Friday, April 23, 2010

How to teach assertiveness?

Amor Chiquito has been interacting more and more with her cousin and our neighbors’ kids lately. I am noticing that she is very much a follower. This is disconcerting to me. I am not saying that I want her to be the leader. I feel that being assertive is vital, though. It is a very important skill that I want to help her develop. I want her to do the things she enjoys doing, to think about what it is that she likes or needs to do. I want her to feel comfortable speaking up when something makes her feel uncomfortable or sad.

Here is an example. Earlier today, Amor Chiquito was playing outside with the neighbors, ages five and two. Amor Chiquito does whatever the older girl does, which is pretty typical. At one point, the two-year-old began throwing sand at Amor Chiquito. There was sand on her face, near her eyes, in her hair... She did not say anything when it happened. Later on, Geeky Entrepreneur asked her if she liked that. She said “no.” He asked if it made her feel happy or sad. She said “sad.” We made a point of not showing any emotions or not asking questions in a suggestive manner. We wanted her to decide for herself how she felt about the sand situation.

Now what? We will tell her to tell us how she feels. Most importantly, we will make a point of using “I feel” statements. She will begin modeling eventually.

I feel that this is a good starting point, but that there is more to it than these ideas. If you have a little one, is s/he assertive? If not, what have you tried? How is it working out?

I look forward to your comments, thoughts and suggestions.


  1. I wonder if it's an age thing!?!? About 6 months ago DH and I were talking about how DS too seems to always be a follower. However, most of his buddies are anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months older than him. Not a huge difference, but you know, when they're only 2, 6 months is a lot. But lately, I've been noticing him taking more initiative. Especially at school...where he's one of the older ones. Or maybe it's just school in general? I wonder though! The age of the individual...or maybe the age of the kids they play with? Or maybe it's just personality? I don't know...but we too were wondering if it was anything to address a while back!

  2. Hmm, interesting, Michelle... Ari is the youngest in the group too. Your son is four months older than her, so perhaps it is an age thing. Glad to hear he has gotten more assertive! I wonder if going to preschool will help her with this eventually.

  3. I wouldn't worry about it. Nahum has done this and continues to do this. At school, they will coach her and the other kid on what to do in a situation like that. Nahum knows how to say I don't like that. Stop it please. That kind of stuff... child rearing is all about inculcating them in some way, and this is probably one of the harder things about parenting!