Games to Help Girls Stand Tall and Speak Assertively
Updated: Aug 2
This is part of our Girls Who Fight COVID-19 Activity Series. We created this collection to share educational games that teach kids about safety, confidence, and character. We truly hope you enjoy and learn some valuable lessons along the way!
CATEGORY 02: CONFIDENT PRESENTATION
There is a ton of data that shows how important it is for us to present ourselves confidently. For self defense, this plays a role in deterring predators and bullies who look at someone who stands tall and strong and thinks ‘that person will put up a fight, no thanks!’. Both bullies and predators are known to target those who seem most vulnerable. This information helps us learn how to conduct ourselves so that we deter people from trying to take advantage of us. Outside of self defense, confident presentation helps a person navigate a successful life. Through job interviews, social environments, presentations, and personal relationships, the way a person presents themself (body language, gait, voice) determines how they are perceived and often treated by others. We benefit the most from any situation if we present ourselves as confident and capable. We wrote an article dedicated to the research and findings on this topic.
How do we do it?
Confident body language (OPEN body language): standing tall with shoulders back, and head up high. Hands are comfortable at your side. Legs are shoulder width apart. When walking, you take wide strides and move like you have a place to be, and hands sway at your sides naturally. The vibe is powerful and competent.
Vulnerable body language (CLOSED body language): shoulders hunched, head down, eyes on the ground. Hands and/or arms crossed in front of your chest, in pockets, or fiddling with clothing. Legs are crossed, or very tight together. Facial expression is sad/scared. When walking, take small steps and move slowly. The vibe is aimless and defeated.
Fix My Posture!
The Purpose: Learn how much your kids instinctively know about distinguishing confident from vulnerable body language. Then teach them about both.
The Game: Get into a poor posture and have the players call out ways to fix your stance. Slumped shoulders, head down, arms crossed or in pockets, legs tense, feet turned inward, hands fiddling or tensing up, sad or scared facial expressions, shoulders tense.
Don't teach them the proper posture first, you will be surprised to see how much they already know. After all, posture as an indication of status is a phenomena that is noticed in most animal species, including lobsters, who have inhabited the earth far longer than dinosaurs! After standing still, add walking and have the kids direct you into walking more confidently. Every time they suggest a change, implement it into your act until they run out of suggestions and you are walking powerful and confident.
Further Challenge: For a week, tally all the times you see the player walking confidently and an X for all the times they walk non-confidently. Add prizes for different levels achieved.
The Game: Have your kids draw a ‘before’ and ‘after’ confidence training picture of someone walking about. It could be a girl, boy, tiger, dog, bird. As I said, body language is an animal thing too! Kids might find it fun to draw a ‘vulnerable vs confident’ hippo.
Methods: this one doesn’t really need a contest, but you could give the animal or character a name, and use that as a cue in real life. “Don’t be a Vulnerable Vulture”, or be a “Confident Camel!”.
Here's an example from one of our clients of these cues working in real life:
"My daughter would get upset when I said that to walk hunched and with arms crossed is a sign of weakness. Now I can say 'Walk with confidence how Gemma showed you' and my daughter immediately stands tall and owns her space."
- Barbara S.
The Confident Cat Walk
The Purpose: Practice different types of body language and distinguish between them.
The Game: Make a runway in the living room or kitchen. Up beat music is must. Give the players different characters or scenarios they have to embody when they walk the runway. Examples include ‘a Disney princess in love’, ‘a spy’, ‘a transformer who transforms into a robot’, ‘a ninja dodging laser beams’, ‘Ariana Grande performing’, ‘a rapper’, ‘a dog whose owner just got home’. Among the fun ones, add confidence walks. ‘The least confident person at school (exaggerated)’, ‘A somewhat shy kid at school’. Then switch it up to ‘The most confident kid in the world’, to ‘your best confident walk’.
Methods: This one can be just for fun, or you can vote for the person with the best walk each round.
CATEGORY 03: ASSERTIVENESS
Assertiveness is the ability to stand your ground or speak up for yourself without necessarily having to be aggressive or forceful. Assertiveness can be as simple as being the first person to put your hand up to ask a question when others are too shy, putting yourself at the front of the line or the classroom, or walking up to someone in your class and asking them to be your partner, instead of passively waiting for someone to come to you. When I ask someone to go lighter during training because they are being too dangerous, I am asserting (speaking up for) myself. When I tell a close friend that I don’t want to participate in drugs or drinking with them, I am asserting myself. When I explain to my boss why I deserve a promotion, I am asserting myself. These are examples of using assertiveness in real life moments where people tend to stay quiet at the cost of their own interest.
So what is assertive speaking?
