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Moments for Mom: When to be Assertive

Moments for Mom: When to be Assertive

Before I had children, I was the good touch/bad touch lady in the local school district.  I would go into schools and speak to first, third and fifth graders about personal body safety.  With the younger kids, there would be a video and a teddy bear, but with the fifth graders, we could get into some good conversations.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when we talked about the difference between being passiveaggressive and assertive.  I would get three volunteers up to the front and write the words on the board.  Then I would give them this scenario: say you go into McDonald’s and ask for a cheeseburger, fries and a soft drink, but what they give you is a fish sandwich, apples and water.  What would you do?

The passive person would usually take the meal they were handed and not say a word about the mistake, all the while kicking themselves and eating something they hated.

The aggressive person would yell at the cashier and throw the fish at her head (Fun times).

At this point I would point out that these first two didn’t seem to be working all that well, that perhaps there was another way.

Thus, the assertive person.  This person would kindly and respectfully point out that the order was wrong and wait patiently for it to be fixed.

I’m working on this with my daughter right now.  She’s having to navigate when to speak up and when to let something go.  I’m watching her lay some things down that I think she should stand up for, and I want her to see that compromise is all good and fine, and being respectful is key, but not everything should be laid down for the sake of keeping the peace. 

She has a ways to go on this one.  I know this because I’m in my forties and I still have a ways to go on this one.  But she’s getting there.  She’s making good progress.  She was having a tough conversation in my presence a couple days ago and that girl did not bend.  She said what she needed to say, she was fair, she was respectful, she spoke the truth.  I was super proud of her.  The thing is, it takes a toll to always have to be assertive, especially as a child/young adult.  There have been many times in the past year that I would have given anything for her not to have to stand up for herself on something, that the person she’s in conflict with would be the one to bend every now and then, putting her first. 

But I suppose that’s not reality.  Reality is that life is filled with difficult scenarios and difficult relationships, and we have the opportunity now with our children to teach them what we sometimes still don’t get right, in the hopes that their roads are even just a bit smoother. 

Elisabeth K. Corcoran is mom to Sara (15-1/2) and Jack (14).  She loves spending time with her kids, her friends, reading and writing.  She is the author of At the Corner of Broken & Love: Where God Meets Us in the Everyday;  One Girl, Third World: One Woman’s Journey into Social JusticeHe Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment; In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart; and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul.  All these books can be purchased on in paperback or Kindle.

Visit her website at and her blog at

You can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook at

Watch Elisabeth and her friends spread hope through Africa with Samaritan’s Purse at

Elisabeth is a proud Member of Redbud Writer's Guild (

Publication date: July 12, 2012