Chapter 4: Assertiveness

Although the thesaurus lists “forceful,” “pushy,” and “aggressive” as synonyms for “assertive,” Loving Guidance® focuses on “positive” and “confident” as it teaches adults to tell children what we want them to do.  The goal of assertiveness is clarity, telling a child simply, positively, and confidently what we want him or her to do.  It is NOT about control.  It IS about focusing the child’s attention and offering support and encouragement while setting the child up for success.

Adults choose where they will focus their attention.  When distracted, we can acknowledge the distraction and return our focus to the task at hand.  Children, however, must learn this skill.  We can think of focused attention as the beam of a flashlight.  Adults can direct their flashlights to a certain task and remain focused.  Children, however, are directed by outside stimuli.  Their flashlights may be able to focus on one area, but a distraction causes that light to move.  Each time the light moves, a child’s brain must search for a new pattern in order to interpret the situation.  While searching, the brain remains in chaos. At any given time, the flashlight can be moving all around a room.  The role of the adult is to help children focus their lights (or attention).  How??

First and foremost, the adult must focus on what he/she wants the child TO do, not stop doing.  For example, a child is dallying while getting dressed for school.  Mom knows the bus will be coming in ten minutes.  Mom really wants the child to “get with it,” “stop dallying,”  “you know the bus will be here any minute.”  Does she say these things?  NO, Mom, instead takes a deep breath (or two or three) and thinks about what she wants her child to do…finish getting dressed.  So, she:

  • walks over to the child and says the child’s name:  “Susie.”  When the child looks at mom, mom says, “There you are.”  Eye contact is important when delivering a message.
  • Mom touches the child gently and says:  “It is time to get dressed for school.”  Touch is important when delivering a message.
  • Mom states clearly and simply:  “Put on your socks.”  Mom can offer choices…left foot or right foot first?”  Short and simple is important when delivering a message.
  • Mom shows the child (if needed), using, “put on your sock, just like this.”
  • Mom provides encouragement as the child complies, saying, “There you go.  You’re doing it.”  Mom does not say, “Good job!” as that is ambiguous and judgmental (a topic we will save for later J).  Offering encouragement is important when delivering a message.


You may choose to print the following to use as a resource:   poster for teaching assertiveness.



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