Assertive and aggressive behaviors are commonly understood to be pretty much the same, however one behaviour works best and the other negatively impacts on your son’s life as well as his social skills. As parents our job is primarily about getting our children ready to live productive and healthy lives, so understanding their behavioural patterns is a great tool in achieving our goals.
As your son matures the role his peers play in his life grows and friends become incredibly important, and their acceptance of him, even more so. Do we really know how our children respond to their friends, are they accepted, and how do they respond if they aren’t finding that acceptance?
When acceptance within a social group is withheld, some boys will respond with aggression and some will simply withdraw. A reclusive child is a child that is longing for acceptance but may react aggressively when provoked. The younger child will tend to express aggression more overtly whilst the older child is more subtle and covert in his actions. His experiences become a contest, in which there is either a winner or a loser. And he does not want to be the loser…
Aggression can take on a number of forms and not all will be as overt as pushing a friend off a skateboard. The more subtle expressions of aggression can be glaring at another child when parents aren’t looking, gossiping, pinching, mocking, etc. Many times this behavior extends into their online lives, with hurtful messages and posts.
Assertive behavior is often understood as maturity, being able to see the situation with clarity and respond confidently and without resorting to aggression. A simple example is allowing each child to take a turn whilst playing (assertive pattern), not allowing others to play is an aggressive pattern.
The goal of aggressive behavior or communication is to show power! Talking to your son about aggression in an assertive, calm and patient manner will help demonstrate how assertive behavior and communication will better serve him. According to Child Magazine (http://www.childmag.co.za/content/ways-encourage-assertive-behaviour#.WPXAqlKB3GY) talking things through with our children, allowing them to question our thinking affords them the opportunity to build assertive communication tools and techniques. Helping our boys become assertive children will improve their self-confidence and help them withstand peer pressure. This strong sense of self will help them succeed in being good men, men of character!
photo credit: Phototravelography <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/145472109@N04/32361821164">Fighting after school in central Jamaica - all shoelaces are open</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>