Home parenting How do you teach your children to stand up for themselves?

How do you teach your children to stand up for themselves?

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Children are not always friendly to each other. They tease each other, annoy each other, or sometimes they get into fisticuffs. 

You can teach your children to stand up for themselves with the following points:

  • Practice quick-wit
  • Allow children to act themselves
  • Seek allies
  •  Distinguish sneaking from getting help
  • Show understanding
  • Talk to the educators
  • Address the issue in general
  • Learn “stop”.
  • Learn to walk away

Most parents teach their kids this, but there are better ways than fighting back. You can read here how your child can stand up to hooligans and what you can do in an emergency.

How can we teach our children to stand up for themselves?

You can discuss and practice these points with your child so that it learns to defend itself against other children with words, but also with self-confident behavior.

Practice quick-wit

It is best to go through the situation with your child playfully. Discuss what the other child said or did, and work together to come up with some alternative ways to fight back.

A clever sentence or simply turning around and leaving the other child standing often have a good effect. Together with your child, come up with a few quick-witted answers for different situations.

In this way, your child can react quickly and has several options for action, especially if you practice it with them often.

Allow children to act themselves

Let your child handle the situations themselves, BUT support them. Encourage your child to confront the “attacker” and not be intimidated.

It would be counterproductive to settle the matter for your child. This only makes your child more of a target and there is no learning success. Well, thought-out strategy discussion and encouragement are usually much more effective.

Seek allies

Encourage your child to reach out to their friends. According to the motto: Together we are strong. This can be done by your child telling their friends about the problem and then asking for help. Or even looking for more friends. 

Distinguish between snitching and getting help

Some children don’t seek help because they think you’re going to snitch, and they’re afraid it’s only going to make things worse. Clarify it for your child that this is not snitching, but that it is getting help because the other child is crossing boundaries.

You can also compare it to the police if your child is interested. Calling the police because someone is committing a crime, like stealing, is also getting help, not ratting on.

Show understanding

Don’t downplay your child’s concerns, take them seriously. Even if you don’t think it’s a real risk. Your child comes to you for help.

So, it feels uncomfortable with the situation and doesn’t know exactly what to do (yet). Giving comfort and taking our children seriously creates good support and thus strengthens your child.

Talk to the teachers or educators

If the problem occurs in kindergarten or school, talk to the teachers about it. Possibly, they already have experience or even started interventions to solve the problem.

Maybe they also have useful information, can describe objective perspectives, or have useful tips. In any case, it is necessary to inform the teachers or kindergarten teachers because they have the opportunity to organize larger initiatives, such as a violence-preventive school program.

Address the issue in general

It is important not to address individuals, but the whole “group of people”. So, the whole class, kindergarten group, or group of friends. This way no one feels blacked out and other children who may not have been so involved until now can be brought on board.

Learn “stop”.

We adults often think that’s clear, anyway. My child can do that. Many children just don’t dare to say “stop”. Be it out of shame, fear, or pressure from others.

It is important to explain this to our children. For example, this:

“If someone teases you, say, Stop, stop it. I do not want that. Why is it so important? Because you’re not fine with it. It also hurts you or makes you angry or sad. It’s overstepping your boundaries, and that’s not okay. That’s why you have to tell the other person obviously with a ‘stop’ or ‘no, stop’. That can also be loud.”

Adapt the example to your child’s age and the normal choice of words. This is how you give your child the first reaction to take with them. Most children who tease others do not anticipate resistance. In this way, your child can appear self-confident from the start. This scares off many “hooligans” and they stop teasing pretty soon.

In addition, it usually attracts the interest of others, and that takes the wind out of the sails of the dynamic.

Learn to walk away

Turning away and just leaving the other child alone can also be very useful. This means that the child who just wants to relieve frustration or is looking for trouble has no target. The best thing to do is to go to friends. As already mentioned, very few children annoy whole groups, but only individuals.

Can children fight back?

Yes, our children should defend themselves. They must not put up with everything that is done to them and that is wrong. We shouldn’t tell them that, either. Our children would only develop a feeling of helplessness. Of course, this has an immediate effect on self-esteem. “I can’t do anything, I’m worth nothing.” I have summarized more about self-esteem and how you can strengthen it in your children in this post for you.

Our children are allowed to defend themselves against anyone who is trying to harm them. We often tend to teach our children that if someone is smaller and/or younger than themselves, they should be lenient, take special care of the smaller ones, or “I suppose you could prevail over them”.

However, that doesn’t solve our child’s problem. Because even small children can annoy them. And it’s perfectly okay if our children don’t yet know how to deal with it. They have heard all too often: “You mustn’t attack smaller ones”.


Children from 1 to 3 years can not yet solve social conflicts themselves. They need help and guidance from our parents.

Why is it important to teach children to stand up for themselves?

“My child puts up with everything” is a phrase I often hear from concerned parents. You should get to the bottom of the causes. 

  • Many children just don’t know what to do and don’t want to snitch.
  • Some children feel very intimidated by the other children and do not dare to defend themselves.
  • Some children don’t see it the same way we parents do. They do not feel attacked and therefore see no need to defend themselves.

