One of the reasons children often fail to stick up for themselves is simply because they're not clear about what they are entitled to expect from other people. It is worth helping school-age children compose a personal bill of rights so they can achieve some sense of clarity about this issue. Children need to decide what they are entitled to, what standards to maintain, and where the line falls between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Respect is a key component of assertiveness, but truly assertive behavior is not just about encouraging respectful behavior from others; it's also about demonstrating respect in your dealings with them. One of the benefits of taking the time to think about a personal bill of rights is that it also gives children clear guidelines as to how they can conduct themselves in ways that respect other people's rights, too.
When your child has come up with five to ten principles that he is happy with, take the time to type or write them out neatly. Perhaps you can even frame the document and put it up somewhere he will see it every day. Encourage your child to approach this task in his own way, but if the bill is to function as a useful benchmark for assertive behavior, it should probably include some of the following principles:
- I have a right:
- To say what I think
- To express my feelings and wishes
- To be treated with respect
- To live my life without being bullied or manipulated
- To be myself
- To stick up for my rights
- To respect the rights of others
- To use my talents and abilities
- To choose how I respond to other people
Keep in mind that the process of becoming more assertive and finding the delicate point between confidence and aggression is one that children can take a while to perfect. Sometimes the situations they encounter on the playground can challenge even the most assertive individual. Be on hand to provide extra support and coaching when needed.