Yesterday, I was teaching my third graders about assertive behavior. I had adapted a worksheet from Tom Carr's book When All Else Fails and was using it as an outline for a discussion about mutual respect and problem solving. My key point with the kids was "I matter," with the "I" being every single person (adult or child) in that room.
So often, kids worry about whether or not their behavior is "nice." While we certainly want our kids to be considerate of others, we sometimes forget to remind them that they're allowed to take themselves into consideration, too. Is it "nice" to tell someone to leave you alone, to refuse to join in an activity or to refuse to play with a peer who asks?
Well, as one of my Facebook friends commented after my last post, "I suppose it would depend on the context." Steve, you're absolutely right - context should dictate our responses. If the person you want to leave you alone is calling you names or threatening you, it's certainly reasonable to ask (or tell) them to leave you alone. If the activity someone wants you to join them in makes you uncomfortable, you have no obligation to accept. If you already have a guest when another person comes to the door to issue an invitation, it's certainly understandable to decline the second person's invitation.
If we teach our kids assertiveness with the Golden Rule as its basis, we're teaching them to operate from a foundation of mutual respect. It's easy, then, for kids to separate assertive behavior from actions that are pushy or hurtful, to allay kids' concerns that assertiveness is a "goody goody" behavior, and to ease adults' fears that assertive behavior is bold, rude or disrespectful. When we think of assertive behavior as standing up for ourselves without hurting anyone else, the link between problem-solving and self-respect becomes clear.
Even to a room full of eight-year-olds.
Next up: Four Questions
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