I’m always trying to think of things that worked in my classroom with 20 kids so they’ll scale down and work in your four walls. One thing that helped my 1st-graders was teaching them tangible words to stand up for themselves and be assertive. At the beginning of the year, we’d teach them to counter teasing, bullying, etc. with a polite but assertive “please stop, I don’t like that.”

Why this phrase? First, this phrase is a valuable tool for small children who are just beginning to get a grasp of verbalizing their feelings. Teaching them “please stop, I don’t like that” will prevent a good number of peer disputes and tantrums before they even start.

Second, a healthy society is founded on personal autonomy and mutually-respected boundaries. By teaching kids early on to voice a concern when something is causing them distress, we prepare them for grown-up life. We empower them to stand up for themselves at work, in public, in relationships, and in a multitude of other scenarios that (God forbid) can become abusive or toxic if all parties involved do not respect boundaries. We also teach them empathy for others, so when they get told “please stop, I don’t like that,” they’ll comply.

The goal is helping all students be assertive with a Goldilocks balance; not too hot (no SCREAMING, no tantrums) and not too cold (no whining, no enabling the person doing the teasing). Just like we want to embody “calm, assertive pack leader energy,” we want our children to develop that energy early on.

By empowering your children to turn their feelings into words and communicate with other people, you are giving them the tools they need to be successful throughout their lives. It is an incredible gift to give. You’ve got this!

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