Learn what an advocate is before you start advocating for your children.
This article is the first in a series of articles on How to Advocate for Your Children to Succeed. The series begins by explaining how to prepare to be an advocate for your children. Children are a special and unique gift. No two children are alike; each is special in her own way. All across the world, each time a child is born, parents, doctors, and relatives all look at the child and hope the child has a happy and successful life. While everyone wants the child to succeed, not every child will succeed.
As a parent, I have the unique opportunity and privilege to be in a position to help four lives go from infancy to adulthood and to become successful. I have been a wife for over 28 years and am the mother of four children ages 22, 15 and 11-year-old twins. Of all the jobs I have had, among them: wife, attorney, consultant, and writer; being a mother is both the hardest and most rewarding job. It is my mission to help my children become successful adults. To paraphrase a popular rap song from my younger days, I have my mind on my mission and my mission on my mind.
It is not easy to help a child become successful. There are many dangers along the road to success. Some of those dangers are the parents themselves, uncooperative children, uncooperative school administrators, and harmful peer pressure. Even though there are dangers along the road to success, parents can guide their children and help them be successful. While some children, of course, become successes with little or no parental help and involvement, it is a much easier thing to do when parents are involved.
At the start, it is important to note that success varies from child to child. When you are thinking about and planning for your children’s success, be sure your plans are special and unique for each child. For example, if you have a child with severe learning challenges, success may be completing the school year on schedule. If you have a child who is exceptionally intelligent and doing advanced work, success may be completing the school year in an honors class with a grade of A or above. As these two examples show, there is no one definition for success with our children. Instead, success is a custom-made thing and not an objective standard.
People most often think of attorneys when they think of advocates. In my law practice, I was an advocate for my clients. That means when they were facing charges in criminal court, I was at every court hearing to support and defend my client. It was my job to speak in favor of my client at every opportunity. I recommended the judge give my clients reasonable bail or let them out on their own recognizance. When talking to the prosecutor, I spoke in favor of my client and requested a good outcome that best served my clients’ interests. In all things, I was there to act on behalf of my clients, to intercede for them with other attorneys, judges, and all other parties. I was an advocate – I had an active role to play.
As a parent, I have had children who needed extra learning supports to perform at grade level and I have had advanced children who needed special individual education plans in order for their genius to continue to bloom. In each of these cases, it was my duty to be an advocate for my children. The first thing I had to do was speak in support of my children’s educational goals. I had to speak to others to act in favor in of my children getting the services and resources they needed. It was my job to give support for the argument that my slow readers needed reading specialists and more time to get assignments completed. It was my job and my responsibility to intercede on behalf of my slow reader children. It was my job because they could not do this on their own. It was also my job to speak out in support of my advanced children so they got the resources needed to help foster their intelligence and special genius. This was another situation where I had to intercede on behalf of my children because even though they are geniuses, this was a job for adults and not for children.
Being an advocate for your child means you must play many roles. You must be a speaker: after all, there can be no advocacy without words. You must be a supporter: there can be no advocacy without support for the person who is to benefit from the advocacy. You must be an actor: there is no advocacy without action.
Some parents do not advocate for their children. This is true with bad parents, of course. Interestingly though, there are also good, loving, and attentive parents who do not advocate for their children. With good parents, the main reason the parent will not advocate for her child is that she does not know how. An interesting thing in many of these cases is that the parents know how to advocate for others – co-workers, aging parents, and even spouses, but they do not know how to advocate for their children. For these parents, it is not a matter of not having the will to succeed, but instead not having the technical skill to advocate properly for children. The next section of this book will give some ideas on how to advocate for your children. It will teach you the skills you need to advocate so your skill can match your will to help your children to succeed.
Never forget that anyone can be a great advocate for their children. Stay tuned for the next article in the How to Advocate for Your Children series: “What it Means to Advocate for Your Children.”