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Teaching Toddlers Confidence and Assertiveness

Written by: Kokotree

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teach toddlers confidence assertiveness

The best time to teach children appropriate behavior is when they are still young and open-minded. Confidence and assertiveness go hand-in-hand and are non-negotiable traits. 

Although some children are born naturally assertive, others are not. You have to teach them assertiveness skills and how to have confidence in themselves. 

Research shows that training your child to be assertive as early as preschool positively influences their readiness for school.

Here’s what teaching your child to be assertive and confident means:

  • Letting them know they can honestly say what they feel and that their feelings or ideas matter
  • Showing them how to communicate their opinions and ideas clearly and directly without being disrespectful
  • Teaching them how to behave confidently in the company of others
  • Showing them how to stand up for themselves and others
  • Helping them realize they can ask for help or what they want without fear
  • Letting them know they can set boundaries and can say ‘no.’

Assertiveness is a skill every child should have to grow up socially able, mentally healthy, and behave correctly.

What are the three types of behavior?

Different people possess different types of attitudes. There are three types of behavior: 

  • Passiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Assertiveness

1. Passiveness

Passiveness is not being able to speak up or stand up for yourself. A passive person is submissive and relies on others to make decisions. 

They don’t speak their minds, make decisions, and let other people’s opinions overshadow theirs. They allow people to talk down on and look down on them and their abilities.

Some of the reasons they behave this way are:

  • To avoid arguments or unpleasant situations
  • They don’t want to come off as rude
  • Trying not to hurt people’s feelings
  • Low self-confidence

Passive people prefer to be in the background. They don’t actively participate in conversations or activities and can’t maintain eye contact when speaking.

They never put themselves first, and you will often find them apologizing, even when it’s something slight or they haven’t done anything offensive.

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What happens if your child develops a passive attitude?

Here’s what happens when your child grows up to be passive

  • People talk them down.
  • They’ll find it hard to make decisions for themselves
  • People will think less of them and their abilities
  • They’ll quickly give up on their goals 
  • They’ll be afraid to ask for help
  • Your child becomes easy prey for bullies
  • They hide their true feelings and are filled with regrets
  • They lose confidence in themselves and have low self-esteem
  • Your child may develop mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders

2. Aggressiveness 

Aggressiveness is speaking and doing things without regard for other people’s feelings and opinions. 

Aggressive people are forceful and direct. They’re overconfident and rude, only care about themselves, and don’t mind hurting others with their words or actions.

Aggressive people would rather talk down on people or make fun of them instead of correcting them. They want to believe that they are in control, and they shout a lot and let their emotions control them. 

What happens if your child is aggressive?

Here’s what happens when your child has aggressive behavior:

  • People avoid them
  • They are rude and unlikeable
  • Your child will find it difficult to make friends
  • They can’t maintain solid and long-lasting friendships
  • Your child will find it hard to learn from others
  • People will see them as bullies
  • Your child will be seen as selfish and a control freak
  • They can develop anger issues

3. Assertiveness 

Assertiveness is communicating your feelings, opinions, and ideas directly and respectfully; it is the balance between passiveness and aggressiveness.

Assertive people are confident and know their worth. They speak up for themselves and others. They’re active listeners and consider other people’s feelings, ideas, and opinions.

Assertive people know how they feel and can express it without being offensive. They know what they want and go for it. They find it easy to help others and know when to say ‘no.’

Assertive people ask for help when they need it. They are active participants in whatever they’re involved in.

What happens if your child is assertive?

Here’s what happens when your child develops assertive and confident behavior:

  • People won’t look down on them or talk them down because they can stand up for themselves and others
  • They’ll be respected by their peers and the people around them
  • Your child will be resilient 
  • They’ll be confident in their abilities and achievements
  • People will quickly like them, and they’ll maintain good relationships with others
  • They’ll know what they want and be good decision-makers
  • They’ll learn how to handle bullies

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How will self-confidence and assertiveness help your child?

When you teach your child how to be confident and assertive, they’ll practice this when they grow up, and it will help them handle situations better.

A 2016 study associates assertiveness with the ability to control and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in high school students. Another study found that assertive people have better mental health and social skills.

The benefits of your child being self-confident and assertive are:

  • Prevent difficult situations because they can disagree without offending others and know when to say ‘no.’ 
  • Speaking their minds when necessary to contribute their opinions to help solve issues. 
  • Easily earn people’s trust and respect. 
  • Having patience and perseverance in everything they do
  • You can quickly help them solve their problems because they confide in you
  • Having control over their emotions. 
  • Knowing how to handle criticism and rejection positively. 
  • They feel more comfortable with their peers and actively participate in conversations and activities. 
  • Being a reasonable observer and decision-maker
  • Taking better care of their physical and mental health.

How do you know if your child is confident and assertive?

It is easy to identify if your child is growing up to be confident and assertive. Here are some signs that will help you assess the same-

  • They are honest about their feelings and what they want. They tell you what they want, why they want it, and what they like and don’t like.
  • They’re fearless in requesting what they want and asking for help when needed. They always refuse to do things they’re uncomfortable with or don’t like. 
  • They maintain eye contact and don’t fidget when speaking.
  • They listen to you before speaking and tell you their ideas freely. 
  • They only easily give up if they get what they want and continue when they fail. 
  • They don’t hesitate to speak for themselves or others and like participating in conversations and activities. 

