Teaching Our Daughters to Be Assertive
As parents, it’s important for us to teach our daughters to be assertive. Being assertive means being honest, direct and clear while maintaining mutual respect. A girl can speak her mind and still be respectful of others at the same time.
Studies have shown that assertiveness training can significantly increase girls’ self-esteem, confidence, independence, motivation, and future success. It’s so important for kids, especially girls, to learn how to speak their minds. Girls are still often taught to be nice, sweet, and quiet, while boys are encouraged to speak up and go for what they want.
With that in mind, today we’ll discuss six ways to teach our daughters to be assertive.
We Love a Girl Who Speaks Her Mind!
The first step is to teach our girls the differences between assertiveness, passiveness, and aggressiveness, and to discuss what each one means and looks like, and why assertiveness is the best. Aggressiveness involves pushing others around, trying to always have your way, and not being respectful to others. Passiveness is not speaking up for yourself, and letting others push you around and tell you what to do.
For example, let Lori tell you the story of six year old Siena and the morning she woke up to a very sweet and direct note.
“We knew from very early on that Siena was on the “outspoken” side. We’ve always loved that about her. Yes, we’ve found it also to be challenging at times, but we are happy that she questions things, speaks her mind, and stands up for herself when she thinks she’s being treated unfairly.
She’s a real go-getter and a great debater. She’s also loving and caring.
A few days ago, we found a note that Siena left for her dad on the bathroom counter. It was a little hard to read at first because she wrote it on her own, which meant she had to sound out each word she wrote.
Once we deciphered it, we saw that it read, “Please be a little nicer. Pretty please,” followed by a little orange heart.
We immediately knew what it was in response to. The night before, she and her daddy were arguing. She wanted this. He said no. She wanted to do that. He said no. She kept asking and asking, pushing, whining, and persisting. He got frustrated and raised his voice. She got sad.
They sometimes have interactions like this. They’re a lot alike – both strong willed and relentless. They can joke around, play and laugh together like no one else. But they can also push each other’s buttons. Whenever they have arguments, they usually make up and move on right afterward. This time they didn’t, which is why she left him the note.”
Her note, while direct and to-the-point, was also kind and diplomatic (with the “pretty please” at the end). It communicated clearly what she wanted: for her dad to be “nicer.” This may have had to do with him raising his voice (and probably also had to do with him not giving in to her).
Siena realized that in this situation, speaking her mind “verbally” wasn’t doing the trick, and that maybe a new form of communication would be more effective. She was right! Her daddy melted when he read her note, and admitted that he needs to be more patient with her; and he has been ever since.
Siena learned three valuable lessons that are worth passing along.
- You have every right to express yourself.
- Expressing yourself by yelling, whining and not listening to the other person’s point of view is not very effective.
- There’s a good, direct way to have your say while being mutually respectful.
So, how can you teach your daughter(s) to be more assertive?
6 Ways to teach girls to be assertive
1. Model Assertiveness
Be aware that your daughter is observing you. So do your best to be assertive in your interactions with others. Have discussions with her about your own assertive (or nonassertive) behavior in different situations. Give her a heads up when you are about to use assertive behavior with someone (such as when you’re asking for something, making a suggestion, or declining a request).
On a similar note, be assertive with her when she has done something you don’t like. Discuss it in a direct, clear way.
2. Utilize the media
Analyze and discuss assertive and non-assertive behavior you observe together in the media. Point out (and have her point out) assertive and non-assertive behavior. Discuss how someone you observed using aggressive or passive behavior could have acted assertively instead.
3. Reinforce assertive behavior
Give her opportunities to be assertive. For example, if a sibling or friend did something she doesn’t like, encourage her to assertively talk to him or her about it (maybe coach her on different things she might say). Praise her (and point out) when she uses assertive behavior.
You can also engage in role-play situations together by taking turns using assertive and non-assertive behavior. Discuss it afterward. Encourage her to point out why the non-assertive behavior was ineffective.
4. Encourage debate
Let her know that she does not always have to be agreeable. Even when being respectful and following rules, she is entitled to having an opinion. Teach her to debate issues, to take a stand on something she believes in, and to contribute to discussions. The best way to teach girls to be assertive is by discussing it, and giving them opportunities to recognize, understand, and practice it.
5. Provide leadership opportunities
Let her be in charge of projects or planning an event, outing or vacation. Depending on her age, let her make phone calls to inquire about dates, rates, etc. Let her be the one who communicates all the details with others involved (family, friends, etc.).
You can also encourage her involvement in team activities, such as sports. This will give her opportunities to develop and strengthen leadership and assertiveness skills.
6. Guide Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is a foundational success skill and helps facilitate assertiveness, self-acceptance, and self-esteem, which all go hand-in-hand with assertiveness.
So, encourage some self-awareness by letting her be herself. Help her to discover who she is and what her talents and interests are. Then encourage her to write down her goals for herself. Remind her that she can get what she wants by working hard for it and not violating others’ rights.
Tell her how important she is, and that what she has to say is important. Also encourage her to share her thoughts and feelings with you. Be a judgment-free zone. She needs to feel safe expressing herself. Really listen to her. Hear what she has to say.
When we teach girls to be assertive, we are telling them that what they have to say is important… that they are important. They have a voice, some input, and an impact. As a result, they become stronger, more self-sufficient, and more confident.
Tags: assertiveness training, boosting confidence, communication skills training, confident kids, empowering girls, increasing self-esteem, parenting advice, parenting daughters, raising strong girls, self-expression, social skills training, speaking up, success skills for kids, teaching our daughters
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Lori is a school psychologist, writer, inventor of baby and children’s products, creator of educational and social skills board games, and mom to a sweet little girl! She lives in Ventura, California, and loves to spend time at the beach with her family. She also enjoys traveling, cooking, doing crafts with her daughter, watching movies, and writing screenplays. You can find her on Facebook , Twitter, and her blog.