As a mom and a teacher of fifteen plus years, I’ve had to learn how to be a mom when it’s time to be a mom and be a teacher when it’s time to be a teacher. However, there are instances when those two professions overlap.

One day, my son came home from school upset because he was held from recess for “tattling.” He went on to explain that he witnessed a student hurt another student and went to tell the teacher. The teacher then reprimanded him for, in her words, “not minding his own business.” My son, dazed and confused at the thought of getting in trouble for something we had taught him was right, came to me looking for a solution – and a hug.

I never taught elementary school, so when we went to meet with his teacher over the incident I went in with a mom mind, not a teacher mind, as I was hoping there was a good reasoning behind her actions. His teacher began bragging on my son and what a bright and talented student he is but that his actions derailed her efforts in trying to get the students to handle their problems on their own without coming to her. It seems that it was posing a problem that prevented her from getting things done throughout the day.  It seemed that there may have been issues with classroom management but most importantly it made me realize what it meant to be in a place and not have a voice.  My concern was that my son was doing the right thing by addressing the issue but was reprimanded for speaking out. At what point will a child feel comfortable or know when it was the right time to address an issue in class?

In some homes, children are taught that it is ok to questions in a respectful manner, whereas others are taught just the opposite.  Looking through the lens of a teacher and a parent, I know that it is part of my responsibility as parent to teach my children how to speak up for themselves and to question authority in a respectful manner whenever necessary.  However, these skills are taught and perfected as the child gets older.  Obviously there are certain expectations that we have for a 16 year old that we don’t have for a 5 year old. When a child doesn’t speak up for themselves or someone else, many things may go unnoticed.

We all know that children come in different packages with different personalities and therefore handle situations accordingly.  For younger children these skills are cultivated at home and develop as the child gets older. Cultivating advocacy skills within children at a very early age is a very important skill because this will help them throughout their adult lives.  I love the quote, “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”  Here are a few tips that I use with my sons to help them build advocacy skills and hopefully this will work for your children as well.

  •         When they have questions, do your best to answer them honestly, the best way that you can.
  •         When they don’t get their ‘way’ explain to them why. This should not be looked at as negotiating but helping them to be to reason and have a voice.
  •         Take the time to listen to their concerns, this helps them to know that what they say is important.
  •         Allow them to help set up (within reason) rules and certain expectation for themselves.
  •         Encourage them to order for themselves at a restaurant.
  •         Encourage them to always speak loud and clear when talking to other adults.
  •         Encourage them to always make eye contact and give a firm handshake when interacting with adults as well as other children.
  •         Help them to work through a problem before addressing certain issues:

o    What do they want to happen?

o    How do they think the person will respond?

o    If they are not happy with the outcome, what can they do next?

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