All posts by Jude

Why Teaching Our Kids Self-Advocacy Is So Dang Important!

From The Author’s Photo Library

If your kids are like mine, they grew up with plenty of what they needed. Well, don’t get me wrong. Ours had plenty of chores to do. They volunteered a ton. They had lots of homework and extracurricular activities that required personal responsibility and time management. But still, we did a lot of stuff for them. I made doctor’s appointments, negotiated the bills, cooked hundreds of meals, which they gladly consumed, washed endless loads of laundry, and goodness, the “taxi” driving we did for them. Meg Meeker, MD, a renowned pediatrician and parenting expert said, “Never do for your kids what they can do themselves.” I think that is great advice. Why? Because as parents, we already, inherently complete a ton of tasks for our children that frankly they can’t do for themselves, at first. But, if we never let them do anything on their own, (age and stage appropriate), we are doing them a ginormous disservice. Who knows? Maybe even putting their life at risk. Scary stuff I know.

It became magnanimously apparent to me, this need for teaching our children self-advocacy, when we started parenting young adults.

Example 1: Recently, our youngest daughter, a college sophomore, was immersed in a very difficult situation at her job. The truth was written on the wall in plain language. She needed to confront a superior about some serious issues involving the amount of work and hours she and her co-workers were putting in. And she did. But she vacillated for several weeks before calling that meeting, while many of her young co-workers waited in the wings to see the outcome of her courage. 

That’s the irony of self-advocacy. Sometimes it just effects the one taking a stand. Still, other times, self-advocacy impacts a whole lot of other people.

Example #2 My middle daughter recently had a serious of doctors’ appointments necessary to treat a serious dermatological issue she was having. Newsflash. Over 18-year old’s have to handle all their own medical needs, appointments, and prescriptions. Because, well, they are of legal age to do so. No one is going to talk to Mom or Dad without a special release of information on file. It doesn’t matter if they are in college and still on your insurance plan. Same for the bursar’s office at their respective college. Doesn’t matter that you are dropping 1000’s of dollars into an account in your child’s name each semester. You don’t have an automatic right anymore to know a thing about their tuition bills or their grades. So, when my girl left the doctor without gathering important information concerning her follow up appointments, logistical chaos ensued. It was a hard lesson learned about the need to advocate for herself.  

The truth is I know adults much older than my 19 and 21-year-old who would never undertake this type of necessary confrontation. They won’t confront a boss with professionalism and confidence to discuss ongoing problems. And they don’t ask the doctor appropriate questions that concern their own health and welfare. Is it such a surprise then, when our young adults struggle with self-advocacy?

In the current pop culture that our children and young adults live and work, it has become more and more of a challenge to expect our kids to advocate for themselves. 

Why?

I’m going to submit two highly plausible reasons for your consideration.

1 Because we DO and we BUY way too much for them when they are growing up. We do stuff that is far outside the scope of what parents should and should not do for their kids. We speak for them when we shouldn’t. Teachers, coaches, youth ministry leaders, doctors, restaurant staff, etc. We “handle” all of their personality conflicts for them! Furthermore, we often spend ridiculous amounts of money on them, (whether it is a special occasion or not), just because they want it? Year after year of that, and boom, you get a young adult whose appetite for self-indulgence can only be satiated with immediate gratification. He doesn’t know how to stand up for himself because his parents never allowed him to experience disappointment. If your kid has no framework for disappointment, that is going to make the real world an overwhelming place for them to survive. They will be out of our house sooner or later. Parents that is not the place or time we want our kids to begin negotiating disappointment.

2 It has become less culturally acceptable to teach our kids prevention. Prevention has become a dirty word for blaming the victim. Which is utter nonsense. For instance, it is critical that we teach our children self-advocacy when it comes to sexual activity or mixing drinking with their social life. We want to equip our girls and boys for what’s heading their way before it clobbers them like an oncoming train. I want my girl to have the tools necessary to maximize her safety and to avoid becoming a victim. That means teaching her prudent ways to manage her social media. It means teaching her that she is worth more than a “like” on a stupid phone. It means teaching her the importance of moderation in drinking alcohol, and the dangers of being drunk and incoherent in social settings. It means teaching her that indiscriminate sexual activity could inflict deep physical and emotional wounds that will leave an indelible mark on her life. We should understand that teaching our kids prevention, means that we are teaching them both self-respect and self-advocacy in a culture that is extremely shallow and unforgiving.

  • Both now and/or later, our kids need to be able to:
  • Order their own food without being rude to a waiter.
  • Have a professional and grace filled confrontation with micro-managing bosses.
  • Talk to their spouse about their personal needs in that relationship.
  • Negotiate a doctor bill that does not sync with the corresponding explanation of benefits from the insurance company.
  • Say NO! when they mean NO!
  • Do for themselves all of the stuff that we have done for them all of these years, laundry, cooking, driving and more.

And they need to understand that they can advocate for not only themselves, but when and where necessary, they can intercede for another person.

Remember the “Me Too Movement”? 

