Emotional Literacy

Teaching Children the Power of "I" Messages: Building Assertive Communication Skills

Emotional Literacy

Teaching Children the Power of "I" Messages: Building Assertive Communication Skills

Effective communication is the key to fostering healthy relationships. For children, learning how to express their thoughts and emotions clearly is a fundamental skill that not only helps in personal development but also lays the groundwork for successful communication throughout life. One invaluable tool in this journey is the use of "I" messages.

"I" messages, also known as assertive communication, involve expressing one's feelings, thoughts, and needs in a direct and respectful manner. By using phrases like "I feel..." or "I would like...", individuals assert their own perspective without blaming or attacking others. Teaching children the art of "I" messages not only empowers them to communicate effectively but also helps others understand and respect their feelings.

To grasp the significance of "I" messages, it's essential to contrast them with other communication styles: passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive.

Passive communication involves avoiding conflict and suppressing one's own feelings and needs. In scenarios where a child is passively responding to a situation, they might remain silent when upset or go along with others' wishes despite their own discomfort. While seemingly avoiding confrontation, this approach often leads to internal resentment and a feeling of powerlessness.

On the other hand, passive-aggressive communication is characterised by indirect expressions of hostility or resentment. A child employing this style might make sarcastic remarks or engage in subtle acts of defiance when feeling upset. This approach can be manipulative and exacerbate tensions, as the underlying issues remain unresolved.

Aggressive communication involves asserting one's needs and feelings at the expense of others, often using blame and criticism. In this style, a child might resort to shouting, name-calling, or making accusatory statements to express themselves. Such behaviour can escalate conflicts and damage relationships, as it creates a hostile environment where mutual respect is undermined.

In contrast, assertive communication empowers children to express themselves clearly and respectfully. By using "I" messages, they can effectively communicate their feelings and needs without resorting to blame or aggression. For example, instead of saying "You never listen to me!", an assertive child might say "I feel frustrated when I'm not heard."

When children use assertive communication, they retain their power and integrity in the interaction. They express themselves confidently and openly, creating space for constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. Moreover, assertive communication reduces stress by addressing issues directly and fostering a sense of empowerment.

Now let's explore a scenario where parents ask their child to do chores, such as tidying their bedroom, and examine possible responses from both a primary child and a teenager, along with what an assertive response would entail.


Parent: "Could you please tidy your bedroom?"

Possible Responses:

Child's Response: Passive

Child remains silent and doesn't tidy their room.

Parent's Response: Passive

Parent notices the untidy room but chooses to ignore it, feeling frustrated but not addressing the issue directly.

Child's Response: Passive-Aggressive

Child rolls their eyes and begrudgingly begins tidying, muttering under their breath about how unfair it is.

Parent's Response: Passive-Aggressive

Parent sighs heavily and comments, "You always leave your room in a mess, but I guess I'll have to clean it up for you."

Child's Response: Aggressive

Child snaps back, "Why do I always have to do everything around here? It's not fair!"

Parent's Response: Aggressive

Parent responds angrily, "You're lazy and never help out! If you don't tidy your room right now, there will be consequences!"

Child's Response: Assertive

Child acknowledges the request and expresses their feelings and needs respectfully:

"I understand that my room needs to be tidy, but I feel overwhelmed right now because I have a lot of homework to do. Is it possible to do it later or help me come up with a plan to get it done together?"

Parent's Response: Assertive

Parent listens attentively to the child's concerns and collaboratively discusses a solution, maintaining mutual respect and understanding.

It's crucial for parents to teach their children the value of assertive communication from an early age and model assertive language themselves.

By role-playing different scenarios and encouraging the use of "I" messages, parents can help their children develop strong communication skills that will serve them well in all aspects of life. Remember, when children learn to express themselves assertively, they not only gain respect from others but also cultivate a deeper understanding and respect for themselves.

Want to try out better communication with your children? Learn more about applying these strategies and other secrets to a happy and harmonious home in my online course, How To Create An Emotionally Safe Home.

Stay informed about new articles and topics
I’m on a mission to help share my knowledge. Subscribe to my occasional email updates.
You're in! You'll now receive my email updates.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Picture of Usha Chudasama
Ready to take action?
I'd love to chat
Call me
07792 611 406

Choose your path

Every journey is different and there is no “one size fits all” path to transformation. I want everyone to feel acknowledged and validated, so I always invest the time to understand your unique situation, to build trust and create a safe space for us to successfully work together.

Your happy child
10 Proven Steps To Raising A Happy Child
Buy now
Picture of Your Happy Child by Usha Chudasama
How to create an emotionally safe home
Create A Happy And Harmonious Home
View course