It becomes critical, more for girls than boys, at this age to be able to say no and have a set of socially acceptable refusal skills. Research shows that girls are more at risk during this age of risky behaviors in social situations, although that gender gap is closing fast. Regardless of gender, confidence and self-esteem are resiliency skills linked with being able to say no and stand up for your values while still maintaining friendships. Social pressures are very high during this age range and being able to say no is a skill that is incredibly valuable for kids as they navigate junior high social situations. Focus on developing their value system so they have a reason to say no. Help them build confidence and self-esteem so that they value themselves enough to say no. Practice exit strategies with them when they are in sticky situations. Talk to them about the different styles of communication including assertive, aggressive, and passive. Go through past interactions with them about times they wanted to say no and felt like they couldn’t or times they said no and felt successful. The more open conversations you can have with your kids about refusal skills, the more comfortable they will feel to come and talk to you.
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