Of course, you do. We all do. Especially us moms. Our hearts broke as the respondents increased day by day by the hundreds of thousands. This sad state of affairs should inspire us as parents to teach our girls and our boys with gazelle intensity how to advocate for themselves and others. Hopefully, all that pain and suffering has not been lost on us. How many fewer, precious souls would be hash tagging “Me Too,” had they been taught more about healthy boundaries in their life and the paramount importance of self-advocacy? 

We can and should equip our kids with the life skills needed for engaging in healthy conflict resolution and confrontation. We can and should equip our kids to speak up for themselves and others, not with arrogance or rudeness, but with professionalism, grace, and confidence. We can and should arm our children with the necessary tools for maximizing their safety and to avoid becoming a victim of someone else’s evil intentions.

We have a choice.

We can emphasize the importance of self-advocacy when raising our children. OR we can hope for the best without teaching these life skills. Clearly, there is no fool proof way of ensuring our child’s safety or success in life. But we can do better than the status quo. We can do better than what has been done up until now. We must. Our child’s physical and emotional health may be hanging in the balance.

Parenting With Your Best Friends

Graphic Art Creds: Katie’s Best Friend Emma Gulitti

The very first tip in my book, Parenting with Gumption and Grit, says this: Don’t go it alone. It’s #1 for a reason. In making an argument for the interconnectedness of all people, English Poet John Donne penned these famous words in a 1623 essay, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” As much as I might sometime like to retreat from the world and everyone in it, I am keenly aware that I simply cannot do life alone. Well, not successfully anyway.

I have never been one to parent that way either.

My husband and I have raised three daughters. It is probably no coincidence, but nevertheless, it is rather funny as I contemplate just how many mothers of my daughters’ best friends have been my best friend. Throughout the years, these dynamic duos, have included Kristine and Tanna; Susan and Abi; Wendy and Alysse, Vanya and Kylie, Shari and Casadi, and Lisa and Emma. Just to name a few. We were a military family, so we moved around a few times as the girls were growing up. It was always hard when we moved, but that was only due to the close relationships we had nurtured and cherished in the place we left behind. It was the same for me and the girls. But as hard as it was to leave, each new arrival found us enveloped once again by moms and daughters ready to take us into the fold. So yeah, as soon as we made landfall, we made friends. And I mean the true blue, steadfast, and resolute kind.

How did that happen?

Well, the truth is you have to be willing to take risks. It requires vulnerability, transparency, and even personal disclosure. And as if that isn’t risky enough, it requires you to actively listen when the other person is being transparent and vulnerable. But this kind of sharing and depth doesn’t just happen the first day you meet someone. These kinds of forever friends are built on a foundation of trust that evolves out of sharing your lives together. For me and my mom friends that meant shared carpools, listing one another as emergency contact persons, birthday parties, graduations, and recently, even weddings! But it also meant late night telephone calls, semi-emergency coffee meetings, and crying on each other’s shoulder. I have sent and received my share of casseroles, hosted more than a few sleepovers, and kept kids when my friend’s husband was on a long deployment, and she just needed a break. Life is just easier when you have others to lean on. It’s also a lot more fun.

This world inflicts deeper wounds than what our individual skill set alone can manage.

We were never meant to shoulder our personal burdens unassisted. That may be a new concept to some of you, but it is true. I cannot imagine navigating this parenting venture solo- 1 without my husband or 2 without my steadfast friends and fellow moms. Who knows better than you how it feels to have your tween, teen, or young adult child break your heart? Another mom that’s who. Who knows better than you how exhausted you are from sleepless nights with a nocturnal infant?  Another mom that’s who. Homework, significant others, discipline issues, joy, and heartbreak. I’ve navigated all of that and more with other mamas, who like me sometimes just need a hand up from someone who understands!

Just a few days ago, my middle daughter Halle flew to Florida between college semesters to visit her precious friend Alysse whom she met over a decade ago when both of their families were living overseas. I know the two of them have weathered many storms together including quarrels with their respective parents. A few days following their visit, I was texting with Alysse’s mom Wendy, sharing prayer requests for both girls. Next week, my friend Kristine is coming for a visit. Her daughter, one of Shelby’s best friends for over 20 years, was married this year. The funny thing about that is, I was there with her in the midst of her struggle with infertility before she became pregnant with Tanna, over 22 years ago. And now here we are. So many years and so many celebrations, calamities, and adventures later, we are still standing. A few grey hairs for sure. But still stronger than ever.

I have navigated some tough, and some joyful seasons with some pretty great moms. And guess what? We are still, all in this together. Some of them live minutes away from me. Some of them, hours. But all of them are an intricate part of my story. Our kids drew us together. Now nothing can draw us apart. Neither time or distance.

We certainly don’t expect a life free of obstacles or pain, right? Of course not. Indeed, we know that is not true. Especially in parenting. Psalm 23; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; John 14; and Romans 8:26, just to name a few, each of those verses are rife with both trouble and assurance. In each of them we see difficulty surrounded with help. Pain surrounded with healing. Hardship surrounded with relief. Be the one who surrounds another mom with help, healing, and relief. And, be the one who receives that from another mom. She’s the best best friend you’ll ever have. Don’t. Go. It. Alone. That’s an awful lonely island to inhabit.