Happy New Year Mommies and Daddies! Thank you for joining me! I want to talk to you today about an increasingly important topic: advocating for your child.
What does it mean to advocate?
First, let’s take a look at what it means to advocate. According to the Merriam Webster definition, to advocate means to “support or argue for; to plead in favor of”. Someone who acts as an advocate is “one who pleads the cause of another”. So, when you act as your child’s advocate, you are pleading their cause to another person or persons.
Why is it important to advocate for your child?
Let us take a look at why is so important for you, as a parent, to advocate for your child. Put simply, as a minor, your child has almost no recourse when they are wronged. They cannot vote a person out of office. They cannot sue a person. They are essentially totally dependent on their parents/guardians to advocate on their behalf to address whatever wrong has come upon them.
In what situations might my child need an advocate?
Unfortunately, in today’s society, there are an ever-increasing number of situations when your child might need you to advocate on their behalf. For example, if your child has a teacher who has different cultural, political or religious beliefs than your family holds, and these differing beliefs are spilling out into the teacher’s classroom instruction, you might need to advocate for your child to correct this situation. Another example would be if your child has a special need that is not being addressed appropriately by their school.
How do I advocate for my child?
Depending on the particular situation you are facing, different approaches will be required. For example, in the situation where your child’s teacher’s beliefs are spilling into the teacher’s classroom instruction, most would agree that discussing the situation with the teacher would be the first best step. What happens, however, if the teacher is not in agreement with you? The next step would likely be to discuss the situation with the appropriate school administrator. But what happens if the administrator is not in agreement with you? Well, depending on the gravity of the situation, there are different routes you can take.
One route would simply be to discuss with your child that the lesson they learned in school is incorrect and explain to them why. If the problem is an isolated incident, this may be adequate. But what if the teacher continues to impose their personal beliefs in the classroom and the administration is not helping. In such a case, you can file a formal complaint with the school district and demand an investigation, you can rally politically to change the administration or you can transfer your child to a different school. Remember, the road that you choose should depend on the gravity of the situation.
The bottom line is that, while our children in school, while they are on the sports field, while they are really anywhere, they have no power. As minors, they have no independent authority. So they look to us, as their protectors, to keep them safe and to fix any serious problems that they encounter.
Why do we, as parents, avoid advocating for our children?
What are some hindrances to advocating for your child? The first hindrance that I personally experienced when my child had an issue with their teacher was that I did not want to anger my child’s teacher. My child has to be under the authority of their teacher seven hours a day for the entire school year. So, if I anger that teacher, will they take it out on my child? While this is a possibility, it has been my experience that most goodhearted teachers, especially if you develop a relationship with them, will understand your concerns and appreciate you approaching them and will deal with the situation appropriately. Unfortunately, if you are dealing with a non-goodhearted teacher, you may have to go down the road of approaching school officials and requesting investigations.
What are other hindrances to advocating for your child? You may not want to seem like a troublemaker. Or you may think that other members of your community may look at you with disregard. In this case, my question for you is: should you care? Should you care what other parents or members of your community think of you? Should you place more of a priority on that than on advocating for your child? When you look back at your child-rearing years, will you be proud of the fact that you stood for your child or will you be proud of the fact that Susie-across-the-street thought you were tacky for speaking out at the schoolboard meeting?
The funny thing is, as you begin to advocate for your child, you will meet other parents who are of like mind. You will begin to develop friendships with them and you will likely discover that you are much happier to be in their company than you would have been to care about Susie-across-the-street’s opinion of you.
Always remember that your children are special gifts given to you. Stand for them. Support and argue for them. Plead in favor of them. Regardless of the outcome, regardless of what happens to you personally, you will not regret it.
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