the skills to do so without trampling on others.
In future posts, I'll be sharing some tips from Acting Assertively that can help you to accomplish these goals with your own child.
Acting Assertively is available from MarCo Products, Inc. For more information, click on the link above or go to www.L2Hess.com.