Is it ever too early to teach your children to stand up for themselves?

Enfant boxe

Something weird has been happening of late which made me wonder if it was about time I taught my toddler to stand up for herself.

There’s been an air of extreme toddler aggression permeating life as we know it. And it hasn’t been emanating from our toddler in residence. Yup, the last week has seen our toddler getting full on bopped, shoved, hit over the head, and full on poked alongside all other manner of physical misdemeanours.

I know, I know, all par for the course of being a toddler but seriously, am I going to let our little girl just sit there and take it like a wuss? Am I really just going to reply with “Oh but honey you have to share” next time someone whacks her because they want something she is playing with? Those frequent readers of this blog probably know the answer here: Hell no!

In this day and age, it feels like the whole concept of sharing, consideration and social etiquette has just been taken a step too far. We are all supposed to be oh so polite in the face of rudeness and aggression, take it on the chin, turn the other cheek…and all against the backdrop of an increasingly aggressive culture.

But the question is, does this really help prepare out little ones for the worryingly high rate of bullying that is out there, and that is cited to begin as early as pre-school (see more here)?

With childhood bullying at an all time high with 1 in 4 children being on the receiving end of bullying (source: STOMP Out Bullying), while I am all for teaching manners and consideration, empowering and supporting our children emotionally, and teaching them empathy so they do not become the bullies; I am NOT for teaching them to lie down and take it.

I strongly believe we need to teach our kids to stand up for themselves, and from where I’m standing, with the relatively advanced nature of children these days, I believe we need to start teaching them to stand up for themselves from a young – or younger age. And if bullying starts as early as pre-school, then I think planting those seeds to help them deal with those situations can, and should, start as early as 2 years old.

So much is written about teaching children to stand up for themselves at school age – but what about before? I am not some kind of neurotic “oh my daughter is going to be bullied!” mum but neither do I want to be. I know I can’t stop it, but I can give her the tools to deal with it which is precisely why, at the young age of 2 years old and prompted by recent events, I have begun teaching my daughter to stand up for herself  – to of course be polite and not be the perpetrator, but also not to take any crap.

I have taught her to shout “NO”! when someone shoves her aggressively. I have also taught her that just because someone shoves her, it is NOT ok to shove others. I have even gone so far as role playing a situation with her. Of course, when push comes to shove (excuse the pun), the chances of her using these tools in the heat of the moment at this age are probably quite low but at the very least she is empowered by the knowledge that she has these tools if she needs them.

And perhaps it will also help her to get a handle on her emotions at times like these, as well as laying the foundations for her response to future misdemeanours as not only she –  but also the way in which she engages with the big wide world – evolves.

What do you think? Is it ever too young to start teaching our children to start standing up for themselves? Have you started to teach your toddler to stand up for themselves and if so, how? I’d love to hear your views…

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And then the fun began...
Let's Talk Mommy


  1. Great post, couldn’t agree with you more. I think its a great thing to teach them to stand up for themselves when the situation calls for it. I had a situation with my son who was 4 at the time getting bullied by several boys at a playplace and the mother just sitting around allowing it. I called my son over to see what had happened because we had discussed never to hit or push but in this case since he had told them several times to leave him alone. I told him I am ok if he pushes back if they do it again. I also went and had a few choice words for the mother when I called her out on her childrens behavior.

    • I think as ever it’s trust your instincts. I think that even by talking to them it can help them get a handle on what is going on in their own toddler overwhelmed heads and that is a good start. Kids can be such little buggers! I have also caught my little one doing it as unfortunately they repeat behaviour done to them and it’s a circle that needs to be broken.

  2. I think maybe Caroline from Becoming a Stay at Home Mum wrote something about teaching her toddler to stand up for himself at some point using these guided techniques and he did really well… I could be making that up but it rings a bell! I think there is absolutely no harm whatsoever in teaching young children how to stand up for themselves assertively instead of aggressively, in fact I think it’s a great idea! Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout (and featuring me on the #becomingamother project this week 🙂 ) X

  3. Definitely agree here. I was always a fiesty girl when I was younger and I’d stick up for my brother and sister. As my boy doesn’t have siblings, he’s on his own. Luckily he is very assertive and I’ve seen him stick up for himself a lot of times. On the flip side, he is also very sensitive so sometimes nasty words will really upset him. I think he copes well with anything physical but verbal put-downs effect him more. I’m trying to teach him to go back with something quick and witty…! Great post xx

  4. so far our little has had no problem standing up for herself, which makes me very happy. There have been a few instances I’ve observed at the park and she hasn’t been shy. Its definately something on my radar

  5. Great post and this is something I have thought a lot about. A friend of mine taught her son to push back if he was pushed as she didn’t want him to be bullied like she was… But I just never felt comfortable with it. I was really proud recently though when Monkey got hit by another boy and turned round and said very loudly and clearly, No, stop it! Definitely want them to be assertive and stand up for themselves without being aggressive! Xx

  6. I think you’ve got the right idea, definitely never too early to teach your child to be assertive. I wish more parents were on the ball though — I usually keep a close eye on my daughter as she has ASD and doesn’t talk or engage with other children, and I’ve seen other kids targetting her at soft play, not so much now but when she was younger. It breaks my heart because she *can’t* stand up for herself, all she can do is move away.

    • Ah bless her I think other kids can just smell with others are more vulnerable (just as adults can)….my little girl is quite vivacious but also quite a Highly Sensitive Child so I think that’s why she often seems to be on the receiving end. That must be hard for her in those situations.

  7. Great post and I don’t think it’s too young to start teaching children about what’s wrong and what’s right with respecs to bullying and aggression. I think assertiveness is a good way to go rather than aggression. Thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst hope to see you again next week X

  8. If you’re not neurotic about bullying, don’t worry – the school will be neurotic enough for the both of you! My kids’ school talks about it so much and my kids really think that every little thing is bullying.


  9. You’re absolutely right about the need to.teach little ones to stand up for themselves from a young age. I try and tell my 3 year old to remove herself from any bullying situation and tell her nursery staff straight away. I like the idea of shouting “No'” I will be telling her to do that as well from now on.

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