There are some pointers, but you know it when you hear it. Often with kids, and more specifically girls, they speak so quiet that you can barely hear them. They won't be decisive. “I don’t know, I don’t care, I have no preferences or thoughts about it” - is the common answer to simple questions. They end with an upward inflection like it is a question and not a statement. They don’t hold eye contact. Their body language is defeated or small. Essentially, they come off unsure, passive, and not confident when speaking. This is a huge problem because there are many occasions in life when a person must have the ability to speak confidently, seriously, and decisively. We show girls what it sounds like and feels like to speak assertively, and then help them understand how they can use it in real life situations. Many of the following are games we play in our camps. We have added videos to show how we do it. Luckily these can all be done from home!
Don’t Touch My Horse!
The Game: Make a circle.
Serious round: Players must make eye contact with someone else, stand confidently, and say a statement with assertiveness. Some serious statements I use are: “Stay away from me”, “Get out of my way”, “Leave her alone”, “Don’t ever speak to me like that again”. Go around the circle, and allow the other players to give input.
Silly round: The point is to maintain the tone and assertiveness, but to use funny words that make other players laugh and get them ‘out’. Typically, the phrases stay the same, but you replace one of the words for a funny/random word to make a ridiculous statement. “Leave my moustache alone”, “Don’t touch my jube jubes”, “Stay away from my horse!” Last one to laugh, wins!
Methods: You can have the players give the ‘actor’ a rating out of ten, and include what they did well and what they could do better. For instance, maybe they spoke clear and strong, but broke eye contact half way through. Or maybe they did everything well, and at the last second they broke character and went back to a ‘closed posture’ to make up for their bout of ‘aggression’ (often assertiveness is wrongly taken as aggression in people who have no experience standing their ground, or think that it is ‘mean’ to do so). You will see a huge improvement after some practice.
Further Challenge: Get them to say things throughout the week in their ‘assertive voice’ on demand. If they succeed throughout the week, they can get a prize.
The Purpose: To practice using both confident body language and assertive voices in a real life situation.
The Game: Players are auditioning for a part in a big movie and they must audition for two stages in the characters journey: the shy vulnerable stage, and the triumphant confident stage. The plot: ‘The main character, Chloe, had a tough past and lacks confidence. She is starting at a new school and is super nervous. At first, she walks around defeated and scared. Then with the help of a kind but tough-love teacher, Chloe embarks on a journey to become her best self. By the end, she stands up to the bullies, and everyone applauds her for her strength.
Audition 1: Chloe’s first day at school: you’re walking through the hallway to get to your locker when someone bumps into you by accident, and you react in character- shy and defeated.
Audition 2: Chloe’s pivotal moment: you finally have the confidence to try out for the soccer team, so you are adding your name to the sign up sheet. A bully comes up to you and says something like "You really think you’re gunna make the team? yeah right!" Instead of backing down and giving up, you face the bully, standing straight with shoulders back, hands at your side. You hold a fierce eye contact and let the bully know you cannot be broken. You say, in your assertive voice, something that stands up for yourself without resorting to being cruel back. “Watch me”, “I can do anything I put my mind to, and i’m going to make it". You can be creative with the lines- what’s important is the body language and the voice. The bully is in complete shock- they have never been spoken back to like that. They scoff and walk away as the other students look at you with respect.
Methods: This game is all about creativity, expression, and drama! Be as creative as you can, using props, costumes, facial expressions, etc. In audition one you may be carrying books that you drop on the floor, and in audition two, you might have a pen. Actors can be given a rating out of ten. Give them a few takes so that they can implement feedback.
The Stare Down
The Purpose: In professional boxing, before a match, the two opponents have a ‘stare down’. Fighting is just as much about the mental game as it is about the physical. If you can make your opponent believe they are going to lose before you have to battle, you will have a significant advantage.
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
-Art of War
All of this to explain that if a person can fight, they usually don’t have to. This is because others can sense their competence, and thus don't pick fights with them. This is why it is true that martial artists, people who are adept at fighting, are less likely to get into real fights than the untrained. Funny right? To practice our ability to stand our ground, we take from the fighters. Holding eye contact is something that is really uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially young girls who have to be assertive for their own sake. Learning to be confident and comfortable while maintaining eye contact is a great way to gain a sense of toughness.
The Game: Two players stand on opposite sides of the room. The announcer calls out their names like in a boxing match. ‘Claire Francis Versuuuuussss Aaron Dell!” The two fighters walk towards each other, maintaining a tough character, and meet in the middle. They take a tough, strong stance with good posture and open body language. They can put their hands up if they want to. The goal is to intimidate the opponent before they intimidate you, to be the last to look away or back down, to stand your ground and never let anyone push you back. The first to break eye contact or laugh loses.
Methods: I like to do a ‘championship’ to find the stare down champion. It’s basically an elimination game that includes all players until there is only one left. At home, you can do this with the whole family. It will be good practice to do this with people of different ages, sizes, and relationships.
Thank you for reading! We are giving a 10% off self defense workshops coupon to anyone who shares their projects/activities & tags us! We hope to see you in a real life workshop when the quarantine is over to add some self defense skills to your safety toolbox :)
Learn about our martial arts programs for girls here
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