Assertive parenting skills can be divided into four main areas: using positive discipline to direct your child's behavior; standing up for your child's rights; allowing your child to be assertive; and setting an example of constructive assertiveness. Being assertive means to solve problems with a reasonable attitude, to use active listening, to express opinions or disagreement at a reasonable volume and to stand firm when you know what you need and that you are right.
Assertiveness as Positive Discipline
Positive discipline provides boundaries that both parent and child find reasonable. Some rules might be immutable because they are dictated by child safety such as not sticking fingers in light sockets. Others, such as length of time for a visit with a friend or how the child can spend his allowance, may benefit from allowing input from the child. Keeping the boundaries consistent, while using a kind voice and active listening, helps your child feel secure.
Standing Up for Your Child's Rights
Standing up for your child shows him that you are on his side. In order to stand up for your child, be mindful of his social activities and his academic activities. It means intervening when an adult does not understand your child's needs or misunderstands a behavior. Examples might be explaining a family name spelling to a teacher or letting a day care worker know that when your son says "fruck" it means truck, not an expletive. It might mean negotiating with a school for academic placement.
Allow Your Child to be Assertive
Allowing your child to be assertive means giving them reasonable latitude to express his opinion and to make choices. For example, a child whose chore it is to pick up toys in the living room might say, "It's not my mess. Why should I pick it up?" Your response might be, "Some of it is not your mess. But your brother is picking up all the toys in the kitchen. That is how we share work." Children should be given reasonable choices, such as whether they want peas or green beans for dinner. They also need language and skills for sharing and taking turns. Assertiveness provides the right tools for positive social interaction.
Setting an Example of Assertiveness
Assertiveness requires taking control of your life and making your own decisions. When you choose to deal with shop keepers, neighbors and others using reasonable tones and positive conflict resolution skills, you set a good example for your children. When you actively listen to your children and adjust expectations when they make reasonable arguments, you are helping them learn valuable socialization skills. You make it clear to them that the answer to some questions is a clear, firm "no."
An assertive parent is neither authoritative nor permissive. She stands up for her children's rights, but she does not condone wrong-doing. She listens to her child's side of the story, but is not afraid to point out errors in the child's reasoning. She adjusts rules if her child presents a good reason for doing so. She empowers her child to reject that which is wrong for the child. She sets an example of being a good citizen by negotiating positively with her child and with adults.
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