My Effort To Help Kids Understand Assertiveness

Assertiveness is based on the process of using the facts productively.  We can get ourselves into trouble when a report on the facts (what is really happening) gets mired in our emotional experience and belief systems.  For example, if I am telling Sally that her jacket was stolen by a named person, and I didn’t actually see this happen, there can be some trouble coming my way.  Maybe it turns out that Jack (the person I named in the accusation) is not the person who took the jacket.  Sally misplaced it.  Now I’m considered a liar and in trouble with Jack.  Furthermore, I have just discredited myself in front of peers and maybe even some adults.  An example of attaching facts to emotion, would be saying “You took Sally’s jacket, you f***!”

There wasn’t any need for attaching either the assumptions or emotions to the fact that Sally’s jacket is missing.  The basic information here is “Sally’s jacket is not where it’s supposed to be.”  An assertive statement from a peer who actually did see someone take it would be “Sally is the only person here who wears that kind of jacket.”  She can simply be informed if the accuser is actually seeing this happen.  Otherwise it is not fact.

When I am working with a person to help measure their knowledge of assertiveness, it helps to make sure we are on the same page with recognition of the basic colors and shapes of objects.

I start out with telling the child “The only thing you have to do is say the color of the card that I lay on the table.”

This is the initial “fact-checking” exercise.

We go through the simplest definition for assertiveness which is “Say what you see.”

From this point, I start introducing scenarios in which there are my attempts to complicate the presenting information.  For example, the child will say the correct color (green) and I will abruptly blurt out, “No, no it can’t be!”

I may even have them follow me around the room and say off the wall statements which have nothing to do with the correct color as I’m placing the cards on the floor.  The main thing aim for the child is to say the correct color.  We’re sticking with what can be seen, period.

The use of assertiveness adds to a child’s sense of personal control.

The strength in fact-finding and this type of thinking (which is amazingly different from our usual style) can be further explored in many different ways.  A number of techniques can utilized through isolating each of the five senses.  This is where the blindfold comes in handy.

For example, I can make many assumptions about an object that someone hands to me while my sight is temporarily rendered useless.  The other person asks me to identify what I am holding.  First we begin with hold it feels (fact), then what it is shaped like (fact).  The weight of an object is more of a guess or an assumption, due to the fact that I don’t have it on a scale.  I wouldn’t be able to read the scale anyway.  Let’s say that the facts are, it has a smooth surface and it’s shaped like an oval.  This is my information.

Now suppose the person tells me that it had been sitting on a dirty bathroom floor.  Well, I wasn’t there to see it sitting on a dirty bathroom floor.  The only information present to me is the way it feels and what shape it is at the moment.  Any thoughts about a dirty bathroom floor are my assumptions about a statement which does not in any way include the facts.  The thoughts are instant-made stories in my head about something which may or may not even be true to begin with.

The sense of hearing can also be venue of which assertiveness can be used as a tool.  It’s not unusual for a person to wildly imagine the most disastrous scenario based on what was said or heard.  People make up stories all the time about events and especially other people.  Those of us who are not asking some hard, investigative questions can be sent on the wrong path to awful thinking.  Or, let’s say that a person calls me “stupid” for a recent or present mistake.  I can quickly get into the process of apologizing or feeling angry (or sad), or I can gather information.

I can also have the other person gather information and come up with facts which support the claim of stupidity.  Chances are the word or description of “stupid” is not going to be found.  But, it does help to role-play this situation with kids in order to establish fact.

The counseling sessions are used to help the kid slow down and really experience his/ her role in life without all the busyness.

David W. Peace, LPC Candidate  2012

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One thought on “My Effort To Help Kids Understand Assertiveness

  1. Pingback: Assertion vs Aggression: How To Get What You Need The Nice Way | Therapy Stew

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