Why is it important to help a “shy” child become more assertive?
When September begins, families everywhere rev up for another school year. Some children view the start of a new school year as the opportunity to re-connect with old friends, participate in extra-curricular activities, and learn exciting new subjects.
For some children though, the dawn of a new school year can feel like preparing to go to battle. Another year in the trenches, met with uncertainty and anxiety.
To help combat these stressors, it is key to work as a team with your child/student.
There are things you can do at home or school to help a “shy” child build assertiveness.
Once your child/student feels more assertive, they are likely to feel more comfortable talking to others at school, and they will be more likely to advocate for themselves when a parent is not there.
Assertiveness is the ability to be confident in who you are, what you say, and what you believe in, without second-guessing yourself or becoming domineering or aggressive.
Four Effective Ways to Help a “Shy” Student Become More Assertive
1. Model assertiveness for your child or student.
Research suggests that parenting practices have a direct impact on how withdrawn or assertive a child may be. and that children often copy the behaviors of adults around them.
You can model assertiveness for your child by inviting them to see you sharing your opinions with others, listening to others, and affirming your thoughts on a given subject in a kind and confident manner.
Your child/student can learn to build opinions, share opinions, develop listening skills, and assert themselves as well.
2. Practice assertiveness through role-play.
While some children can learn new behaviors through observation, it is also beneficial to practice assertiveness skills. Your child/student can practice with someone they trust and who can guide them.
One activity you can use to practice assertiveness is to write down different scenarios on pieces of paper and place them in a pile.
The child can pick a scenario from the pile and together you can act out how to be assertive based on that given situation.
Examples of scenarios to role-play:
- your friend takes something that belongs to you without asking
- someone calls you a mean name
- you disagree with a friend about what to do on a Saturday afternoon
- you are asked to create a project with a group of your peers and disagree with the ideas of the others in the group
Feel free to come up with some of your own role-play scenarios.
If this is done at school, remember that students who struggle communicating in a large group may do better in a small social group or one on one with a school counselor or similar staff member.
3. Similar to role-playing, allow your child/student to give input into natural daily discussions.
Take some time to have discussions about a given, appropriate topic.
This could be with a parent in the car heading to an event, on the porch in the evening, or with a teacher/counselor during recess, social studies, social group, etc.
Allow your child/student the opportunity to provide input into the discussion and this will build their conversation skills, general knowledge, and their confidence in being heard and having their own valualble voice.
4. Give your child/student positive feedback when you see/hear them asserting themselves or advocating for themselves.
Be responsive to their feelings, thoughts, concerns, questions and ideas so they feel confident that what they say matters. It is important that they feel heard.
Child: “Mom, this shirt really is not my style.”
Mom: “Thanks for letting me know. What do you think is more in line with what you like to wear?”
Let them know when you are proud of how they asserted themselves.
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”