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How To Be an Assertive Teen

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How To Be an Assertive Teen

Are you a doormat? Do you let people walk all over you, never standing up for yourself or your needs? Maybe you always say yes and put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own. Many teens believe that their role is to just stay quiet and please others. There is often a belief that speaking up or standing up for yourself makes you a mean teenager, a b****, or a jerk. This couldn’t be further from the truth. What really makes you nasty is all the pent up anger and resentment of never mattering and living a life about everyone other than yourself.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, being assertive simply means being characterized by confident statements and behavior. How is it that so many people find the negative connotation in that? Being assertive is actually a positive and necessary trait. Only someone who is confident enough to assert their needs, desires and worthiness will ever get the love and respect they deserve.

Being assertive does not mean you are a selfish jerk. It simply means you value yourself and know how to be confident and deliberate in your choices. It also means you know how to do this with kindness and compassion. You don’t get a free pass for being mean or cruel to others. You should always treat others, including your parents, friends, teachers, and coaches, with respect. This is about taking better care of yourself and your needs, not about putting others down. Here are some tips and examples of how to be assertive.

  1. Learn how to say no. Only say yes to things that really matter to you and that you actually time to devote to. You don’t have to be on every committee, in every club, be the class president, the team captain, and more. You’re not obligated to attend every party or always say yes to what your friends want to do. But learning how to say no takes some skill. You must learn that you actually don’t owe anybody any explanations. Do not let your guilt get the best of you and start trying to justify or defend your position. Example: When your friends say they want to go to a movie or bowling tonight, but you simply want to stay in or be with your family, you can just say, “Sorry, I can’t tonight.” What you don’t need to do is make excuses, such as, “My mom says I can’t go out tonight, or I’m just really tired.” If you do this, you set yourself up to be challenged, and then you will feel that you have to defend your position. Don’t allow that to happen. Be direct, kind and firm. That’s all it takes. You will find that it gets easier and easier the more you do it.
  2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. You do not need to tiptoe around what you are feeling or what you really want to communicate to others. Be clear, concise, and direct with your words. You should always try to be as kind as possible, but you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You have a right to express yourself appropriately. Don’t be so afraid all the time of hurting someone else’s feelings. Your feelings matter, too. If someone is asking you to do something you don’t feel right doing, you can say, “That makes me uncomfortable. I won’t do that.” You don’t owe it to anyone to sweet coat it and say things like, “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know, maybe”. You don’t have to be a jerk either. I’m not suggesting that you say things that are mean or cruel. It’s probably best not to call someone an idiot just because you don’t like what they’ve asked of you. Just stay calm, be firm and direct, and move on.
  3. Ask for what you want and need. Can you read other people’s minds? I didn’t think so, and they can’t read yours either. So why would you assume another person knows what you want or need? They don’t, so they will always fail to meet your wishes if don’t assert yourself. Again, this doesn’t have to look like you being rude or controlling. Rather, it’s actually kind to tell someone nicely what you’d like from them. For example, if your mom is asking you to do something for her or with her, but you have something you need to finish, rather than saying, “Oh my God, Mom, I can’t. Why don’t you just leave me alone?”, why not try, “I need 30 minutes of quiet to finish my homework, and then I will be available for you.” If you choose not to speak up, you will likely end up angry at everyone for making noise and not knowing you need quiet time to finish your work. And if you don’t do it kindly, you will likely get yourself in trouble.
  4. Use “I” statements. Rather than criticizing others with statements that start with, “You always,” “you never” or “can’t you just,” try starting with the word “I” followed by how you feel, you thoughts, or your wish. For example, when you say,
    “I feel angry when you nag me to clean my room, ” that sounds a lot different from saying, “Stop nagging me. All you ever do is nag.”
  5. Remember to love yourself. When you love yourself, you will not tolerate being walked all over and being taking advantage of. Remind yourself that you are worthy of respect and don’t ever do something that compromises your values or your integrity. You are worthy of having your needs met, and you deserve to be happy. With a bit of time and practice, you can learn how to do all of the above and feel more freedom and peace in your life. As you move into adulthood, these will be very valuable tools.
Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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