Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"I led a school walk out" - advocating skills for children

Teaching your child to self advocate, stand up for their rights and stand up for others is incredibly important.  A child that can stand up for them self will be less likely to be bullied, will have more self confidence and be more likely to participate in activities.  We have encouraged our children to stand up for themselves and others around them from a very young age.

Self advocacy is learning to speak up on your behalf and ask for what you need in a straight forward manner.  When advocating you learn to take charge and be more independent.  It's communicating your needs and wishes and it's knowing your rights and standing up for them.

Start early to let your child become as independent as possible.  Let them take on responsibilities and experience consequences.  This means that you are going to need to step back and give your child the opportunity to make choices/decisions for themselves even if it's not the choice you would make.

Teach your child their rights and responsibilities. How can you expect them to stand up for themselves if they don't know what their rights are?  Every place your child will go has rights that are there for their safety and protection - rights as a citizen, medical rights, education rights, employment rights, rights for clubs and activities, etc.  Also encourage your child to become informed about topics that may affect them - follow the news, attend meetings and read.  If your child is standing up for something they should be informed.

Ensure your child knows how to politely and respectfully advocate for their needs.  Quite often adults do not appreciate hearing that they are doing something wrong but are more willing to accept this if done with respect.

One of my daughters, at the age of 12 years old,  had a teacher that punished students for misbehaving by having them do push-ups.  My daughter knew her rights and the rights of her classmates (from studying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and decided to take it up with the teacher.  She politely asked to speak privately with the teacher in the hallway.  The teacher was shocked for being called out about her discipline methods but impressed by the way my daughter handled the situation (we heard this from multiple teachers after the said teacher discussed this event in the staff room). This would not have gone over nearly as well if she had brought it up in front of the class.

Be aware that you are a role model for your child.  How do you advocate for yourself and others around you?  Do you present yourself in a manner that you would be happy seeing come from your child?

Support your child in their advocating.  When your child comes home and says "I had a problem with....." Listen to your child and discuss how they handled the situation.  Give feedback and ask them if they want your help.  Maybe your help is giving them suggestions of the next step or maybe it is you following up on their behalf.

Teach the chain of command - if your child has an issue that cannot be resolved ensure that they know where they can go next for help.

Self advocacy is a critical skill for our children to learn which will help them achieve their goals, increase self sufficiency and become successful adults.  While learning these skills your child may handle situations in a manner that might not be ideal (to you).  They may learn skills that overtime will need to be tweaked or toned down.  There have been many occasions that one or two of our children have come home and said something like "I led a school walkout today, I started a petition, I had a problem with an educations assistant at the bus stop and now need to phone the school principal or that delivery drivers driving made me uncomfortable I am going to phone the company office".  When hearing comments like these sometimes fear does overcome me but I take a deep breath, hear them out and stand behind them offering support.

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  1. Wow, it's great the way you encourage your children to stand up for themselves and others! I think being a role model is especially important. Too often I don't advocate for myself...but I have to remember my daughter is watching. Good advice!

  2. This is a very important skill for all people to learn! I know many adults who don't believe that children have any rights and other adults who won't even stand up for their own rights. Thanks for sharing this post at Friendship Friday!

  3. Great post! I have an 18yo daughter with moderate cerebral palsy and I honestly haven't done a good job teaching her about self-advocacy. Thanks for the reminder! Visiting from FriendshipFriday!

    (PS... I tweeted this but couldn't find you on Twitter and I'd love to pin this on Pinterest, but can't because there's no image!)

  4. I love this post. I've heard parents say their job is to teach kids to do as they're told, even if they don't agree - I don't subscribe to this at all!

    But you do need to teach them to step back and look at all sides of the equation, and then react constructively. We don't want mindless rebels without causes, either.

  5. Wow. Such a great post! And definitely gave me a lot to think about. Definitely pinning so I can reference this for my kids as they grow older.