Parents often walk a fine line in training their children to relate to friends. As parents, we want our children to stand up for themselves and not fall victim to others’ aggressiveness. But we don’t want our kids to be the bully either. How do we teach our children to have the proper respect for others yet not take a back seat all the time?
The Bible commands us to be kind, love one another, and put others’ needs ahead of our own, yet it also sets out rules for self-defense and fairness. How do parents help children learn to be both kind and assertive?
The answers will vary based on the ages of your children. A two year old has limited ability to understand the point of view of another person or set his own needs aside. Parents must help them learn these character traits. Here are six principles to help children develop balance between assertiveness and sacrifice for others.
6 Tips for Balancing Kindness With Assertiveness
- You can be nice and still say ‘NO’. Stand tall, look an aggressor in the eye and use your words loud enough to be heard.
- Fairness involves getting your own way some but not all of the time. It involves more than just sharing toys– it’s sharing leadership, taking the first turn some of the time, and choosing what game to play some of the time.
- If your friend can’t agree to principle number 2, maybe he isn’t ready to be a friend. All children act selfishly sometimes. But if this is a persistent pattern from one child toward the other, a break is in order.
- AFTER trying to work out problems yourself, it’s ok to find a parent to help.
- The Bible allows self-defense, but peacemaking is always the first preference. When we teach our children to be peacemakers, we help them look for win-win solutions. Fairness brings peace, while unfairness eventually results in strife.
- Honor helps in every relationship. Help your child honor friends by planning ahead. Before a friend comes over to play, talk with your child about what the friend might like to do. Help your child consider how to prepare, what toys to get out, and which toys are so special they need to be put away.
We’re all sinful, so life with others can be difficult, and fairness hard to find. Childhood is the time to learn the skills needed for this quest.
What are you teaching your child about assertiveness and kindness?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
By James D. Dempsey, Ph.D.
Husband to Gail
Father of three
Grandfather of one
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Family Pastor at Anderson Mill Baptist Church
Presenter for The National Center For Biblical Parenting
Author of Parenting Unchained
Host of the radio show, Parenting Unchained, at www.LOTOradio.com
Click HERE for a link to Jim’s book, Parenting Unchained.