Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

5 Essential Tips for Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

In her debut column, “It’s a Girl Thing: Empowering Our Girls to Be Expressive, Safe and Strong,” Hilltown Families newest Contributing Writer, Nancy Rothenberg, shares essential tips for teaching assertiveness to our daughters. These tips to teach our daughters to be assertive are a starting point for investing time and energy into giving her the skills she needs to communicate with confidence. It is a gift that she will carry with her for the rest of her life

We all want our daughters to grow into confident and assertive women, able to express their thoughts and feelings without hesitation in any situation. My own personal experience growing up was one that taught girls to be quiet, “seen and not heard.”  My voice was thoroughly squelched when I was young, spending half my life adult life waking it up!  So, when I gave birth to my daughter, I was going to make sure to encourage her full expression!

Now, I have a preteen whose voice is loud and clear. I chuckle to myself saying,”Can she just stop being so sassy?” But I trust that with the self- awareness that comes in time, the self-correction that comes through the influence of her peers, and supportive parental guidance along the way, she will know when to take up lots of space with her voice and when to choose to be silent.

Girl empowerment has been my focus for the past thirty years, not only for myself and my daughter, but for all girls and young women.  Being assertive is an important skill that supports empowerment in all girls. Here are five tips that support teaching our young girls to be assertive as they blossom into their full empowered selves:


Here is a poem I wrote to help girls gain awareness about the different qualities of their voices. Read it with your daughter and then talk about how she uses different voices for different things (click to view). You can use my words, or you can speak and share from your heart. That usually works best.

I also want to encourage you to role-play and demonstrate as many of the following lessons as possible. Be creative and have fun. When learning is integrated, it really sticks!

Assertiveness Defined

Being assertive means having a strong voice. It means speaking up for yourself when you want to. It means standing up to a bully with your words. It does not mean being mean back. Do not imitate the bully’s behavior, because that makes you a bully too. Being assertive does not mean being aggressive, which would include yelling or getting into someone else’s personal space.

  • Role-Play Example: Say to your daughter, “You’re stupid!” She must refrain from yelling something mean, back and stand up for herself by saying, “I am not stupid, I am smart enough.”

Tone of Voice

Like in the poem above, your voice can sound many different ways. Make sure you use a strong and firm voice when speaking up for yourself. Your message will be heard much better that way.

  • Practice all the different tones of voices with your daughter. Some examples are the silly voice, the baby voice, the “I want it now!” voice.

Facial Expression: Eye Contact

You want your facial expression to match up with what you are saying. If you are saying “Stop!” and you are laughing, will that work?  If you want them to stop you must look serious, stop yourself from smiling and look them right in the eye.

  • Practice all sorts of facial expressions while saying “Stop.”

Body Language

To be strong and confident, your body has to look strong and confident.  When your body looks strong, kids who want to pick on somebody will likely walk right by you, looking for someone show looks less confident. Even when you are feeling sad or tired or afraid, you can make your body look strong, making you feel stronger!

  • It is so essential to have strong body language when delivering an assertive message Practice different body languages with your daughter. Make your bodies look sad, mad, happy, etc.

These tips to teach our daughters to be assertive are a starting point for investing time and energy into giving her the skills she needs to communicate with confidence. It is a gift that she will carry with her for the rest of her life!

[Photo credit: (cc) Scott Swigart]


Nancy RothenbergNancy Rothenberg

Nancy  has been empowering girls since 1985. She teaches self-defense, martial arts and life lessons at her studio in Northampton and beyond. Nancy is also a bodyworker, blogger, love of life and most importantly, a mom. You can read her latest blog posts at nancyrothenberg.com.

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