Right Track Educational Services

Helping families make smart educational choices

Is Your Child a Squeaky Wheel? Teach her to Self-Advocate!

Does your child speak up for herself? 

Does she express her wants and needs to the adults in her life?  Think about the vital life skill of self-advocacy and how your child works it.  How would she self-advocate at school?

self-advocating student

self-advocating student

In this time of bursting class sizes in our public school system, we need to ensure our kids don’t fall through the cracks, going unnoticed.  We have to draw out their “voice” and nurture their confidence when speaking to teachers.  We must encourage them to speak up about their wants, needs, concerns, and weaknesses.

A million different things can complicate a child’s day at school:  a distracting neighbour during seat work, difficulty understanding a math lesson, not enough time to complete an assignment, or being overlooked for a leadership opportunity.  If a child has the confidence to share his concerns, then his teacher will take note, and your child’s outcome may be better.

How can you help nurture your child’s “voice”, and help him develop self-advocacy skills?  Try some of these ideas:

  • when visiting the doctor or dentist for a routine visit or concern, have your child do all the talking.  It’s his body, after all.
  • at a restaurant or fast food joint, ask your child to place the order for the meal.
  • when a problem arises at school for any reason, encourage your child to deal with the teacher directly, not you.  You can send a note via the school agenda to prepare the teacher, but your child has to do the rest.  Practice with your child how to negotiate and express his concerns and wants.  Follow up, and encourage your child to follow through with the teacher.
  • in social situations with other adults, encourage your child to use adults’ names, and give eye contact when speaking.
  • in extra-curricular activities, your child should assert herself with the supervisors to get noticed, for example:   when trying out for a role in a dance show, or getting more ice time in a hockey tournament.
  • and for you:  zip it up!  Resist the reflex action to rescue your kid, or handle a difficult situation for him.  Slow down, discuss issues with him, and give him confidence to manage the situation and speak up for himself.  Empower him.

In my life, I’ve heard the expressions “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” and “if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” a million times.  It’s important to impart the wisdom behind these phrases to our kids so they will stand out in a teacher’s busy day — so their wants and needs are appreciated at school — and in life.