How to Raise Assertive Kids Who Can Stand Up for Themselves {Without Being Rude}

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Little eyes are always watching, little ears are always listening.

My four girls recently had a front row seat to how well (or as it turns out not well) I stand up for myself.

Our car was recently rear ended in our local library’s parking lot. Thankfully no injuries but about a $1,000 worth of damage to the back end of my car.

The first words out of the other driver’s mouth? Not, are you okay. Or, sorry I backed into your PARKED car.

Nope. In a not-so-nice tone told me he was going to call the police and file a report in case “you change your story later and deny hitting my car.”

Newton’s First Law. “An object at rest stays at rest…unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” The “unbalanced force” in this case being you Sir.

I answered back with a quick “no, my car was parked, you hit me” and moved onto exchanging information and taking photos of both cars, planning on taking it up later with his insurance company.

My assertive eldest daughter, never shy with an opinion and not one to EVER let something go, laid into me.

“Mom, why didn’t you let that guy have it? He hit us. You just let him off. I would have yelled at him.” And on, and on, and on.

Her 3 passive sisters? Happy we were driving away from a confrontation.

I have 3 passive kids who sometimes, like their mom, have trouble standing up for themselves, and 1 assertive kid who sometimes crosses the line into being rude.

How do I balance these kids out? How do you raise kids that are assertive enough to stand up for themselves without being rude?

Practice makes perfect

If your kid is nervous about speaking up, role play with them to make them feel more comfortable when the real situation arises. Have your child practice standing up for herself at home. Encourage friendly debates at home, letting your child know that her opinion counts, even if mom or dad (or sister) doesn’t agree with them.

Also, always encourage your child to ask for what she wants or needs and when she needs to speak to adults, let her take the lead (and only add your thoughts when absolutely necessary). Don’t order for your child in a restaurant; let her tell the server what she would like to eat. Let your child be the one answering the pediatrician’s questions when she is sick.

What do you do if you don’t like how your child is asking for something she wants? When this happens in my house, it usually involves electronics and someone who isn’t content to wait her turn (or relinquish control to a sister). My go-to prompt is “how else you could ask for that” or “how would you like your sister to talk to you.” That’s their cue that they have stepped out of line.

Teach your kids how to speak up for themselves the right way

If your child gets easily flustered, teach her some comeback lines to use. This strategy was particularly helpful with one of my girls who missed a couple months of school due to illness. One of her biggest fears in returning to school was being pestered with questions about her illness. After months of talking about nothing but her illness, all she wanted to be talking about was JoJo Siwa and L.O.L.(s). We came up with a few good comeback lines to use when kids asked the inevitable questions, which made her feel more confident.

For the kids who have no trouble speaking up for themselves, remind them that speaking up for yourself doesn’t mean yelling or speaking over someone. Screaming and getting upset makes you look less confident, not more. Teach your child to always be polite, but use a strong and firm tone.

Model assertive (but not rude) behavior

Kids learn more from how we behave than from what we say.

If you want your kids to be assertive, be a good role model. If someone is rude to you, act the way you would want your child to act.

Which brings me back to my not-so-stellar performance in the library parking lot.

So how did I turn it around and show my girls that their mom can (and does) stand up for herself?

I had them listen in on my many conversations with the other driver’s insurance company. They heard me calmly, but firmly, argue my position and refute the other driver’s claims. More importantly, they heard me stand up for myself and get what I wanted, the other driver’s insurance company to accept responsibility.

Some children are born comfortable speaking up for themselves, some are just more shy and passive. But even a naturally shy and passive kid can learn how to speak up for herself. And even an aggressive kid can learn how to be polite.

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Siobhan Kratovil
Siobhán* Fitzpatrick Kratovil is a stay-at-home mom, solo attorney, and blogger. She practices in the Dallas area and specializes in business law and estate planning for families with young children. After years of conversations with other parents that started with “You’re a lawyer, right? I’ve got a question for you,” Siobhán started writing her blog Lex Mater (The Law Mother). With no legalese and a lot of humor, she answers a broad range of legal questions from parents, including what are those pesky liability waivers/releases you have to sign for every kid activity, how do you pick guardians for your kids, and her personal favorite, whose responsible when your kid’s favorite glitter shoes are stolen at an indoor trampoline park. Siobhán and her husband Chris, who is also an attorney, are the parents of four girls, Caitríona (13), Cara (10), Kelsey (8), and Claire (4). When she’s not mothering, lawyering, or blogging, Siobhán is a runner with far more passion than speed. You can find Siobhán at Lex Mater, on Facebook , on Twitter , and on Instagram. * Don’t know how to pronounce Siobhán? Don’t worry. It’s one of those impossible Irish names no one outside of Ireland can pronounce or spell. It’s pronounced “shiv-awn.”

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