Teaching Assertive Communication: An Essential Life Skill
Is your child a passive or aggressive communicator? Learning more about these communication styles can help you understand where your child is coming from and encourage assertive communication skills for more effective interactions with others.
Passive communicators are very sensitive to others’ needs and sacrifice their own needs.
• They are very worried about how others feel.
• They need reassurance from others for their own choices.
• They give up what they want to please other people.
• They have a hard time making decisions.
Pros: Passive communicators can empathize with people. They make others feel loved and appreciated, and they are peacemakers. Cons: Passive communicators overly sacrifice their own needs. They are offended when others won’t accept their help and feel hopeless from lack of control.
Children with special needs who are passive communicators can be extra sensitive to the emotions of the people around them. They tend to dwell on the needs of others while neglecting their own basic needs. They want everyone to be happy, but they may surrender their own wants and needs so often they become frustrated and let down when people don’t accept their help. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness from a lack of control.
Passive communicators need extra reassurance when you are teaching them to take care of themselves.
Aggressive communicators talk and act in ways that meet their own needs, no matter how it affects others’ needs.
• They are the first to speak up.
• They always know what they want.
• They will fight to get their way.
• They don’t understand others’ feelings.
Pros: Aggressive communicators are confident. They know what they want, and they are convincing and persistent. Cons: They often don’t think about consequences and sometimes hurt others to get what they want. Because of this, they can be seen as bullies.
It is good for children to know what they want, if they can communicate it clearly. When children with special needs are aggressive communicators, they tend to focus inward and don’t always verbalize their wants. Sometimes shouting and sudden outbursts accompany their attempts to communicate, and sometime they just expect people to know what they want. Aggressive communicators don’t see the consequences of their actions and don’t understand other peoples feelings; if they hurt someone, it doesn’t matter because they got what they wanted. Teaching for these children must be focused on consequences.
Teaching Assertive Communication
Assertive communication is a productive and healthy middle ground between passive and aggressive communication.
Help passive children look inward
• Make their needs become your needs.
• Be happy because they are happy.
• Show them their feelings are important.
• Explore ways to express their feelings and needs.
Parents of children who are more passive must begin with love and caring. Let your child know that he or she makes you happy—that listening to his or her opinions brings you joy and understanding. Then, encourage your child to share feelings and express wants and needs.
Help aggressive children see others
• Show how your needs are connected to their needs.
• Show them negative consequences when others get hurt.
• Model assertive communication for them.
• Provide them with rewarding activities to help other people.
Parents of more aggressive communicators should always stay calm and controlled. The goal is to teach your child about consequences and how every decision impacts someone else. Be consistent and fair. Model the behavior you want to see. Give your child many constructive activities to do where he or she can learn the positive consequences of self discipline.
In assertive communication, everyone’s needs are met and trust and relationships can begin to grow. Focusing on the strengths and the positive aspects of both passive and aggressive personalities, we can teach children with special needs to become assertive communicators. We can be good models of communication for our children. Show them times when it is important to speak up for our own needs and times when it is important to focus on others’ needs.