Assertiveness is one of the most important skills you can teach your teen.
When your teen learns how to be assertive, she is better able to self-advocate and express her feelings in a calm and respectful way. Assertive teens are confident communicators, with a sense of self-control and a responsibility to express themselves clearly and courteously.
Assertiveness does not come easily to everyone. Although your teen may have no trouble demanding what she wants or expressing her frustration when things don’t go her way, she may have trouble being assertive. Being assertive is different from making demands or having a meltdown. It means being able to speak up for yourself and others in a way that is calm, positive, and thoughtful. It requires awareness of the desired outcome, recognition of the needs of others, and acceptance that the desired outcome may require compromise.
Assertiveness is an advanced skill but you can help your teen get it right!
Teach her about feelings.
Assertive teens know which situations trigger certain feelings. Help your teen broaden her awareness of her triggers by calmly pointing them out. Say something like I notice you get really down after spending hours on your phone. Is that right? You can also teach her that feelings reveal what actions need to be taken. For example, anger may mean a hard conversation is needed. Ongoing sadness may mean something or someone needs to be let-go.
Provide her emotional outlets.
Assertive teens have tools for processing their emotions in an effective way. Journals are safe outlets where teens can process their experiences while deepening their understanding of their choices. Exercise can burn off frenzied emotional energy and help your teen gain a sense of calm. A life coach can help your teen gain a broader perspective and determine how to move forward with grace and purpose.
Start by identifying your non-negotiable rules and expectations. For all those that are negotiable, invite your teen into a high-level discussion about rules and consequences. Encourage her to share her reasoning, as you share yours. Together, come up with agreements. Follow this with an explicit conversation about accountability and the consequences for a broken agreement. Ask you teen to summarize your high-level conversation by providing this framework: Our agreement is… and I’ll hold myself accountable by… If the agreement is broken, we’ve agreed the consequence will be…
Praise her assertiveness.
The next time your teen speaks up, acknowledge her. Highlight when she is being assertive so she begins to connect with her ability to use her voice. Point out examples of assertive people and the positive outcomes of their assertiveness.
Teach and model empathy.
Empathy is a key ingredient to becoming an assertive person. It means paying attention to the needs of others. You can model empathy with your teen when you listen, ask thoughtful questions, make eye contact, and give her your undivided attention. Honor her experience by saying What I think I understand is… When you do this for her, you are teaching her how to do it with others.