Friends are important, but good friends should have healthy boundaries. Without them, your child could get walked all over or bossed around. All children (and adults!) need to be able to be assertive and stand up for themselves. Making sure that they are getting what they want from their friendships without compromising themselves too much.
For example, if your child allows others to make decisions for them, they may end up feeling frustrated and unhappy, as they aren’t doing what they truly want. Or they may get talked over, ignored, or just generally not treated as a real friend should. That’s not a great basis for a long-lasting friendship.
They also need to put healthy boundaries around the parts they don’t like in a friend. By this, I mean that one friend may be fun to be with but a bit bossy. Whilst another friend may be really supportive but they aren’t very good at sharing. Teach your children to not walk away from good people because they don’t have all the traits that they expect in a good friend. Nobody is perfect and your child needs to enjoy the things they love about their friends and accept the one or two things that they aren’t keen on.
So, I guess it isn’t just about being assertive – it’s also about accepting other’s faults too. As long as they’re a good friend and the behaviours aren’t a problem to the friendship – all is good!
To help children learn how to be more assertive, it’s a great idea to talk to them about:
- some of the situations you find yourself in
- how you have been assertive
- the kinds of boundaries you put around friendships
Talk about the tricky people in their class and ask them what they could do about them. What could they say so they are being kind and assertive rather than cruel and aggressive?
Help your child to look at different scenarios and real-life examples to help them feel more confident about being assertive.