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Teen Talk - Teens and Assertiveness

Teen Talk - Teens and Assertiveness
Posted at 9:38 AM, Feb 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-16 04:59:29-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on advice for parents on how to be a good coach for encouraging an assertive teen.

WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:

It is important to know that being assertive does not come naturally to everyone. Your teen is going to be faced with many situations where they need to speak up. Preparation in this area is a lifelong gift. Most teens struggle with all social skills. Having strong assertiveness skills improves communication, builds healthy relationships and helps to manage stress. For teens it nurtures confidence and produces a better understanding of those around you. So where do you start?

1. The most important aspect of assertiveness is to teach your teens to identify her feelings. Encourage your teen to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions in a specific way. Be as clear as possible. Give them an example; I feel angry when mom does this…. Or I feel angry…. This is teaching them to identify their feelings.

2. It is important to have a good understanding and explanation of communication styles. There are three main styles; passive, aggressive and assertive. If you can teach the difference between a passive person, who may fidget and an aggressive person who is in your personal space, you have laid the groundwork for assertiveness skills training.

3. Teach your teens to put language on feelings in a very positive way. Teach them to be calm and measured. For example, if your teen tends to be passive, teach them to take action in a situation despite their discomfort. Sometimes this might mean standing up for injustice.

4. Role model assertive behavior. Teens learn best by watching specific actions. The more you role model assertive behavior the easier it's going to be to teach it.

5. Try to counter guilty feelings. If you explain that assertiveness is actually a vital, critical skill and it is essential to their well-being, then by being assertive, it is taking care of themselves.

6. Praise assertive behaviors. When you see your child attempting to be assertive, make sure you acknowledge it. Support healthy risks. Allow for mistakes. Avoid criticizing. Instead, discuss ways to problem solve.

7. Teach your child to disagree respectfully. Again, give examples of saying I don't agree with what you are saying, but may I say this?

8. There is an assertiveness bill of rights that has been produced and sometimes kids respond well to visual cues. "I have the right to say No", "I have the right to be respected by other people". Involve your child in that conversation and they too can come up with that.

9. Be mindful of comparisons. You don't want to compare your child to anybody else.

10. Finally, know when to back off. If a child really is struggling, talk about it, work it out and be there for your teenager.

Watch Teen Talk every other Monday at 6:30am on WTXL's Sunrise.