How to become an assertive parent
Here’s how to become an assertive parent which can also help your relationship with your partner too
What many people want to do is rely on reason and kindness, and it’s true we need a lot more of that in the world and in families today. What we don’t need is aggression. The big question is how do you make your point, how do you get your way, without starting a fight? The answer is being assertive – and that’s a long way from being aggressive.
You need to learn to be assertive now, if you haven’t before, because being a parent is probably the most important area in your life where you need to be skilled in defusing arguments, negotiating various needs and points of view and managing differences. Family conflict comes about not because you disagree but because you haven’t yet found out how to do so positively. Assertiveness is the skill of being in the forefront but without pushing everyone else into the background. It’s about firmness without the belligerence, and it works in your one to one relationship with a partner as well as with kids.
What are the downsides to being assertive? It will result in your not getting all and exactly what you want every time. It means having to take responsibility for your choices, standing up and saying “Yes, this is what I feel or believe and want.” It means not being able to hide behind anyone else saying “Everybody thinks…” or “I was made to do it” or “I couldn’t help it”.
But what are the upsides? Being assertive means expressing your own opinions and feeling confident in them. It means feeling in control, making choices and having the right to say “No” when you need to. It means you get some of what you want some of the time, but feel better because you are cooperating, negotiating and compromising with other people.
Being assertive improves intimate relationships – you and your partner get used to listening to each other, taking on board each other’s opinions, needs and feelings, and working out together how both of you can support each other.
Being assertive improves your parenting skills. Of course, there are times when as a parent you have to say, “Because I said so!” but when you never resort to that in your adult to adult relationships, you learn to take into your parent/child relationships the ability to listen. Being assertive with a child means drawing boundaries for them and helping them keep them. But it also means being empathetic – learning to walk in their shoes so you can understand how they feel and what they want and need. Sometimes this means you do say “As the adult, I know best” but it also results in your looking at it from their point of view, and sometimes coming half way.
Being assertive also means you have to model good behaviour to your children. When they can see you and your partner listening to each other and sharing responsibilities, they get the message too.
Baby steps to mastering an assertive parenting style
Know that it is in your baby’s best interest to grow up with rules that are consistently enforced with dedication, love, and warmth.
Praise your child’s positive behaviour – it tells them that you’d like to see it repeated
Be consistent. Send clear messages about your expectations and exhibit the behaviour that you would like your children to exhibit when they grow up.
As they grow, give your child choices and establish clear rules – it encourages independence and shows them that you trust them – plus they are more likely to cooperate when they have had a say!
Likewise, as they grow an assertive parent disciplines respectfully – without blaming or shaming, yet making clear the consequences
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers