Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Teach assertive, not aggressive.

What you can do

Discuss the difference between aggressive and assertive behavior. Explain that assertiveness is a healthy way to speak up for ourselves in an honest and respectful manner. Verbal aggression is being loud and opinionated, often with sarcasm and insensitivity.

Think of a topic that can serve as a conversation piece and coach your child on how to express her thoughts and ideas effectively. Point out when she’s being too aggressive. The more practice and feedback she can get, the better.

What you can say

“Sofia, I’m glad you’re able to speak your mind on just about any topic. But I’m also noticing that you can become loud and maybe a little too aggressive. This can be a turnoff to other kids.”

“Do you think you could spend more time listening to someone else’s point of view, even when you disagree?”

“You did a good job with this the other day when your uncle asked for your opinion about the election. You told him how you felt in an honest way. And you managed to do this in a way that didn’t put him down or make him feel like his opinion was wrong. It seemed like you respected his point of view, even though you disagreed with him.”

“I want you to try to do those same things when you’re talking to your classmates. I don’t think you’d want to be known as bossy or aggressive.”

Why this will help

It can be tricky talking to your child about the difference between assertiveness and aggression. But your feedback is essential. Kids who are assertive have a greater chance of gaining their peers’ respect because they’ll be able to stand up for themselves while considering the points of view or needs of others. Aggressive children can be intimidating, and other kids will eventually avoid them.

You can help your child find the right balance by observing family interactions and talking to her about what she handled well and what she needs to work on. Getting this kind of supportive feedback from you can boost her confidence too.

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