There’s a huge difference between children who handle their problems passively, aggressively, and assertively. The first two can prove to be very problematic. A passive child may shut down in the face of opposition or shy away from even the most benign encounters. Passive problem solvers often don’t solve the problem at all…they’d rather ignore it and let somebody else take the lead. Aggressive children, on the other hand, can overreact to even the smallest provocation. The best kind of problem solver? An assertive one.
So how can you make your child assertive? The best way is to teach him to advocate for himself, but in a reasonable way that takes into consideration other people’s needs and feelings. For example, when I was little, my Happy Meal at McDonald’s yielded a Grandmother Willow Pocahontas figurine, which I already had, I wanted to trade it in for a new toy. I begged my mom to approach the counter and make the exchange for me, but she said that if I wanted a new toy I had to ask for myself. I fretted over the decision for quite a while, and finally timidly approached the counter, where I stood for what seemed like forever before anyone took any notice of me.
Making your child order for herself in restaurants, or answer grandma’s questions all by himself are ways to build up assertive children. However, there is a fine line between pushing just enough and pushing too hard. If your child is already aggressive, you want to work on building empathy for others. Explain how your child’s actions make others feel, and how being too aggressive can lead others to get defensive and be counterproductive.
Ultimately, the biggest thing with teaching your child how to deal with other people and problems is through discussion, practice, and reflection. Talk about the situation at hand, let your child advocate for herself, and then discuss what went well and what didn’t, and how it can be improved on next time.