The key here is that you should try to have a one-to-one conversation with your child. Most parents have a good, trusting, and secure bond with their children, in which our children confide in us at least during a quiet conversation.

You can also pay attention to how your child talks about other children and how they talk about themselves. If they praise other children and often put themselves down, this is an indication of poor self-esteem. “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good at it,” or even “I’m too stupid” should ring your alarm bells.

Of course, your child must learn to defend himself. Some parents don’t know how to help themselves at a certain point and then advise: “Just hit back.” The problem with this is that aggression only breeds more aggression. 

You are putting your child in a vicious circle of violence with this advice. And we want to avoid that as much as possible. Your child should defend themselves with words. It may not sound effective, but if used correctly, your child will learn how to solve conflicts for life and build their self-esteem.

Promote assertiveness in children

Especially in a group of children, assertiveness is what our children need. Especially in problem situations, when your child is annoyed, this ability helps enormously.

You can strengthen your child’s assertiveness by:

  • be a role model
  • teach him/her how to deal with anger,
  • strengthen their self-esteem,
  • gain experience and 
  • take away fears

In this case, assertiveness is the basis for a self-confident appearance. The more confident your child is, the less he will have a problem with kids trying to tease him. They won’t be as easily targeted, and they’ll be less likely to feel attacked. Confident children are much more resistant to teasing. This means they take it easier and are better able to deal with such situations.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all exercise for assertiveness, but the points mentioned are essential cornerstones for developing assertiveness.

To be a role model

The essence of most of our children’s skills is that we set a good example for them. Children learn most from role models. And for our children, it is often us parents.

This is also the case when learning assertiveness and dealing with conflicts. Teach your child how to resolve disputes or annoyances. Let them participate and also explain to your child what is going on inside you.

Say that you were offended because the neighbor made a derogatory remark. Or that you were annoyed because you were pushed at the zoo by someone who had pushed ahead.

This way, your child can better understand and learn what is going on inside you and see that his/ her feelings are normal. How you act in these situations serves as a model for your child. So let your child be present in such situations and learn from you.

Unless you know that you are likely to lose your temper yourself, then of course it would not be appropriate to model this for your child. But if you address problems or annoyances, you try to clarify and clarify the situation, then of course this can be very instructive for your child. It looks like which tactics lead to success and when or not.

You can find more information on how to set a good example for your child in this article.

Learn how to deal with anger

Your child is also likely to be angry about certain behaviors of others, especially when they are being ignored, teased, or even physically attacked. Make it clear that that’s fine. Your child is allowed to be angry and sad. 

It’s human and healthy. Suppressing anger and anger itself is not healthy, eventually. It’s up to you to teach your child how to manage their anger without hurting others.

Unfortunately, not all children learn this and some do not have the opportunity to acquire this skill elsewhere. It’s unfortunate, but just try to do better. Explain to your child where his anger comes from and how he can vent it.

I can recommend so-called feeling or social cards. In this way, different situations can be discussed and alternatives to action can be worked out.

Be aware

You can only solve a problem when the anger is gone!

Children are quite different. Screaming helps some, stomping others, or hitting a pillow. Still, others grumble. Try out different things or watch your child when he is angry and work out alternative courses of action together to reduce the anger. Only then can the search for a solution to a problem continue.

Strengthen self-esteem

Shy children, and especially children with low self-esteem, are easy targets for children who want to tease others. They rarely or very little defend themselves. The “perpetrators” usually feel superior to these children.

So make sure that your child develops good self-esteem. Praise properly, let your child do a lot on their own according to their age, and teach them to learn from mistakes. You can find more details summarized in this article. In addition, reward boards have proven their worth here. Whenever your child has tried, you can record that effort on the reward board. This will give your child additional motivation.

This way, your child will appear confident, takes the wind out of teasing, and feel comfortable standing up for their opinions even when others disagree.

To gain experience

Children need experience. Of course, this also applies to assertiveness. You have to assert yourself and learn to assert yourself. Children should practice this in groups of other children who are about the same age. 

If we parents don’t want to arrange everything for our children and try to protect them from everything unpleasant, then children will quickly learn from other children what they have to do to achieve their goals. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should abandon them. With hints, tips, advice, and instructions, we can support and strengthen them.

Take away fears

The more experience our children gain in dealing with others and, above all, different people and situations, the more they learn about these situations.

As a result, our children have far fewer fears. They know a lot, and they know what they are getting themselves into or what to expect. This takes the uncertainty factor out of situations that often lead to disputes or arguments. The less insecurity there is for our children, the less afraid they are of this situation as well. You’re not easily surprised or intimidated.

It also helps if you discuss with your child problematic situations that your child has experienced with other children, i.e. if there have been arguments or have been annoyed, and ask what their thoughts were. Did your child not dare to say anything against it, was your child afraid to expose themselves or others?

Fears are often a key factor in not acting. So, you must try to find out if there are fears in your child behind certain situations. If so, attempt to talk them through as rationally as possible and also role-play what your child might say or do.


None of us parents like it when our children are teased or even bullied. But we can do something about it together with our children, and best of all give them tools to take with them in advance.

However, even if this happens, and at some point, this is the case with almost everyone, we can support our child with the above points if it no longer knows how to help itself.

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