Helping Our Kids While Teaching Self-Advocacy

Helping Our Kids While Teaching Self-Advocacy

I am a problem solver. It’s what I do for my job, in my home and for my family. However, I’ve noticed lately that my 12-year-old won’t even try to figure things out anymore. They come straight to me with any issue or concern that arises at school, with a teacher or coach, really almost anything. With the expectation that I call/email the teacher or talk to the coach and fix it.”

Here’s my question, ‘Am I helping or hurting my child by running to their rescue?’ One part of me thinks that as a mom, it’s completely appropriate. Yet, the other part of me knows I won’t always be there to solve their problems.

Coach Deborah, can you help me find the balance?”

– Mom S. 

Thank you, Mom S., for opening up and asking a question that many parents are thinking about.

First, I want to say instead of helping or hurting, maybe the appropriate language is helping or hindering. Solving our children’s problems for them can definitely hinder their growth as critical thinkers and problem solvers. What we’re talking about here is self-advocacy and it is a life skill that our kids need, now more than ever.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when our children come to us with a problem. For younger children, it may be something as simple as difficulty completing a task (tying their shoe) or for an older child, approaching a teacher to discuss a grade they don’t agree with.

And yes, we are Mama, in some cases Mama Bear and protector. But you said something that stands out, “the other part of me knows I won’t always be there to solve their problems”. One of our goals as moms is to work ourselves out of a job. We want, no, we need, them to be able to advocate for themselves.

So, the next time your child comes to you with a dilemma, do these three things first:

  • Validate the concern. Let them know you hear them and understand why they may be upset, concerned, worried, etc.
  • Ask more questions than you give answers, initially. The goal here is to get their juices flowing about solutions. They may not land on the ideal answer right out of the gate, but they have to begin the process of critical thinking in order to get there.
  • Role play with your child. If it’s a conversation with a teacher, you be the teacher and let your child be themselves. Then, reverse roles. Going through this exercise can help your child get comfortable with what it is they want to say before having to say it.

My husband once told me, “We are raising men, not boys” as it pertained to our sons. As parents, we must keep in mind, we are raising our kids for where they are going, not where they are today. Keep us posted, Mom S. We’d love to hear how it all works out.


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