Below is a list of possible tasks that will help your child build and nurture assertiveness. The list is not meant to be prescriptive but simply a sample of exercises you might like to consider. You can adapt them as you see fit. Even if you feel none of them tackle exactly what you are looking for, they should offer some inspiration to develop something that works for you. Because of this there is a broad mix of suggestions that can relate to any age or stage of children.
“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.” – Amy Cuddy
What you are looking for is to find an exercise that puts your child in a place of ‘stretch’. Something they are moderately comfortable with but then dial in an additional element that stretches them. The exercises focus on your child practising expressing themselves in a reasonably positive and confident way.
“To feel brave, act as if you are brave” – William James
If you find there is a struggle to complete the tasks, then you might like to ask them to act ‘as if’ they were a confident person. Ask them to imagine someone they regard as confident. This could be a friend, a family member, or even a film character. Ask them to copy how that person behaves. As indicated by these quotes, getting your body to impersonate confidence, very often leads to that person feeling and beginning to believe they are confident.
“I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person” – Cary Grant
A great way to use these suggestions is to read them through and look for the opportunities when you could introduce them naturally to your child.
Taking #1 on the list for example, when you leave home and see a neighbour, ask your child to say ‘good morning’. Or, taking #4 for inspiration, feign you forgot to buy something from the shop and ask your son or daughter to go and buy it. Just see where you feel there is some opportunity available and see what happens, this is very much about introducing the exercises gently into your and their lives.
1. Find the opportunity to say ‘good morning’ to somebody they don’t usually speak to.
2. Ask them to stop two people in the street and ask for directions.
3. Walk together down a road you’ve never been before.
4. Go into a shop and ask if they will give you change for a note.
5. Ask you child to pay a compliment to someone.
6. Suggest they tell a friend something personal about themselves that they haven’t told anybody before.
7. Get them to tell a joke or a funny story to you or family, or even to a friend.8. See whether they can ask somebody they know, “How are you today?” and deliberately take an interest, finding out how they are feeling.
9. Ask if they can share with somebody how they are feeling and/or what they have been doing recently.
10. They can tell someone that they like something about their appearance (something specific).
11. If someone has made them angry or upset, calmly explain why (even if it’s you!).
12. They ask someone for a favour.
Please leave a comment or question, or feedback on how you’ve improved on these ideas.
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.
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