There are three ways of responding to any situation; passively, assertively, aggressively. The way we respond requires self control and has a direct affect on our own self esteem. Our ability to control how we respond demonstrates the respect we have ourselves and others. For parents of young children we want them to learn to stand up for themselves in a manner that they can have respect for themselves and their requests while demonstrating respect for those that they are speaking to.
So lets say that our child is on the playground and a situation arises that is aggressive behavior towards them, someone is on purpose excluding them from a game or they have pushed them away from a playground toy not allowing them to play on the slide or swings. They have asked nicely their companion to have a turn or to play with no good results. One of the steps we teach them is to speak to an adult about any situation they do not know how to handle. So they go to the playground teacher.
If they approach the playground teacher with passively with a whiney voice, looking at the ground and shrunk up, they may get a response to go find something else to do and the teacher may see it as them just whining about one more thing.
If they approach the teacher with a demanding voice that the teacher do something about “so and so”, they may without self control interrupt them and tell on the other person with the idea of getting them in trouble so they can have the playground toy to themselves. The teacher may ignore this approach too, passing it off as a tattling situation.
However if they approach the teacher with self control, waiting until the appropriate moment to have the teachers attention, clearly state what has happened on the playground, asks for the results they are looking for (a turn on the swing) and does so in a reporting fashion – they no doubt will have the teachers attention. By standing up straight and tall, looking the teacher right in the eyes, having a clear firm voice, and with the facts in order – the child demonstrates that they are aware of the rights of others to play and that they are willing to share on the playground. This is assertive asking and this takes self control.
What if there is no response? What if the teacher just pushes them aside without responding to the request? Assertive communication and one that we teach to students who are the targets of aggressive behavior is go find someone else who is in authority and make your request again in a clear and assertive manner.
The results are the child will feel good about themselves, they are learning skills that will help them in the adult world while gaining the respect of their peers and those adults in charge. Assertiveness is one of the 6 things that I believe all children need to be successful and self control which we are discussing this month is needed to be assertive without becoming aggressive or too passive.
The adult version of this discussion, “why assertive communication makes sense” can be found on our student site.