Teach Your Child to Self-Advocate

By: Chris Lowrey

From the time our children are very little, we teach them to respect authority as well as adults in general.? We start when they are babies, encouraging them to give bye-bye kisses, wave bye-bye to their adoring fans, be quiet when an adult is talking, asking permission of an adult if they want something other than their toys, etc.? The older they get, the more messages we send to respect their elders.? Although our goal is to have polite and respectful children, we also don't want them to become targets for unworthy adults or feel they have to remain silent even when the situation is unjust to the child.

A child is in a tough position. After teaching them to respect authority and listen to what they are told to do and they readily comply, what about the times when the child truly feels wronged? Do you step in as the parent and fix the problem? Or should your child learn to solve the problems themselves?

How about a happy medium? Let’s use the following example:

Your child gets detention at school for talking during class time. Your child is very upset.

The teacher was writing on the chalkboard. A group of children were talking and trying to engage your child in the conversation. Your child turned to the friends and tried to shush them just as the teacher turned around. The whole group got detention.

You get the phone call from the teacher and the detention takes place during lunch recess. Your son/daughter comes home from school VERY upset. The punishment is already complete so there is no taking it back regardless of innocence or guilt. So, what can you do?

These types of situations need to be analyzed by the parents.? First, sort out how your child is feeling.

Does your son/daughter have a case of the short term irritations and can shake them off in no time? If so, it is best to just let them walk it off and learn life isn’t always fair.

But what if they just feel so wronged that they can’t get past it?

Sit down and brain-storm with your child. Try to find out their real issue. Is it… they want an acknowledgment that the teacher rushed to judgment, are they looking for your affirmation that you believe they were innocent, do they need to articulate their side to the teacher… help them dig deep and talk about their issues.

If they decide that they just can’t accept the teacher believing they were guilty, schedule a meeting with the teacher. Let your child do the talking. Even if your child is shy, be patient. Give him/her time to sort through their feelings and put the words together. Be present but silent. Chances are the teacher and child will work out the issue to a satisfactory conclusion.

When you leave the school with your child, watch how they walk. They will walk a little taller knowing their feelings were heard and they solved an issue agreeably with all parties.

This process works well with any conflict, even issues between classmates. When they learn to pick their battles, speak for themselves in a respectful mannerFeature Articles, then we as parents know we have done a good job! Our children are on their way to becoming an emotionally healthy adult.

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