Assertiveness training 101 for toddlers

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Sometimes I wonder about the “experts” who show up spurting on television morning shows.

I was too busy with getting-ready-to-go busy-ness to be paying much attention, but my ears perked up recently when one expert was introduced as a “joy consultant.” Not a consultant named Joy. A “joy consultant.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Do it yourself joy? How full of ourselves (and prunes) does our society have to be to think real joy can be programmed and engineered as long as you have the right consultant and a fine strategic plan? Add all the right ingredients and you should experience joy at 2:32 p.m. on Thursday. “Tell Mr. Smith he’ll need to reschedule for 3:00. My consultant says I’ll be experiencing joy at 2:32.”

A few weeks after the joy consultant interview another expert showed up to help with a deep societal need—how to teach kids to be assertive. Assertiveness Training 101 for Toddlers.

I may not understand assertiveness training. I know some folks are beaten down and easily manipulated or dominated and need to respect themselves more. I know some fine leaders usually rise to the surface in any organization, but so do folks who just need to call all the shots. Yes, I’ve known some sweet folks, kinder than wise, in such organizations who needed to learn to be properly assertive—for everyone’s good. But it’s been my experience that most folks who flock to assertiveness seminars don’t need much help learning to be jerks. It seems to come naturally for them.

Assertiveness for toddlers? This expert and I must be running with different toddlers. Most of the toddlers I know need assertiveness training about as much as I need a seminar on how to gain weight by eating more than the recommended daily requirement of chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong. I love toddlers. In fact, I’m deeply in love with my two granddaughters, one of whom is smack dab in the middle of toddlerhood, the most beautiful toddler this grandpa ever met.

Last Saturday Brylan and I were playing in her backyard, sliding down her slide, climbing trees, and herding plastic turtles as we sat in a dry wading pool. But she soon needed to go get her Tinker Bell doll to come join us. When I started to follow, she whirled and thrust her little hands out, “No!” and guided me to sit on the grass to wait for her. She loves it outdoors, and she was afraid if I got inside, she’d be stuck inside, too. I’m sure she was also afraid of further inconveniencing the run-aground turtles. I could be wrong, but I don’t see a lack of assertiveness ever being much problem for that little princess, and I don’t mean Tinker Bell.

I know what I want, too, and I know when I want it. It’s wanting what God wants that’s a challenge for me.