What would you rather be made of?
And all things nice?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails?
‘Definitely the latter’ says Suzanne Potts co- author of Assertiveness – ‘How to be strong in every situation’
Suzanne goes on to say why it’s important to teach Assertiveness in primary & secondary schools and Universities.
What’s the purpose of education?
It’s one of those questions where it is difficult to reach consensus, like asking what is the meaning of life? Is it to get a job? Create adults who can compete in a global economy? Create lifelong learners? Emotionally healthy adults who can engage in meaningful relationships? Teach them about social relationships, how to get on with other people? To be able to confidently enter the different environments and phases of their life? How to defend themselves when they are wronged?
The answer is: Yes.
School is a testing ground for life, and if they can’t conquer trials and tribulations here they’re going to find it tough to do so on the outside. Let’s go back to early years’ education.
Celia is playing in the playground and wants to have a go on the swing but another child is already using it.
Celia waits ….and waits….and waits quietly hoping that that the other child will get of the swing soon. Her bossy friend Amelia also wants to play on the swing, waits a short while and then pushes the other child off and takes it. Amelia’s friend Alice would also like to have a go on the swing and goes over to the other child and says, ‘I’d like to play on the swing when your done – how long will you be?
The years roll by and one day finds the 3 of them at College when a fellow student, Natasha, who uses a locker next to them, barges through and pushes the three of them out of the way.
Celia says, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry for being in the way’; Amelia pushes back and threatens physical and verbal assault while Alice firmly stands her ground and says, ‘Natasha, we all need to use the lockers so lets find a way we can all do so and still get to class on time.’
If Celia, Amelia and Natasha had been taught how to be assertive, they would be able to talk about what they want in a respectful way, without upsetting anyone. When a child is assertive, they can confidently say what they want or feel without imposing their will on other people. An assertive child isn’t aggressive—she wouldn’t take the swing away from another child by force—nor is she passive, or afraid to speak up for what she wants.
School will be significant in forming Beliefs
A child can learn assertiveness no matter what their personality is like. Outgoing children may have an easier time being assertive than shy children, but all children can and should learn to speak up for themselves. An assertive child is more likely to resist negative peer pressure – for example, offers of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. They also are more likely to have high self-esteem and self-confidence and to develop good communication skills.
School will be significant in the preparatory beliefs about themselves and what rights they have as young people.
Suzanne says ‘much of the submissive and aggressive behaviour we see displayed by people on courses comes about because of things that happened when they were school.
Equally people who were encouraged to make their views heard and their presence felt are more likely to become the confident leaders and decision makers of the future.
If you have someone who is confident they learn better and they strive to achieve. If bullying was an issue or being ignored, or dismissed, it’s likely that as an adult this leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
There is strong evidence that learning to be assertive increases self-esteem, perceived self-control, and interpersonal competence, while decreasing fear and anxiety. In a study conducted with multi-ethnic youth, social competence was found to have a direct protective relationship with substance use—youth who were more assertive, socially confident and had better communication skills reported less smoking and alcohol use.
Assertiveness is able to enhance interpersonal skills among youth, such as overcoming shyness, how to give and receive compliments, initiating social interactions, and dating relationships.
Suzanne says …. ‘Give Girls a chance’
Research shows girls, in particular, may express assertion differently than boys, this is related to differences in how boys and girls are socialized to understand and express rights of expression and appropriateness. For example, girls who stand up for themselves in a male oriented assertive style can be seen as ‘coming over too strong and ‘aggressive’ or manipulative in a non-assertive way.
‘Give girls a chance…..’ is her motto. Why is it that so few women speak up, challenge authority, ask for what they want, stand their ground, assert themselves, be who they want to be, worry less about what others think? Suzanne believes it’s because they don’t give themselves permission to. She feels girls need more encouragement at an early age, whereas boys typically learn to:
- Shout louder to get the ball and be noticed
- Dismiss other kid’s criticism and physical assaults on the playing fields as soon as the game’s over
- Understand that mistakes are only feedback not failure
- Realise that survival in the playground is not about how fast you run, nor how high you climb, but how well you bounce
So these questions need to be asked of Head Teachers and University Deans:
- In preparation for life……
- Are small children taught to express their views & feelings assertively?
- Does the school teach pupils to respectfully challenge authority?
- Are they given the verbal tools and techniques to handle aggression?
- Are they tutored in asking specific open questions?
- Is healthy competition for both girls and boys encouraged at an early age?
- Does the school praise uniqueness or are children rewarded for conforming, or is there a healthy balance between both?
If the answer is ‘no’…the gender imbalance in our society and the physical abuse women suffer will continue until they can answer ‘Yes’