Your child gets back from school and tells you something about a bully in his/her class and the first thing you do is to tell your child that he/she should stop acting weak or you run off to the child’s school to report this bully to his teachers OR your child uses sentences like “Don’t talk to me like that”; “If my name appears on the ‘noise-makers’ list, I’ll show you” amongst his or her peers and the first thing that comes to your mind as a parent especially in Nigeria is “he is strong” and you as a parent sees absolutely no reason to correct this child’s attitude towards his peers.
The reason why a child is bullied is because he or she is not assertive enough and the reason why a child would be a bully is because such a child is aggressive. Children learn social behaviors through trial and error with their peers, and they have this need to learn about power and what it takes to get what they want. Children are supposed to be able to stand up for themselves and learn to interact well with their peers. Teaching them to be assertive and self-confident as opposed to being aggressive contributes to their social and emotional development.
What is ASSERTIVENESS?
Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights, without undue anxiety, in a way that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.
What is AGGRESSIVENESS?
Aggressiveness is behaving in a determined or forceful way while causing physical or emotional harm to others.
IMPORTANCES OF LEARNING HOW TO BE ASSERTIVE:
Children who are assertive take responsibility for their actions as opposed to children who are aggressive who blame, name-call, threaten and fight with their peers all in a bid to prove a point.
Assertive children have no problems developing positive relationships as opposed to aggressive children who lack social skills.
When a child is neither assertive nor aggressive, such a child is said to be non-assertive and are always targets for bullies. These children need to be taught that it is okay to say “no” if a child or adult attempts to attack them with words or deeds.
Children need to be able to identify their feelings, learn how to express themselves and also acknowledge their rights.
EXAMPLE OF ASSERTIVE, NON-ASSERTIVE AND AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR:
Aggressive (being mean): “Give me that book or you are going to get it from me!!!”
Non-Assertive (being weak): “You can have my book. I don’t need it”.
Assertive (being strong): “I’m reading this book now. You may have it when I’m finished”.
HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO BE ASSERTIVE:
Teach them to practice looking into a bully’s eye and say “No” with a strong voice.
Explain that they have a choice to say either “YES” or “NO” to every request and not be “boxed into a corner”.
Teach children how to make requests, how to politely refuse offers, and accept offers in ways that would not seem “non assertive”.
Using the “I” message also helps children deal with problems of assertiveness. Eg “I FEEL” “BECAUSE I”.
Teach children that if they are physically threatened or feel afraid, they need to tell an adult.
The Problem Solving Parent By Eleanor Reynolds
Assertiveness Training For Children By Leah Davies