Go Fly a KITE - Assertiveness Training

Go Fly a KITE - Assertiveness Training for Children
by Ron Huxley
Assertiveness is a learned skill. Parents can teach their children how to be more assertive by telling them to "Go Fly a KITE." No, this isn't being rude. It is being assertive! Each letter of the acronym K.I.T.E. explains a different skill to teach children how to be more assertive.

K = Know what you want.

Before you can be assertive, you have to be clear on what you want to gain. Help your child state specifically what he or she wants from another person or situation. Does he want a bully to treat him respectfully? Does she want to make friends more easily? This can be the most difficult and important step toward being assertive. Make this statement concrete and positive. Don't state: "I don't want you to pick on me anymore." Phrase it positively: "I would like you to play nice with me when we are together." You can even go so far as to state how you want another child to "play nice." The more specific, concrete, and positive, the better your child's chances of getting what he or she wants.

I = Use I messages Vs. You messages

"I" messages start with the word "I." "You" messages start with the word "You." Sounds simple, right? Wrong. In practice, this can be a very difficult way to communicate. That is because children naturally blame others for their thoughts and feelings. They must be taught that they own them and they are in control of them. "I" messages are less blaming than "You" messages. After you know what you want, you have to ask for what you want. "I" message will increase the chances of getting what you want.

T = Tell others what you want firmly and repeatedly.

Children, and adults, assume that being assertive guarantees that they will get what they want. This simply isn't true. You have no control over what others do or say. Using these steps will increase your chances, and usually have good results, but never guarantee you will get what you want. Therefore, you may have to be very firm and repeatedly express your wants and needs. Most bullies continue to be bullies because they know your child will back down. If they are firm and repeat their wants and needs, they increase their chances even more.

E = Expect change/Evaluate effectiveness.

Most efforts at being assertive fail because we don't really believe they will work in the first place. Expectation is a powerful force in human relationships, either at home or on the playground. Additionally, assertiveness should be considered an "experiment" in getting what you want. If one approach doesn't work, try another. Evaluate how effective your child's assertive behaviors are with others. Talk with him or her about what could be done differently and try that next time. This teaches problem-solving skills, which are an important element in social skill development. So, the next time your child comes to you with a problem with a friend or bully, tell him to "go fly a K.I.T.E."

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