When talking with the girls in my sexting avoidance group about the motivation to sext, most often I hear, “He kept asking me, I figured if I sent one, he would leave me alone.” My follow up question is always, “Did he stop asking once you sent one?” Unfortunately, the answer is ALWAYS “no.”
The motivation to sext is different for girls than boys, so the objectives of my curriculum are different for different genders. One of the objectives for the girls' group is to teach them to have a voice, and stop apologizing for their presence. One of the objectives for the boys' group is to teach empathy.
Too often girls are raised to be people pleasers and passive communicators. They report not being assertive because they are seeking approval, or feel bad for saying “no,” or are trying to be nice and don't want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
Parents, we must teach girls from a young age to be assertive and advocate for themselves if we want them to grow up to be confident and a leader. If they are not taught to speak up and use their voice, they can be taken advantage of, harassed, and mistreated. Here’s some ideas about how to teach assertiveness.
Disclaimer: Boys pressuring girls for pictures isn’t the case in all situations but it does happen consistently.
Different types communication
Assertive Communication: Sharing power. Setting limits and boundaries respectfully and listening to others. Standing up for one's rights and beliefs without obstructing the rights of others. Speaks calmly and clearly, owning thoughts and feelings.
- Nonverbal: Stand tall, take a deep breath, make eye contact and don’t fidget
- Verbal: “I am not comfortable with that and I want you to stop.” or “I hear you, but I do not agree.”
Passive Communication: Giving people your power. Not saying “No!” when you want to, or agreeing when you don’t agree. Allowing people to cross your boundaries.
- Nonverbal: Difficulty making eye contact, slumped shoulders
- Verbal: Apologizes frequently and doesn’t give their opinion
Aggressive Communication: Having power over others. Attacking or ignoring other people’s opinions or criticizing others. Talking over someone, or arguing.
- Nonverbal: Getting into someone’s personal space or posturing
- Verbal: “I’m right and you’re wrong.” or “You need to do what I say.” or “I can’t believe you think that.”
Parents, pay attention to what you're modeling to your daughters. Are you a people pleaser or do you speak your mind? Teach your daughters at a young age that it's okay to express their opinions and set boundaries. Respect when your daughter says no. Do not try to convince or persuade them.
How to practice assertiveness
- Write down the assertive statement that you want to say
- Practice being assertive in the mirror
- Role play different scenarios that could come up at school: setting limits with a peer pressuring you, asking a teacher for help, communicating that someone is making you feel uncomfortable
- Role play different scenarios that could come up in the community: ordering in a restaurant, scheduling an appointment, asking someone for assistance
- Look for examples on TV or in movies and ask how that person was communicating: passively, aggressively or assertively
- Stop saying, "I’m sorry." Only say it if you’ve done something worth an apology
- Don’t let people talk you into doing or saying things
- Avoid passive words like um, maybe, uh, I guess
- Stand strong. Don’t let someone’s reaction to you stop you from being assertive.
Things to Remember
Girls tend to silence themselves and not speak their opinion because they think being assertive is aggressive. There is a big difference, between assertive and aggressive. Don’t be silenced.
People hide behind a screen to ask for photos or videos because they don’t have to see the expression on your face. It’s cowardly and not assertive.
"No." is a complete sentence. Don’t feel guilty for saying no, and don’t apologize or explain why the answer is no.
Practice, practice, practice being assertive. It might not be easy at first. And it’s never too late to start standing up for yourself.
Share this with your daughter and let us know how it goes.
Cheryl Kosmerl, MSW, LCSW
I'm a clinical social worker and child advocate. After more than 20 years of working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings I created Sexting Solutions, a successful program designed to teach kids to respect themselves and others, show empathy and stop abuse. Intended as an alternative to legal consequences for kids who were caught sexting, it focuses on building skills that develop a solid foundation for healthier adolescent years and beyond. Connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.