We spend a large portion of our time advocating for our military kids. Many of the challenges they face are unique to the military community so we find ourselves having to become subject matter experts on every nuance impacting our kids. Have a special needs child? Dive deep into EFMP policy. Can’t get little Jimmy that doctor’s appointment? Have a “come to Jesus” talk with the scheduler. High schooler’s credits won’t transfer? School the guidance counselor on the Interstate Compact for Military Children. That’s how parents of mil-kids roll.
But when do we pass the torch?
Teaching our kids to advocate for themselves is a tricky process. We’re a long way from the old days, when children were to be “seen and not heard.” But I’d bet dollars to donuts that many of us (myself included) still repeat history with those time-honored favorites:
“Do what you’re told.”
“Don’t talk back.”
“Because I SAID SO!”
Throughout their lives, we spend so much time teaching them not to question authority that when it comes time for them to rightfully challenge the status quo, they don’t know how to.
But we can change that. We just have to show them how to do it the right way.
1. Define Advocacy
Taking their age into account, explain to them that advocacy is challenging something they feel wasn’t right or fair. Start by providing age appropriate examples, and asking them why they think it may be unfair. Let them know it’s OK to talk about injustice by telling them about some things you don’t think are fair and want to see changed.
2. Encourage Them to Speak Up and Ask Questions
Questioning orders in the military isn’t really an option. But just because your mil-kid is along for the ride, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she should abide by those exact same rules. By teaching them to ask questions, they’re learning to self-advocate by seeking more information in order to understand the situation. Once they receive clarification, that might be what puts any incoming issues to bed for them.
3. Let Them Argue
No, I’m not crazy, and yes, I just told you to let your child argue with you. By giving them a space to argue (with you), you’re allowing them to practice their persuasive speaking skills in a controlled environment. This lets you, the parent, guide them in learning it’s not always about what you say … but how you say it.
4. Admit When You Are Wrong
Again, I can almost FEEL you hating me right now. But I’m serious. If our kids present us with a well-rounded argument, complete with facts that cannot be disputed, why would we NOT tell them we’re wrong? If we don’t do this every now and again, we’ll be raising them to think it’s not OK to be wrong and they’ll have no incentive to admit their wrong down the road.
Bottom line: If we don’t raise our kids to advocate for themselves while they’re young, they won’t know how or will be too scared to do it when we send them out into the world.
I know, what you just read is a hard pill to swallow, and trust me … I am by NO means a perfect parent. But we’re not just in the business of raising military kids. We’re raising the future of our country.Subscribe to Military Spouse's Weekly Newsletter