Monday, July 17, 2017

Advocating for our kids: Let's allow them to use their own voice.

All too often, I've run into parents too concerned about speaking on behalf of their children.  Just today, we had a woman in with her daughter and she was speaking for her.

The daughter had the ability to speak.
The daughter used that ability to speak.
The mother continued to speak for her, but when the daughter was speaking she did pause her interruption.

I believe that the daughter was mildly learning disabled.  She spoke on her own behalf.  She made her needs known in appropriate ways.  She responded appropriately.

So why was mama speaking for her?  I believe that she has probably protected and advocated for her all of her life but since this young lady is probably ball parking 16, she is going to have to have mama loosen those communicative apron strings a bit.

As parents, letting those strings out can feel uncomfortable.  As parents, letting those strings out could also cause us more work.  As parents, we need our children to learn to live outside of our protective or hovering presence.

There was another young woman who came into work to inquire about a job.  As you can guess, mom was with her.  Mom ran her over, ran to the counter, interrupted her and was completely overbearing.  The child could not speak up for herself and she was 18 and going into college.

Parents, we can't do this to our kids.

We need to teach our children how to advocate for themselves.  We need them to learn to speak their needs, themselves, and to learn to be (as my kiddo would call) problem solvers.

I was just talking with M this evening and said that it was a blessing for K to move to a school system that I have not been all involved in.  At her elementary, every teacher knew me.  I was the PTA president, was there all of the time and wrote the monthly newsletter.  K was there with me all of the time schlepping tables for book fairs, decorating things, setting up different events and I think that in some small way, this earned her a bit of a communicative pass from some of her teachers.  Now this isn't to say that K didn't communicate at all, but she was far more shy about making her needs known.

Fast forward to 6th grade.

M and I dropped K off to a strange school with a building full of kids she did not know, no one knew her mama and she had to make it on her own.

Honestly, at the end of her 6th grade year, she fell flat on her face.  It was ugly.  We knew that it was happening because of a series of poor choices, but she needed to learn.  She was in big trouble.  (Lying and not turning work in.)  Her teacher allowed her to turn her work in late, but at a maximum of 50% score.  It sucked, but we had to let it happen.

She pulled through and in the end, open enrollment continued for her 7th grade year.  (We have to re-apply every year, making this mama quite nervous.)  K dusted herself off in middle school, found the book club, volunteered at the library, helped her Language Arts teacher during lunch (we didn't even know this until the end of the year) and was chosen to be Student of the Month for October.

She did this all on her own.

It's not to say that there weren't gaffs in 7th grade, but she really pulled herself up by her bootstraps and made her needs known.  She discussed some inappropriate speak that was going on with one of the young men, asked me my opinion and I gave her both sides.  The next morning she told me, "I've decided to go speak with Mr. L about it.  I know what can happen, but what is going on isn't right and I need someone to know."  Though retaliation was a definite possibility, she spoke with the Vice Principal about her concerns and throughout the remaining part of the year, he would check in on her and make sure that all was okay.

She did this all on her own.

Children's choices may not be our choices, but we need to allow them to make decisions.  We need to allow them to learn to effectively speak for themselves, make appropriate choices and speak out when wrongs need righted.  They need to know ramifications of poor decision making. (Clearly we need to make certain that they are safe and keeping others safe.)

We need to help them to model good behavior and good citizenship.

We need to be an example to them of:
  . . . love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.  Galations 5:22-23
We need to allow them to use their voice.  We needn't speak for them.  We need to guide them.  We need to be there to listen.  We need to allow them to do it . . . on their own.