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HomeBlogFranklySteinIt's tough to teach your kids to speak for themselves — FranklyStein

It’s tough to teach your kids to speak for themselves — FranklyStein

Getting your kids to advocate for themselves — and holding yourself back from helping — is one of the hardest parts of parenting.

I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to speak for themselves — to call friends on the phone for playdates when they were younger; to ask for help in a store, and to approach the teacher if they have a question or problem. It’s never been easy, especially for my quiet child and my anxious one.

And it’s never been easy for me. I definitely struggle with letting my kids fail. I’m the mom who would run to school with a left-behind lunch box or dash in to the classroom to sign a test that never made it home for a signature. If my child was struggling, I wouldn’t hesitate to email the teacher.

As they get older older, however, I’ve been trying to hold back with varying degrees of success.

When Lilly complained that her shins were hurting at swim practice, I encouraged her to talk to her coach, but I knew she wouldn’t. When kids were getting left out of youth group activities, I encouraged my oldest to talk to the group, but I don’t think she ever did. And recently, when Adam missed an early morning meeting at school and lost credit because his carpool was late, I encouraged him to explain the situation to the teacher. Lucky for him, the class was given more time for the assignment so he never had to advocate for himself.

Sometimes, however, I can’t help but intervene. Recently, I found myself e-mailing the choir director because Adam said he wanted to join choir but was hesitant to talk to the director. I knew I was overstepping a line. I had just edited a story we were doing on raising confident kids and teaching your kids to advocate for themselves. A quote from the story echoed in my head as I composed the email — “[Teach] them to be problem-solvers,” says Andrea Beckman, a counselor at Annapolis Elementary School. “If adults are always jumping in, they don’t have the opportunity to learn that.”

The problem was, I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity because he was afraid. Luckily, the choir director was more than pleased to find out he was interested and sent another member to recruit him. After that, he was able to take the situation into his own hands. He spoke to the choir director, worked it out with his homeroom teacher and did what he needed to join choir on his own.

I guess I’ve gotten my kids at least halfway to being able to speak for themselves. It’s just not easy to completely ignore that mother hen instinct.

To read more FranklyStein click here


FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.


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