Preparing to Speak for Your Children
Advocating for one’s children is not natural or easy for every parent. Even parents who know they should advocate for their children don’t always know how to do it. None of that matters. What matters is that every parent can learn to be a good advocate for their children.
By learning to do these three steps and by doing them on a regular basis, advocating for your children will become a habit that is possible for you to keep going your whole life. After all, advocating for your children is a job and a responsibility you will have your whole life. Parents start advocating for your children when they are new babies, just home from the hospital. It is natural for most parents when their children are babies. They say things like, “oooh, isn’t my baby the cutest thing ever, wouldn’t he be great in baby food commercials.” Alternatively, you may hear a mother say, “My little girl is so smart, at seven months old she somehow knows what buttons to push on my smart phone.” If parents continued that type of behavior all their children’s lives it would be a great thing. It would be advocacy.
When it is time for your children to start school there will be numerous opportunities to push your children to succeed, to recommend them for positions, honors, and awards. Many religions put on holiday pageants and programs. These programs need volunteers to play various roles and to do various jobs. These programs are an opportunity to advocate for your child to get a role, to play a part and to participate. Many communities have contests for writing, sports, and other activities. Contests are another opportunity to advocate for your children – to encourage others to see your children in the best light possible. Be on the lookout at all times for opportunities to recommend and suggest that your children receive special recognition, positions, honors, and awards.
You continue the advocacy throughout their school years as you try special classes at school or interesting extracurricular activities. If you are the coach, teacher, or sponsor for one of your children’s activities, opportunities will arise for leadership positions, chances to represent the group, and to be a spokesperson. When possible, recommend your child for such honors or ask others to do so. It is important to continue to recommend your child for honors and opportunities when you get the chance. Advocacy, like most things, takes practice and is something that you get better at only by doing it on a regular basis. Keep in mind practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Advocate for your children and keep doing it repeatedly until you are a perfect advocate for your child.
Later when your children are applying to college, you continue to advocate for them as you get recommendations from friends and co-workers. Once the children graduate from college and look for jobs, you still advocate for them as you try to help them to find a job, buy a home and raise a family. When your children have children of their own, you will still advocate for your children and start advocating for your grandchildren.
An important part of advocating for your children is to accept compliments about your children with grace and style. This is a hard thing for many parents to do. For example, a person in line at the bank will tell a father, “Your daughter is such a sweet girl and she does so well in school.”
A great response would be “Thanks, she really is a great girl.” or “We are blessed to have her in the family.” Instead, a father who is not thinking about being an advocate for his daughter will say, “Yes, she is good in school, but she can’t do any of her chores right at home.”
By answering the compliment in this way, the father places doubts about his daughter’s good qualities in the mind of the person giving the compliment. If his daughter is with him when the compliment is given, the father takes what was a good moment for his daughter and destroys it for her. Instead of leaving the bank with a smile and feeling good about herself, the daughter will leave the bank feeling that her father is disappointed with her. The kind words from the person at the bank will leave her mind. What will stay in her mind is the fact that her daddy does not think she is sweet and smart, that he thinks it is more important that she does not do her chores at home.
The interesting thing is that if you asked this father if he agreed his daughter was sweet and smart, he would probably say that his daughter was indeed the nicest, sweetest, and kindest daughter a man could have. He would say that he was proud of her, blessed to have her and not looking forward to the day she grew up and became an independent woman with a family of her own. It would fill this father’s heart with sorrow and sadness if you explained the harm his response to the compliment caused.
There are as many ways to accept graciously a compliment about our children as there are compliments and children. There are all kinds of good and appropriate responses. A Christian mother might respond, “Thank you for the kind words about my daughter, we are indeed blessed to have her.” A scientific mother might respond, “She does have a lot of good qualities and it is good of you to share that with me.” A silly mother might respond, “She has always been such a cutie patootie.” In other words, there is no one right way to accept a compliment about your children with grace. The important thing is not how you do it, but to do it.
Some people have a hard time accepting compliments about their children. Planning is a good strategy for parents who have trouble accepting compliments about their children. Everyone has heard the expression “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” If you are one of those people who has trouble accepting compliments for your children, come up with a plan. Take time right now to figure out how you will start accepting compliments about your children with grace. It might be a good idea to write down responses to the compliments. To use this strategy, write down some responses to compliments about your children. Then every few days go back and read the list aloud. See how the words feel rolling off your tongue. If you can say the words easily, smoothly and naturally, keep them on the list to use when the time is right. If the words do not roll easily from your mouth, adjust them, play with them, and change them around until they work for you.
Another neat trick for learning to accept compliments for your children with grace is to role-play. Enlist a friend or family member to help you. Practice receiving compliments and responding in the appropriate manner. Try different types of responses – funny, serious, religious, complimentary, etc., until you find a method that works best for you. Find a way of accepting compliments that rolls off your tongue easily and naturally. This practice will help you accept compliments with grace and ease on the spot. For the most part, you do not know when you will get a compliment about your child or what the compliment will be. It may seem like a weird thing to do. You may even be uncomfortable doing it at first. That is okay, still do it! Keep doing it until you are good at it. You will feel better about it and your child will love the results.
Speak about your children in positive terms, not negative ones. This is an important step in speaking for your children. It is hard to speak for your children, to recommend them for things and to accept compliments about your children with grace if you speak about your children in negative terms. You must learn to and practice speaking about your children in positive term both when your children are present and when they are not present.
For some parents, it is very hard to speak about and to their children only in positive terms. There are many reasons parents have trouble with this concept. One reason is that these parents do not want their children to get a “big head” or a false sense of pride. Other parents think it pushes children to work harder if compliments are hard to come by. Some parents find it difficult to speak of their children in positive terms because of their own histories and abuse they suffered as children. Still other parents have a hard time speaking about and to their children in positive terms because they do not believe their children deserve the good words and that negative words are more in order. In truth, it does not matter what the reason is that parents do not do it; parents must speak about and to their children in positive terms. Some parents find it easy to talk in positive terms about and to a child like this one. Other parents find it hard or unnecessary to talk in positive terms about and to a child like this one. Still other parents think these children do not need compliments and kind words. You must understand that children who seem to have the whole world in their hands still need parents to speak about them and to them in positive and not negative terms.
Children who are smart, good looking and talented at many things need their parents to speak positively and not negatively about them and to them. A reality of life is that childhood is hard. Children who appear to have it all are still children who are moving along the road toward adulthood. They still need to have their confidence boosted, supported, and validated. These children still need to have parents speak about them and to them in positive terms.
When your children are smart, good-looking, and talented at many things, it is often easier to talk about them or to them in positive terms. This is particularly the case when talking about the children to others. After all, how often does a parent with an attractive child hear, “You know, your son is so handsome, he looks just like you.” This is a compliment to both the child and the parent. In this case, it is easy for the parent to speak of the child in glowing positive terms because any positive response the parent gives is actually a compliment to the parent.
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