As a child practices communicating assertively, you can encourage them to think about boundaries. For example, one boundary you may highlight is privacy; you may have family rules about changing clothes, bathing, or using the bathroom. Privacy is a great way to help your child—no matter their age—understand boundaries, both by asking them to respect the privacy of you and other family members, as well as allowing them to express their own desires about their privacy. Watch these kids describe privacy and consider how your own child might describe what privacy is (or isn’t).
Another aspect of assertive communication is secrets. This is a challenge because in kids’ minds, secrets can be a way of surprising someone, or the key to keeping themselves out of trouble or from embarrassment. Part of your child trusting their ability to communicate important information (that they might otherwise keep secret) is in how you respond. You can build their confidence that it is safe for them to talk to you about anything. They will learn that the more they communicate with you, the more you can be their advocate, coach, and parent.
At the core, communicating boundaries is really about helping your child understand that they deserve to give and receive respect, and that they can ask for it. The self-trust (or self-efficacy as some may call it) that they’ll develop as they make choices and define their own boundaries is a great way for them to build confidence. Part of this is understanding that choices come with consequences, and you can help facilitate conversations about how your family culture, rules, and values factor into those consequences. Physical boundaries, as well as the ability to express needs and wants, are critical pieces to a sense of autonomy. (Learn even more about that in Practice Consent.) Kids feel more empowered when they understand that they have the right to make (or weigh in on) choices about their bodies, their property, what they wear, and anything else that is important to them.
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