I’ve always been that Mom. The one that volunteered in the classroom, stepped up to be Room Parent, and then later found myself President of our PFO. I knew all the teachers and wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them an email if I had a question or concern. And then my kids aged out of elementary school and found their way to junior high and high school. I barely knew the teachers’ names and they certainly didn’t want to hear from disgruntled parents. If there was an issue at school – with homework, grades, or another student, our children (yes, I said children) were supposed to be able to take care of it all themselves. But for many kids, speaking up for themselves can bring on anxiety. Teaching our kids to advocate for themselves is one of those teaching moments many parents gloss over. Believe me… don’t wait until they are already out of grade school. Teach them young.
1. Don’t apologize for them. Chances are your child has done something at one time or another that they weren’t proud of. Well, that you weren’t proud of, for sure. They might not have cared so much, but it was our job as parents to teach them right from wrong. Maybe they took a toy from their friend’s house or they might have lifted a pack of gum from the store after you told them they couldn’t have it. Once you realized their indiscretion, did you make them give the item back? Did you apologize for them? Even young children know how to say, “I’m sorry,” and actually mean it. Making your child take responsibility for their actions is going to go a long way when it comes to standing up for what’s right later in life.
2. It’s okay to say no. How many times have we said yes to things that we really didn’t want to? We probably even said yes to our kids more times than we care to admit. Our children need to learn that a no is a no and it’s not a bad thing to say it. Give them the comfort in their own home to say no when they don’t want to do something or they don’t want to eat something you prepared. No matter the age, our children are capable of determining what they like and don’t like, what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. Give them some autonomy to make some of those decisions.
3. Talk to strangers. We spend so much time making sure our kids don’t talk to strangers that we forget to teach them the difference between good strangers and bad strangers. Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean they are all bad and our kids often end up growing up with a fear of talking to anyone. They will absolutely need to talk to their guidance counselor, their teachers, the school secretary. Show them that it’s okay to go up to someone new and different and ask a question. Let them ask questions for themselves. If you’re in a restaurant and they want a drink refill, have them ask the server themselves instead of you doing it for then.
4. Teach them life isn’t fair. We usually let this roll off our tongue way too often. “Life just isn’t fair,” is probably a familiar saying to you. We say it, but we don’t always explain it. Let your kids know that not everyone sees things the same way they do. Unfortunately, accidents happen, things get lost, someone might get chosen over you. Our reactions to misfortune (or unfairness) is what is most important. Let them know it’s okay to be sad or angry, but then we can move on and learn from the experience.
5. Trust their intuition. We all have it… that nagging sense that something just isn’t right. Let kids know that sometimes they need to listen to their gut feelings. If they strongly feel the need to help someone or they feel they are in danger, it’s okay to go with it. They should never do anything that goes against their inner feelings, regardless of who is pushing them on.