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  • Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT, ATR

Raising Assertive Children and Teens

Are you worried that your child doesn’t stand up for themselves when there is a problem? Or concerned about a kid that yells, bosses others around, or demands to get their way? Or have you wondered if there is more you can be doing to build healthy self-esteem in your child?

These are common concerns that a lot of parents bring up when they bring a child to counseling. Although there are many different possible reasons for these challenges, teaching your child to be assertive can help with all of these concerns.

Raising children and teens to be assertive is sometimes overlooked in favor of teaching kids to be nice, polite, and compliant. Parents and teachers often want kids to do as they are asked without speaking back, arguing, or asking why. When peer problems come up, the advice that kids are given is often “be nice” or “walk away.”

Although polite kids who do their schoolwork and don’t argue are definitely great, being overly passive can lead to problems when children don’t know how to stand up for themselves when someone is being mean, don’t ask for help when they are confused in school, can’t speak up when they see a problem, or have low self-esteem because they think others don’t care about their thoughts and feelings.

As your child grows into a teen and then young adult, you want them to be assertive in order to be able to speak out if someone hurts them, say no in dating situations if their boundaries are violated, and advocate for themselves in jobs and college.

Here are some of the benefits that assertive kids and teens experience:

  • Standing up for themselves when peers are rude or bullying

  • Asking for help at school when they are confused or struggling

  • Getting adult support in dealing with peer problems

  • Not giving in to peer pressure or standing by when they see a problem

  • Making friends more easily by being able to initiate social interactions through play or conversation

  • Feeling good about themselves when others listen to their thoughts and opinions

  • Defending their personal rights with negative friends or bullies

  • Being able to address problems and misunderstandings with teachers, parents, or other authority figures

  • Expressing their emotions and getting help instead of internalizing or acting out

  • Knowing how to get what they want or need without bullying or manipulating others

  • Greater confidence in themselves

  • Being better able to deliver presentations for school or work

  • Speaking up proudly about their own accomplishments and strengths to employers or colleges

  • Saying no and setting boundaries in dating relationships

  • Speaking up if they are victims of abuse or violence

Natural assertiveness seems to have a lot to do with the temperament that your child is born with. Some kids are naturally outgoing and speak up for themselves as soon as they start talking. Other children are more shy and anxious, hesitant to speak, or try to be easygoing to prevent conflict.

The good news is that assertiveness is a skill that can be learned and taught. As a parent (or teacher, scout leader, counselor, etc.) you can teach assertiveness skills to your child and provide a safe environment for these skills to develop and grow.

If you’d like to learn more about how to help your kids be assertive, click on the link to download my article "10 Ways to Raise Assertive Kids and Teens."

Does your child need some extra help in building self-esteem? Contact me today to schedule an initial session.

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