How to Teach Your Teen Assertiveness Skills

Help Your Teen Speak Up in a Respectful Manner

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An assertive teen will ask her a teacher a question if she doesn't understand. Image Sources/Getty Images

Teaching teens assertiveness skills has many benefits. Not only can teens who communicate in an assertive manner stand up for themselves, they are also less likely to behave aggressively. Despite the benefits of assertive communication, many teens don’t know how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate manner.

10 Ways Assertiveness Skills Help Teens

Teach Your Teen About Feelings

Many teens aren’t able to identify their feelings.

Instead, they often act out their feelings without talking about them. For example, an angry teen may slam doors or yell rather than talk about her feelings. Help your teen learn to label her feelings.

Teens need a clear understanding of emotions in order to behave assertively. A teen who understands how she’s feeling will be better equipped to express those feelings in a respectful manner. She’ll also be able to tell other people how she’s feeling and why she’s experiencing those emotions.

Review Communication Styles

Talk to your teen about different communication styles. Explain the difference between behaving in a passive, aggressive and assertive manner. Help your teen understand that effective communication is not just about verbal communication, but that it also involves body language.

4 Styles of Communication: Identify Your Teen's Style

Show Your Teen How to Use “I” Messages

Encourage your teen to use “I” messages when she’s expressing a concern to someone else.

Messages that start with “I feel,” are likely to be more effective than a “You” message. For example, teach your teen to say, “I feel really angry when you don’t show up on time,” rather than, “You don’t care about me at all because you never show up when you say you will.”

Learning how to express feelings in a calm manner with “I” messages is a valuable skill that can help teens in their relationships, future employment and academic life.

It requires practice and often, teens require help from adults to help speak up in a polite and respectful manner.

Help Your Teen Practice

Help your teen practice “I” messages. If your teen confronts you with a “you” statement, help her reframe it into an appropriate “I” message. Provide coaching and encourage her to talk to you when she’s upset before confronting others. Together you can work on developing appropriate ways to respond to someone else’s behavior assertively.

Sometimes it can be helpful to point out overly passive behavior. If you see your teen saying, “I don’t care,” every time her friends ask her what she wants to do, have a conversation with her about speaking up and sharing her opinion. Encourage her to tell her friends what she wants. Of course, it’s important to have these conversations privately when her friends aren’t around so that you don’t risk embarrassing her or making the problem worse.

If your teen behaves aggressively, either verbally or physically, intervene and help your teen learn how to behave assertively.

Encourage your child to speak up in an appropriate manner but make it clear that behavior such as name calling or threats of physical violence are not acceptable.

Role Model Assertive Behavior

Show your teen how to behave assertively by example. When you’re communicating with others, role model appropriate assertiveness skills. This is the best way for your teen to develop those skills naturally.

Praise Assertive Behavior

Provide praise whenever you catch your child practicing her assertiveness skills. Saying things like, “I really appreciate the way you told me how you feel in a respectful manner,” can help reinforce assertiveness skills. Also provide praise when you catch her being assertive with peers, family members, coaches, and teachers. 

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