Raising Assertive Kids

Something I’ve been worried about since the day Karissa was first born is unwittingly passing on pushover syndrome. I want her to be strong, confident, and able. How do you teach that?

So much of parenting is flying by the seat of your pants. It creeps up unexpectedly, and then suddenly you’re in a seriously significant moment. It’s easy to not even notice, but that little growing, budding child is now your audience, looking to you for guidance.

Today the girls got shots. Karissa got MMR and she was VERY unhappy about it. We tried to cheer her up and go about our routine, so we took her to a thrift store that we frequent. She was playing near a 5 or 6 year old boy.

It was friendly and nice at first, but something weird happened. The boy began playing in the halloween section and came over to her in a Nixon mask. She was freaked out–and rightfully so, Nixon is a scary looking fellow! So he found this amusing and decided to start sort of following her around in halloween masks with props…where his parents are I have no idea. Great. Some kid is terrorizing my two year old.

We didn’t even really notice until he came over with a different mask. He had upgraded from Nixon to some monster mask and she whimpered and clung to me. “I want mommy.” Poor baby.

“Is that boy bothering you?” I asked her, frowning as I pick her up. Madilyn is strapped to my other hip.


He pulls the mask up and smiles. He wasn’t even being malicious, he was just enjoying the attention.

I continued, “is he scaring you?”


And here we were in this odd situation where I had to help her. I could tell her to ignore him, or tell him to leave her alone, or any number of options. I didn’t realize all of the options or their implications at the time, of course, I just told her what made sense to me:

“Tell him no. If you don’t like it, tell him NO, GO AWAY.”

And in her sweet little voice she shyly echoed my words: “No, go away.”

“Baby, you need to say it like you mean it. Say it like mommy talks when she is trying to get you to listen.”

She smiled a little. “NO. Go away.”

“Very good. If you don’t like something then it’s okay to say how you feel. If you want to be left alone just say GO AWAY.”

She smiled a little and we were talking and he comes back over swinging a plastic scythe at her. She started to bury her head in my chest and I said, “No baby, tell him.”

She looks at him. “Go away.” He looked surprised, turned around, and left.

My girl stood up for herself. She was very pleased with herself and I told her that I was impressed. As we were walking to the car she said in her sweet little two year old voice, “Thank you mommy.”

“For what, ┬ábaby?”

“Mommy helped. Mommy taught Kissa.”

And the emotions that I felt in that moment, and that I feel now remembering that, are simply ineffable.