Learning to be assertive … but mindful of others

Learning to be assertive … but mindful of others
Pour vivre en harmonie avec les autres, votre enfant doit apprendre à dire qui il est, ce qu’il aime et ce qu’il veut tout en respectant les autres

To get along with his peers, your child must be able to say with confidence who he is, what he likes and what he wants, but at the same time be mindful of the preferences and opinions of others. Here’s how you can help your child learn to be respectfully assertive.

Five-year-old Raphael is a calm, gentle-natured child who lets his 2-year-old sister pester and annoy him without reacting much, says his mom, Elaine. “When he’s brushing his teeth, Leah will push him off the stool in front of the sink before he’s finished, and he never protests. I’m worried for when he starts school. Is he going to let the other kids walk all over him?” The young mother would like her son to be able to stand up for himself more.

Every child is unique and presents a different set of challenges. If your child is reserved, shy or lacking in confidence, he may have difficulty speaking up for himself and fitting into a group. If he is bossy or overbearing, he may find it hard to keep his friends. “You can’t change your child’s temperament, but you can help him be more assertive or to make more room for others,” says Julie Brousseau, psychologist at the Sainte-Justine Hospital.

Helping your child to be more assertive

Try to give your child opportunities to make decisions during games or other day-to-day activities. If this is too difficult, offer her choices. When you name her emotions and prompt her to express her feelings and wishes, you are also helping reinforce her assertiveness. You could say, for example: “You must have been hurt when your cousin said your drawing was no good. Next time you are upset, you can say so.” Or: “You have the right to not want to play cars. You can tell your friend that it’s your turn to decide what to play.”

An assertive child is less likely to be bullied.

It’s also good to work on your child’s self-esteem, says psychoeducator Stéphanie Deslauriers. “You can give your child some age-appropriate tasks so that he feels what it’s like to achieve things. Praise him when he acquires new skills and listen to him when he speaks so that he builds up the confidence to stand up for himself.”

Preventing social rejection
From the age of 3 or 4, some children have difficulty being accepted by their peers. This is often due to their behaviour and a deficit in social skills. Studies show that these children are either more aggressive and oppositional, or are more withdrawn and unsociable. As they grow older, they are also more likely to have emotional and adjustment problems and are at greater risk of dropping out of school.
This is why it’s crucial to help your child learn social skills from an early age. If your little one is feeling rejected, it’s important to try to see if it’s his behaviour that’s causing the problem and to work with him on his social skills. Don’t hesitate to seek help from his teacher or turn to your local health and social services centre (CLSC) for advice.

Helping your child make room for others

By teaching your child to wait her turn, listen without interrupting and make compromises, you’re helping her to be mindful of others. Encourage her to pay attention to other people’s feelings and points of view. Tell your child, for example: “You have some good ideas, but so do your friends.” Or: “Put yourself in Justin’s shoes. Would you like to play with a friend who always decides everything?”

“It’s important to support your child so that he learns to act in a positive way with others,” explains France Capuano, professor in UQAM’s Department of Special Education and Training. “If your child is being mean or bossy, it’s wise to stop the game to explain to him how his behaviour is affecting the other kids. It’s not easy, but you’re doing him a favour.”


  • Social skills allow children to connect with others, get along with their peers, make friends, co-operate, and assert themselves.
  • Your child needs your support to become socially competent.
  • Your baby begins to learn social skills from the moment she is born.