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Empowering Your Child’s Voice

Even shy children can learn important self-advocacy skills with the right help from parents

Parents cannot stay with their children all day every day — nor should they. But without a parent or advocate by their side, students may need to stand up for themselves in any number of situations. Whether they are with a group of peers or an authority figure, self-advocacy is a set of skills every child should master.

Self-advocacy can be particularly challenging for students with a shy or reserved temperament. Speaking up is not easy, especially when it means challenging authority in the classroom or on the playground.

There are ways you can help a child grow in this area and build confidence in his or her voice, even when you are not around.

Model assertiveness

Cultivate a family atmosphere that rewards appropriate assertiveness in children. Do not expect your children to possess leadership skills if you do not empower them at home. You need to show that their voices are recognized and acknowledged.

This can include friendly dinner table debates, family meetings, and chances for children to share their opinions. While you do not have to agree with everything your children say, you should acknowledge their input and make sure they feel that their voices are valid and welcome.

You may need to temper bolder children’s voices when they drown out shyer siblings; well-meaning but stronger siblings can squelch the opinions of their more reserved counterparts. Each child needs to learn that their assertiveness is valued and important.

Discourage domineering friends

You may find it necessary to discourage domineering friends, especially if your child is more on the timid side. Bossy peers are a normal part of childhood, and bossiness is often a sign of burgeoning leadership skills. While there is nothing wrong with this assertiveness, it may not make the best environment for your child to discover his or her own voice. Strong personalities may unintentionally control or overpower less-dominant playmates. Seek out friends that put your child on a more equal footing so he or she can get comfortable speaking up without being overshadowed.

That is not to say this is the only type of friend your child should spend time with. Playing with a mix of friends helps children learn to advocate for their interests in different social groups.

Facilitate leadership opportunities

Finally, create opportunities for your children to step into leadership roles. Even young children can learn important skills from activities like camps, clubs, and extracurriculars at school. Children gain confidence when they are asked to lead — such as playing an important role in the school play or taking charge of a Scout activity.

American Heritage School helps students foster their own voices by providing a positive learning experience for each child. As their skills and confidence grow, we work with them to master progressively more challenging materials. At every grade level, we monitor each student's academic progress so he or she develops better self-confidence and motivation. Visit our website to schedule a personalized campus tour and see how your child could excel in this nurturing learning environment.