What are some reasons you should teach your child to advocate for themselves?
No matter your parenting style, teach your kids to advocate for themselves. It will nurture their independence and give them ownership of their problems. In the younger years, you can give children language for asking. Teach them to politely ask for something they need or want and encourage them to tell why they need it.
In the middle years, role play difficult situations and how to self advocate. This gives kids empowering strategies and the language to express themselves. With my tutoring clients, we often talk through how and when to ask a teacher for help or a parent for project supplies. This is a good age to allow real world experiences like ordering in a restaurant or paying for something at the store. Provide support for critical thinking and problem solving.
Successful self advocacy boosts self esteem, especially during the launching years. I remember my daughters disliked having to go into restaurants for a take out menu or call the doctor’s office to schedule an appointment, but they felt pretty proud of themselves once they had done it. It would have been easy for me to do it myself, but they needed to build their skills well before they needed to start arranging their own internships and job interviews. It’s important for students in high school to know how and when to approach teachers or coaches without relying on parents to do so first.
My youngest daughter got the most experience at age 15 when a chronic health issue presented itself. In order to prepare her for being her own health advocate later on, we right away had her involved in the decision making and talking to the doctors. Knowledge is power, and she eventually learned not only to talk to doctors but to handle insurance and pharmacy calls, too. One way we coached her to be her own advocate was to put the phone calls on speaker phone if she felt she needed some help from us. By the time she went off to college, we knew she had the skills she needed to advocate for her health and academics. We even watched her teach others to advocate for themselves. (Read her story here.)
It’s easy to want to solve problems for our kids but it’s so important to teach them to resolve conflicts and advocate for themselves from an early age. It’s also important to teach them the value of speaking up. Teach your kids to advocate for themselves and be open minded when they do!
Want some parenting book recommendations? Read here.
Table Talk: When did you first learn to advocate for yourself? What area of life is it hardest for you to be a self advocate?