“I would like to take a walk in the park” or “Hey friends, would you like to play a game of catch?”
Do you long to hear your child make simple choices like these and communicate them? Then you are among those parents who hope to raise an assertive kid who isn’t shy to use their voice and can speak for themselves!
Children may feel nervous or shy when meeting someone new or having to speak in front of others. Most children and some adults feel shy from time to time. However, constant shyness can reduce the quality of a child’s life in many ways, including reduced opportunities to develop social skills, fewer friends, lesser participation in fun activities that require interaction with others, such as sport, dance or drama.
Speaking up for yourself is a skill, and it takes time and practice for many children to develop this skill. Experts say assertiveness can help children with their relationships – be it personal ones, at school, work or even with themselves.
Some children might find speaking up for themselves as stressful, learn more about tacking childhood stress
Articulating their feelings expands vocabulary and helps children use words and sentences to share how they feel. It enables children to express their wants, needs, thoughts and, argue a point of view with others.
Ways To Help Your Child Speak Up
There are some simple ways parents can go about helping their children hone these skills and feel empowered to share their voice as they grow.
Encourage your child to speak up
Avoid labelling your child as ‘shy’. When children hear themselves being described in a particular manner, they hang onto it and may want to maintain that image. Encourage your child to order when you’re eating out or answer a relative’s questions. You can also ask your child to help you make decisions like what should be the theme for his birthday party. Children want to know that their parents are listening to them and value their thoughts.
Share your own experiences
Children often try to model their lives based on what they see. As parents, you can share some experiences to show that self-advocacy can really make a difference. You can share in simple words like, “I was anxious to tell my boss that I needed more time to complete my task. But I did tell her, and she was fine with it. She even asked another colleague to help me out.” Personal stories can give children the confidence to get through certain situations.
Do not judge them
If children make a choice that you do not resonate with, leave aside the judgment and try to understand better. For example, if your child insists on following a vegetarian diet, do not immediately judge or dismiss her idea. Instead try to understand why she has come up with this idea and discuss if it is a feasible option or not.
Help them strengthen their opinions
Be curious about your child’s thoughts. If your child says his teacher is kind, rather than just saying, “Ok great!” try to dig a little deeper and ask them questions about what they are saying. You may assume he probably learnt it at school. Instead of assuming, try to ask him questions like, “Why do you say so?”, “Have you met any other kind people?”, “Are you kind to others?”
Enable articulation through strong language skills
Often, children do not speak up due to lack of confidence in the spoken word or the language the world at large is using. Children need to feel in control of their language and not fear ridicule or even loss of words. Encourage reading, speaking, simple puzzles , exercises and overall exposure to the most used language irrespective of the language spoken at home. English is one such language which we use regularly as medium of education, interaction in school and in social situations.
Celebrate small successes
Recognize and celebrate achievements, even if they seem small. Your child may be chatty and bold but raising her hand in class or talking to her teachers may seem like a herculean task. Do not brush it off as insignificant. Instead, ensure a word of praise every time she makes that effort. Ongoing encouragement will help your child continue to take risks and speak out.
Keep in mind that your goal as a parent is to prepare your children to live independently. It’s never too early to start helping them stand up for themselves. By helping our children speak for themselves, we are setting them up to follow their own path and live up to their full potential.
“The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language.”
– J. Michael Straczynski
On a related note, you might like – Increasing the probability of children making good decisions