In the corner of the preschool, Tio is building a block tower.
"I'll put this block on." Andy says picking up a big blue block.
"No way," Tio says. "This is my tower."
"Then you can't use this block, " Andy says clutching it to his chest.
Tio stands up. "Give it back."
"No way," Andy sneers.
"You're a big bad a bully," Tio yells stamping his foot.
"Am not," Andy says throwing the block at Tio and kicking the tower down.
All through our lives we will be faced with challenges to our own self-interest. There will be something we want to do, and there will be someone else who will interfere. They might want us to do it their way, or want to do it without us, or will prevent us from doing it at all. Living in a family, a classroom, a workplace, a community, becomes a constant give and take among competing desires which can quickly escalate to exclusionary behaviors, verbal aggression and physical violence -- or what we often call bullying.
Living with others requires us to make choices. Sometimes even though we prefer to do something by ourselves we give in and passively submit to the domination of the other person. Sometimes we lash out with words or physical actions, and make an enemy. These first two, Giving In or Being Mean are the most common responses. This is being a victim or being a bully.
There is another choice. Being Assertive - take a stand and assert ourselves in expressing our needs or beliefs clearly and firmly but allowing room for the other person to still feel respected.
When working with students, it important to teach them that they have choices of how to respond to others. When faced with interpersonal situations like the block incident above ask them to visualize what will happen if they pursue each of the above interactions. Guide them to see that being assertive Being Strong - is often the best way to respond.
Steps to being assertive
1. Say No or not now. OR I don't think. OR I can't. OR I can't stop right now. OR I can't do that.
2. State your needs using I-statements: I need; I want; I believe.
I want to finish my block tower by myself.
3. Show that you understand the other person's feelings and rights using a You- statement.
I know you want to build a tower too.
3. Offer a compromise.
As soon as I'm done we can build a tower together OR Here are some blocks you can use to build your own tower.
Being assertive means balancing your rights with those of others.
Find more on being assertive at: