Raising children is an exciting time in the lives of parents. There are a multitude of happy, fun filled first events that occur such as first birthdays, learning to walk, losing the first tooth, going to school for the first time, etc.  But there are also challenges that parents will be faced with during the formative years of their child’s life.  Raising healthy, happy children doesn’t happen by accident. It takes diligent effort on the part of loving, persistent parents to face the good challenges as well as the not so good challenges as they walk down the paths of life with their child. 

One defining skill that parents would be wise to teach is that of good communication.  According to Merriam-Webster.com, communication is defined as, “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals…” Good communication skills practiced by parents not only sets an example that a child can learn to pattern in his or her own life, but also becomes critically important during the teenage years to help keep the lines of communication open and clear between parents and teens. 

Just as all people have different personalities, all people also use different styles when it comes to communication.  These various communication styles include:  

  • Passive Communication: a person is hesitant to communicate and express their true feelings because they want to be pleasing to others.
  • Aggressive Communication: a person overpowers the conversation and states exactly what they are thinking without giving any thought to those to whom they are speaking.
  • Assertive Communication: a balance between passive and aggressive communication

Assertive communication skills are not always easy to implement, but children of all ages can be taught this method of communication. This is especially important to aid children and teens in setting their own personal boundaries and helps empower them to speak up for themselves. Learning assertive communication skills also helps children and teens to say no to things that could cause harm to their holistic health such as drugs, alcohol and pornography.

Here are a few ways to help children and teens strengthen assertive communication skills as outlined by Protectyoungminds.org.

  1. Identify the communication style that you are most often modeling in the home.  Make a conscientious effort to model the assertive communication style in order to set a positive example.
  2. Teach kids to put a label (i.e. frustrated, angry, happy, sad) on their emotions by giving them vocabulary to use when they are communicating their feelings. 
  3. Teach children to communicate with I-statements in order to communicate directly, honestly and respectfully without blaming others. 
    • “I feel ___________when you________. Please___________.”
    • “I feel frustrated when you want me to hurry up, but I can’t find my shoes.  Please help me.”
  4. Let kids practice speaking for themselves. Let them voice their opinions over the dinner table, order their own food at a restaurant, talk to their teacher about a missing assignment, etc.  All of these experiences will help them to build confidence when it comes time for them to be an assertive communicator when it comes to “saying no” to peer pressure scenarios.
  5. Explain to children that they are valuable and help them to learn to set personal boundaries by role playing situations that they might find themselves in where they need to use assertive communication skills.  Take turns being on different sides of the issues and then discuss if their responses were too passive, aggressive or assertive.

Remember communication is a key concept when raising children.  This becomes increasingly important as they grow into the teenage years and spread their wings of independence.  Be a proactive parent by modeling assertive communication skills in the home. Teach kids to speak up for themselves and learn to say “no” to those situations that verge on crossing their personal boundaries. You can do this, and we are here to help!