How to Teach Your Child to Speak or Stand for Themselves!

Updated on October 30, 2010
B.S. asks from Lansdale, PA
10 answers

I have a very quiet, happy and laid back four years old. He is a true blessing as he has always been a very easy child to care for. No tantrum, no time outs, always follows the rule. The problem is he gets intimidatated and scared at different situations and loud noise. He does not express his needs or wants. Never complains if he is hungry or tired. If he is standing in the line will let everyone else go ahead of him. I have been trying to teach him to speak for himself but I don't know how to. How can I teach him to be expressive or atleast to be able stop others from bothering him. I am constantly worried about him as to how he will deal with the real world and tough kids that he will/ or is encountering in everyday like.

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So What Happened?

Thank you every one for great suggestions. I have enrolled him in Martial Arts for 8 months has really boosted his confidence level and also helped him understand the concept of selfdefence. And I have been doing the role plays with him explaining how to handle various situation. I have been actively involved with his preschool teacher to see how he communicates at school. The bottom line is he has very sweet and soft personality which I can't change (nor do I want to), I cannot stop him from being in various siuation but the only thing I am trying to do is to prepare himself to handle it better and with confidence.

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answers from Allentown on

Hi, B.:

He will learn as he watches you speak on his behalf. You are a role model. Do you know how to be a role model when he is being bothered?
Do you know what bothers him?
Do you know how to set boundaries on others without being mean?
Just want to know.
Good luck.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Get him into some type of martial arts / karate classes. They do wonders for all kids, but especially those that need help in speaking up. He will become more confident of his abilities. A good teacher will be sure all students know that this is not about learning to fight, but learning to defend yourself and to stretch your physical and mental abilities.

My daughter and I have been training in karate since she was 5 and I was 46. I just earned my first black striped belt (next is black!). She is learning that she is strong and capable.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You have described my son exactly at 4. Always last in line, last to get a "prize", etc. Used to drive me NUTS. But my husband said something wise to me one day...."It's OK. He's not you. The world needs all kinds of people." And he's right. BUT you can (I did) encourage your son to use "I""I didn't get my turn", "I was next", "I don't like when you do that, please stop." etc. He'll be fine. My son slowly became more assertive in Kindergarten, more so in 1st grade, more so now in 2nd.
Has he been in daycare? My son wasn't and I think that makes a big difference. Daycare kids are used to getting ahead in the "pecking order" earlier. But your son wlll be fine. Enjoy his sweet, easy-going nature. It will serve him well in life!

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answers from Bakersfield on

I put my sweet, kind, even tempered little boy on a wrestling team when he was 4 and now he is assertive and makes 6 figures. It didnt turn him into a maniac but it did give him esteem and a sense of self.... along with the ability to self defend if he ever had to. He was never in a fight tho, that I know of anyway ;)

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answers from Portland on

Your son is just a laid-back kind of kid, and while you can coach him in assertiveness, you won't ever really change his basic nature. Don't assume he'll get pushed around – that's just borrowing trouble that may never arrive. I've known plenty of gentle, unassertive men and women who get along fabulously with pushier people who like to run the show.

If you have the option, you might want to sign him up for martial arts training. A good teacher will give lessons in mutual respect and making the right choices to avoid fights where possible, but responding with appropriate force if necessary.

Be aware that there are not-so-good teachers, too, who basically just teach kids how to kick butt. Which would be likely to get them into more fights.

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answers from Wichita on

Karate can help teach self esteem and confidence in small children.

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter's preK teacher asked to teach her to be assertive for these same reasons .She went a bit overboard, then reverted back to herself.
It is her personality to usually be laid back. When something matters to her, she does speak up for it(that is my special toy no one plays with, no you can't have my icecream).

She was bullied by some kids and now is isolated when she won't talk about people or be in a club that excludes one or two kids just to be mean.
She plays by herself or with another girl who won't be mean. I am proud of her for not caving to the meanies, but it hurts me when they make her feel rejected. It is her personality to be a peacemaker like her daddy. Plus, I have tried to model how to get along and be nice to everybody, especially those who seem left out.

I realize now that it bothered me way more than her and I was interviewing her about her pain(who did you play at recess? did you get along? Was she nice today?). I can't do that anymore.

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answers from Honolulu on

Well with my kids... they are quite speak up types.
But, so is my family like that too. And my Husband. Me, more so than my Husband.
So that is our family.... personality.
BUT... also, from the time my kids were very young... I ALWAYS emphasized to them... to ALWAYS be themselves.... to SAY what they are feeling... and to say anything... right or wrong... and it is okay. I along with that, taught them HOW to say their feelings, the names for feelings, how to speak up and ask for help.... from me/a Teacher etc. And that it is okay.... to say things.

I/my Husband... also from a young age, taught our kids about what is right/wrong... and what a "bully" is... and what nice or mean behavior is.
If a kid took something from them at the park for example, they WILL say so to the kid... AND I have even witnessed my then 3 year old son even go up to the older kid's Mom and TELL her "your boy took my toy....that's not nice...."
BUT... I also, in front of my kids... really stand up for myself... or, when wrong doing is done to them. I then explain "why" Mommy is reporting something or telling the Teacher etc. I explain... my logic to them... so they learn to "discern" behavior and HOW to problem-solve it etc.
My kids, actually "see" me, being quite proactive... in correcting or clarifying or speaking up against something wrong... and I always explain to them why... that NO one... can harm them... and you cannot allow someone to harm or bully you....

If someone cuts in line... my daughter or son, will tell the kid. Or they tell me...and I will either say "well that kid is younger than you....its okay..." or if I know that kid was mean in doing so I WILL tap the child on the shoulder and say "my daughter was first.... we were waiting first...." so that my kids, by watching... will learn 'how' to handle situations as well.

To teach him to be expressive, it is either personality... or, you need to teach him that it is OKAY to say how he feels. If he does not know how he feels... then work on that with him... teach him the words for it and the actual ways he can say it. My 4 year old son for example, just today... was playing with my daughter. He then wanted to play by himself. He told her "I want to play by myself now....". (which is fine and good of him). But my daughter would NOT listen to him..and kept pestering him. So then his voice got louder and sterner and he said "GO AWAY. I said I want to play by myself.... !" So, I told my daughter... to stop it... that her brother SAID what he wanted and she didn't respect that. So she is the rude one. And that he expressed his limits... so she must go away.... and that everyone, wants to be by themselves sometimes. Its okay. He does not 'have to' play with her.
I always praise my kids... for expressing themselves... and articulately, per their age.
My own Dad... taught me how to speak up and stand up for ourselves.

If you want your son to express himself and to stand up for himself... it starts at home. Meaning.. you have to be willing.. to "allow" him to say his feelings.... good or bad or grumpy feelings. THEN praise him, and teach him 'how' to verbalize things in different ways.... so that given a situation, he can say something politely if need be... or STERNLY if need be. How a child learns this is from you and allowing him to try and practice it at home... and doing pretend play and practicing scenarios about it, with him.
If he feels he cannot say how he feels, or that he is not 'allowed' to at home... then he will not know that it is okay, to do.
If this is just his personality (I have a friend who's son is like yours)... then you need to instill a sense of self-confidence in him... and how to be HIMSELF.... so that he will know himself.... well enough so that he will not just go along with anything trouble makers do. AND teach him, anytime something is uncomfortable or something wrong is done to him... he has to tell you or the Teacher....

I know, not easy... but maybe as well... having him enroll in some kind of sport of activity martial arts is good as well. It is about the development of the overall child... and their sense of self-reliance.

all the best,

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answers from San Francisco on

First of all, he's only 4, so don't worry too much yet.

The best way to teach kids to stand up for themselves is to role play what you want him to do. You pretend you are someone else, and have him say the things to you, in response to what you say and do.



answers from Dallas on

I'm not a child development person, but when you say he doesn't express needs/wants and has no tantrums, etc., it makes me wonder if there might be a deeper issue. You might want to check with your pediatrician - tell her about this and see what she says. If it's just personality, she may even have recommendations for you, but if it's a developmental thing, the earlier you can address it, the better off he'll be.

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