The Foundations of Assertiveness Start in Childhood

The Foundations of Assertiveness Start in Childhood

Last update: 23 August, 2017

Assertiveness is the ability to assert our rights in the correct way, while at the same time respecting those around us. Knowing how to say “no” is a clear sign that someone is able to assert themselves in a healthy way. There are, however, those who haven’t learned this ability to assert themselves. Why do they have this problem?

The answer lies in one of the most important stages of our life: childhood. If, from an early age, our parents don’t teach us adequately about our emotions, then it is highly likely that in the future we will have real problems in asserting ourselves and recognizing and defending our rights in such a way that no one violates them.

“Assertiveness helps us to nurture patience and to live in a much more balanced and relaxed way.”

Emotional Neglect in Childhood

What do we mean by emotional regret? It is the failure to meet the emotional needs that every child has. Let’s give an example. We have more than likely laughed at the child who is crying because he or she has lost their toy. All this does is to cause the child to hide their emotions for fear of being ridiculed.

Unthinking adults come up with phrases such as “it’s not a big deal” or “you’re crying over nothing” without realizing the damaging set of rules they are building up in the child. The child will realize that his reactions aren’t the correct ones and will learn to contain and repress them. However, that is not all. There are many more consequences that will reveal themselves when the child reaches adulthood.

One of these consequences is that these little people, on reaching adulthood, won’t know how to recognize their emotions and feelings, and, what is actually even worse, they won’t know how to express them in the right way. This will cause them to adopt one of two very extreme positions towards others: they may either allow others to walk all over them, or they may exhibit exceptional aggressiveness.

“I was never able to express my feelings or emotions in words. I don’t know if this is the reason why I did it in music and in painting”

-Arnold Schonberg-

But perhaps one of the worst outcomes of parental emotional neglect is the formation of poor self-esteem. These children, and future adults, will believe that they do not deserve to be loved, and, as a result, will live out very unsatisfactory relationships because it’s what thy think they deserve. They will feel unhappy and suffer greatly, thinking that at any given moment that relationship could end.

Foundations for a healthy assertiveness

To prevent children from feeling guilty about being the way and to help them learn to trust their instincts, it is important to lay the foundations for developing a healthy assertiveness. To achieve this, parents should pay close attention to and not downplay this vital part of a child’s education, taking into account what we will mention below.

One of the foundations for developing a healthy assertiveness is to assess the feelings and opinions of your little ones. We cannot class as “nonsense” the fact that they have just had an argument with their best friend. It’s important to listen to and understand them, and never to laugh at them. Even if it seems unimportant to us, it is certainly not for them.

The second foundation is to teach children to recognize what emotion they are feeling and to understand it, in order to cope with it better. Failure to do so will cause serious emotional management problems in the not too distant future.

The third is to communicate with the children and ask them most suitable questions, with an aim to helping them feel more secure. Some of these questions might be “what do you think?” , “How do you feel?”, “What do you need?” or “What do you mean?”

Developing a healthy assertiveness will allow you to be more aware of your right to be assertive, and to know that you deserve to be treated with respect.

Attending to the emotional needs of these little ones will help them to discover what they feel and what they need. It will also allow them to be aware that their emotions and needs are important, and that nobody has the right to trample on them, and that they can freely express what they feel knowing that they deserve the respect of those around them.

If all of this is not learned from an early age, based on the education given to them by their parents, then when they are older they will have serious problems with confidence and self-esteem. They will not feel that they deserve to be treated well and loved by those around them, and all of this can lead to many different types of self-destructive behaviors.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.