Advocating For Our Children
Most of the time I am a pretty mellow mama. I don’t enjoy causing a scene and would much prefer to not be noticed and allowed to reside in the background. Living life in the spotlight is not my idea of fun.
You’d never (did I just say never?) find me holding a picket sign or being interviewed about a controversial subject because that’s not how I do life. While I am unmovable in my strongest convictions, I don’t feel the need to thrust them upon others. (That’s why I have a blog! People are free to read or not and no one is forced to listen or respond.)
There are a couple of exceptions to my preferred way of being, however. One is my uncontrollable need to squelch bullying. I wasn’t bullied as a child, but I saw others who were and I felt helpless to do anything about it. That’s not what this post is about, though.
This post is about my inner mama bear, who is provoked to action whenever she senses even the slightest threat to her babies. I think that many moms push down their inner mama bear for fear of what other people will think if they unleash. If you recall my post about parenting in public, I said:
We want to avoid the embarrassment that comes with disciplining children in public places. Sometimes we lose our values in the fear.
I believe that sometimes, for the sake of not making waves, we ask our children to take on more than they should. We fail to step up or step in because we don’t want to be labeled as “overprotective” or “confrontational”. We let other adults and children misuse our children. Although, most of us would step in for big offenses, many of us want to let the small things slide because we’re just not sure how to handle them without looking like “that crazy mom”.
Embrace Your Inner Mama Bear (Without Looking Crazy)
I have been guilty of letting the small things go and not stepping in until it was too late. When I examine my reasons behind doing nothing in situations where I could have advocated for my child before anything negative happened, I realize that my excuses are those of wanting to blend in, to not rock the boat or be seen as overly-sensitive. What I’ve learned is that there are ways to stand up for my children without causing a scene.
Make an Excuse
When I sense my child is uncomfortable in a situation I make an excuse to get my child out of the situation without making any demands on anyone else. This keeps feelings from being hurt and shows my child that I have his back in difficult situations where he may lack the words or maturity to fend for himself.
For example, when we visit family certain adults, who are well meaning but annoying with their ribbing or questions about why my child does or does not do certain things (homeschooling, sports, girlfriends, etc), often corner my children to chat for longer than is comfortable. Instead of confronting the adult and causing a scene (especially if I’m the only parent there who has a problem with that adult’s behavior) I’ll call my child over to help me to do something or suddenly remember that I need him to “finish a task” he was working on earlier.
Rehearse Your Words and Remove Emotions
When you feel your child has been wronged and you need to do something about it, take a moment to rehearse what you’ll say and stick to the facts. Remove any language about how you feel and lead with what is true about the situation.
For example, in a situation where you feel a teacher, coach or other adult has been too harsh with your child you could say, “My child has a negative perception of *insert specific situation*. I’d like to discuss the events that resulted in that situation so that I can better understand both sides.”
Don’t accuse the other person of being malicious. It’s likely they weren’t actually trying to hurt your child, but are simply misguided in how to elicit positive behavior from children.
Don’t focus on what you can’t change. You can’t change what the other person said or did already, for example, but you can explain to them how you would like such situations handled in the future.
Assume Positive Intent
While it may seem obvious that someone has purposely harmed your child, it’s more likely they simply weren’t aware of how their words or actions came across. Assign positive intent and then ask the offending person about their purpose in the situation.
Assigning positive intent helps to steer you away from making a scene and instead helps you to get the heart of the problem and work together toward a solution.
Does your Child Actually Want your Help?
Make sure that your child actual wants you to advocate for him or her before you dive right in. This is especially important for older children and teens. Don’t mistake a desire for a listening ear for a call to action.
Sometimes your child might want to tell you about a difficult situation that does not require you to become involved. Ask your child if he or she wants you to talk with the person who is the source of his or her negative experience.
Does your Child Actually Need your Help?
This is a tough one to determine sometimes. As my oldest child moves into his mid-teen years I’ve learned to step back in many situations where I feel something should be done, but it’s his responsibility to take.
If your child needs to advocate for himself but doesn’t know how, help him by giving him the words to say and a pep talk to go with it. Explain to him that most people are reasonable as long as he comes to them with the facts and keeps emotional and blaming words out of the conversation.
When All Else Fails, Call in Your Fellow Mama Bears!
If you tried the above steps to advocate for your child (or to teach them how to advocate for themselves) and you’re met with a lack of resolution or you discover that there was ill intent involved you can bet that this person has caused problems with other children, as well. Now it’s time to reach out to others who are close to the situation and work together to confront the offender and to stand up for your children.
There is power in numbers and nothing is more powerful than a team of moms!
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