By Lacey Byrne, Yellowbrick Staff Writer
My mom and I were recently discussing a hard conversation that I had with a family member. It was one of those conversations where I had to be assertive, express my point of view and admit things I had kept to myself. This is never easy. Mom and I were pondering where I learned to be so assertive. She joked, “You didn’t learn this from me!” She paused and then added, “except when it comes to talking to wait staff at a restaurant.”
A week later I was reflecting on this conversation, and now I realize that indeed I did learn to be assertive from my mom. She is not one to stand up for herself when it comes to family members, or at least not easily, and she has a hard time confronting people with the types of conversations that make your stomach queasy. But she’s always been one to speak up at stores, restaurants and with companies over the phone. She always starts politely, showcases patience and explains her point of view. She’s never rude, unless pushed to rudeness, and she remains steadfast. I never felt like I had to brace myself or cringe when she would start, “Excuse me, ma’am….”
Countless conversations have been held over the past few weeks in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and likely others to follow. I’ve heard pundits’ pleas about having to teach our sons and daughters to speak up for themselves. Sure, we all want our kids to speak up for themselves and others. Easier said than done. Where do we begin and how do we foster the skills and self-confidence in our kids to say the difficult things that are on their minds?
I say keep it simple, start early and model this behavior. If you, as a woman, find it hard to voice your opinion, demand respect, or send back food at a restaurant, work to change this. When I’m on the phone with a company explaining politely how I was charged incorrectly or something went amiss, I want my daughters to overhear this conversation.
My 9 year old daughter and I came across an item on a store shelf that had been opened and obviously tampered with. We brought it to the clerk and I explained to my daughter someone probably stole something from it. My daughter was with me in the car when I called the police to report a driver illegally passing people and basically driving like a maniac. I want her to see me bringing attention to things and holding people accountable, even in small ways.
When a parent approaches their child with, “I want to talk about what happened yesterday,” or provides room for that child to express their opinions (even if it’s a critique of the parent), a message is being sent to the child. It may feel “yucky” to talk about hard things, and it’s certainly not fun to have your child argue with you about how you’re wrong or, “you don’t understand!” But think of it this way: From the time your child starts with, “No!” until they leave the nest, there are endless opportunities for your child to practice asserting him or herself in a safe place where they will continue to be loved.
By the time your child is an adult, if they receive an unwanted invitation to a superior’s hotel room or to someone’s lap in the workplace, you’ll hope their ability to say, “Hell no!” and to report this behavior will be second nature for them.
– Lacey Byrne, Yellowbrick Staff Writer