Seven ways to teach your toddler to be confident and assertive.

Since not everybody is born with a natural assertive or confident behavior, you must help your kids develop this behavioral skill. 

Assertiveness and confidence go together and ensure children believe in themselves and their abilities and are not afraid to express their opinions or ideas.

Some great ways to teach your child assertiveness skills are explained below.

1. Be a confident and assertive parent.

Be your child’s role model. Children learn by copying others, especially older people close to them – parents, siblings, and relatives. 

So, one of the best and most effective ways to teach your child to be confident and assertive is by exhibiting the qualities yourself. Let them know what being assertive and secure is by watching your behavior towards them and others.

Don’t let people talk down on you or push you around. Let your child watch you make decisions. Please be calm when you express your opinions, feelings, or ideas. 

Offer the help you can see when other people need it. Set boundaries and let people know when they’re crossing them. Say ‘no’ when necessary. 

Be polite and considerate with them and others. Let them say what they feel, why, and their ideas and opinions while you listen attentively. 

Participate in activities and conversations. Be honest about your feelings and wants. Listen and observe before you speak. Be clear, and direct and maintain eye contact when speaking.

As they grow up around a confident and assertive mom or dad, they’ll pick up these skills and practice them.

2. Role-play with them.

Telling them to be confident and assertive is not enough to help them develop the skill. Just like they’ll learn better seeing you show this attitude to life, they’ll need to practice it to get used to it.

At this age, they interact with family and their peers at daycare and on playgrounds. Role-play with them to practice what you teach them. Create scenarios they’re familiar with and let them practice their assertive skills with you.

For instance, pretend you’re a friend at daycare, asking them to come to play when they’re tired or don’t feel like it. Help them identify how they’ll feel and practice how they’ll behave, what they’ll say, and how they’ll say it. Let them know when they are doing it right and correct them when necessary. 

You can also teach them how to practice in front of a mirror. Let them practice their posture, eye contact, and facial expressions. 

Role-playing will help them get used to being assertive and self-confident. 

3. Let them make decisions. 

An assertive person finds decision-making a smooth process. Give your child opportunities to make decisions.

An easy way to do this is to create opportunities for your child to make decisions for themselves. Start with little things that matter to them at this tender age. These are toys to play with, activities to do, outfits they want to wear, and places they want to go. Let them decide if they want a hug now, what crayon they want, and what cartoons they want to watch.

Let them know when they made the right or wrong decision and why it is so. You can also normalize asking them to do things instead of telling them to, which will help them think for themselves and develop decision-making skills

4. Give in to them sometimes. 

Often, children make unnecessary or unreasonable demands and sometimes ask for the wrong things. 

Other times, they request things that are okay when you think something else is better. An excellent way to make them realize that their opinions or desires matter is by letting them have their request when it’s okay. 

Giving in to them sometimes will help them get used to having a right to ask for things they want or need without guilt or fear. 

For instance, your child chooses to wear blue shoes, and you let them even when you think black ones will go best with their outfit—letting your child play at home when you’d prefer to take them to the playground around the corner.

5. Make examples with familiar things. 

Another good way to teach your child self-confidence and assertiveness is to point it out in things they are familiar with. 

For example, you can use illustrations to explain assertiveness and confidence and things that happen at home. You can also point out assertiveness in people, cartoon characters, or story characters they are familiar with. 

6. Encourage them always to try again. 

Assertive people possess patience and endurance. Encourage your child not to stop when they fail at something and help them find ways to achieve it. 

Let them know that their dreams or goals are valid and attainable. It might be a drawing, something they’re coloring, a word or skill they’re learning, or even a friend they’re trying to play with. Console them when they fail and help them realize the benefits of not giving up. 

7. Give praises when due.

Praises are one of the things that help boost people’s confidence. Praise your child when they do something right or achieve something, and reward them if possible. 

Let your child know that you appreciate their efforts and wins. Children glow when you praise them. 

Statements like the following will make them happy. 

  • Well done
  • Good job
  • This is great
  • You’re so intelligent
  • You’ve done well
  • This is a good painting
  • This is a beautiful drawing
  • You dance so well

Praises like these help them feel more confident in their actions, and they will be more comfortable repeating them. 

For instance, you’re teaching your child assertiveness skills. Let them know when they’ve behaved assertively and confidently, and praise them for it. Show them you’re happy that they ate all their vegetables.

Praising your child’s achievements will help build their self-confidence and self-esteem.


Confidence and assertiveness are behaviors your child needs to develop and practice. Being a confident and assertive parent, role-playing with your child, appreciating their efforts, letting them make decisions, and encouraging them not to give up are some ways to teach your child to be confident and assertive.

Training your child to be confident and assertive will help them learn to believe in themselves, speak up for themselves and others, be direct in a respectful manner, ask for help without fear, and make decisions for themselves.

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