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  • Easton Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

Parenting Tip: Expand your Child's Voice

In a world where children are used to being 'shushed,' it can be challenging to help our kids use their voices effectively. When they do learn how to confidently express themselves and assert their needs and ideas, children experience increased self-esteem, positive peer relationships, and better school performance. Teaching them that their words give them agency is another step towards having a growth mindset. When children cannot advocate for themselves, they may do things that are not in line with who they are becoming or what they value.

  1. Involve them in their own influence. While it might be tempting to rescue our kiddos in their time of need, sometimes, allowing them to confront their fears and use their voice can feel empowering. You do not have to remove all of your support -- feel free to guide them! Just make sure they are in the driver's seat. That is the best way to learn. Instead of... "Don't worry, I'll talk to them for you." Try... "What do you think we can say to them? How can we convince them to stop doing that?"

  2. Help them find the value in speaking up. Doing something uncomfortable, especially for the first time, is a challenging task -- they might need some convincing from a trusted adult. Assess the situation and verbalize what they might gain from using their voice: understanding, relief, happiness, friends, the list goes on and on! Instead of... "I know that you aren't comfortable saying something, don't worry about it." Try... "When you speak up, you demonstrate conviction & confidence."

  3. Help them understand their personal rights. While sometimes it may appear to be about the other person involved, most often, our job is to help our kids understand their inherent ability. Plus, respecting others can help our children learn how to respect themselves. Instead of... "They shouldn't act that way towards you." Try... "No one has the right to treat you with disrespect. You have the right to respect and kindness. "

  4. Show them that speaking up is important right now. Tolerating discomfort is not fun. Since it might never feel like a convenient time to do something uncomfortable, kids might need a little push to address the matter with urgency. Instead of... "Let's address that the next time it happens." Try... "Let's make time now to figure out how to stop that from happening again. Today we make a plan and change it."

  5. Demonstrate your own calmness & respectfulness. Our children look to us when they navigate the world. Thus, your modeling can make all the difference. Remember, while it is not your job to manage your child's emotions, it is your job to regulate your own. Instead of... "They can't get away with this!" Try... "We can find a solution more easily if we stay calm together."

References: 1. Demetriou, H. A. (2019). More reasons to listen: Learning lessons from pupil voice for psychology and education. International Journal of Student Voice, 5(3). 2. BigLife Journal




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