I started advocating for myself as a kid. I learned how to stand up to adults from a very early age. I learned how to deal with bullying. I learned how to turn the other cheek as appropriate and when to fight back. I learned how to put boundaries up to a certain extent. I learned how to make decisions, important decisions from a very early age. I learned to not care what most people think of me. I learned that I generally had a better idea of what I was capable of doing than most of the adults. I also figured out a lot of adults back then didn't have a clue what they were doing with me. I had to grow up and learn to talk to adults like I was an adult. I was very fortunate that my mother backed me up and supported my efforts and decisions. I know I wasn't the easiest kid to raise, but I know I was worth it.
I was born with multiple birth challenges (aka ''defects'') and had undiagnosed ADHD, Depression and myriad of other comorbidities. I am thankful how my mom raised me, because she taught me how to make important decisions and let me make them. She started with easier decisions like would ''you like to wear this dress or that dress?" And of course I would choose the one in the closet lol. I however went on to make much more important decisions. For example, I chose to have a thumb made between 3-4 years old. I was born with 4 fingers on my right hand, no thumb, no radius bone, curve ulna, and a bent wrist. Having surgery is a big decision for anyone, but it's even bigger for a 3 or 4 year old. As time went on I made the decision to have my 3 hand surgeries I went through later as pre-teen and young teenager. I don't regret any of those decisions. In fact, I am proud of those decisions. I was given the freedom to make my hand work the way I wanted it to. I love my right hand. I wouldn't trade it in for anything. I'd rather lose my left arm than my right arm. My right hand serves as a reminder as what I am capable of doing when I do things in my own unique way. I love the fact that I am unique because my set of birth challenges are so rare. I love the fact that I can do things with my right hand that I can't do with my left hand. I also love the fact that I have severe ADHD and several of it's comorbid friends. I love the fact I have my own unique brain wiring and I love the fact I am part of a rich and wonderful community. I am part of the ADD/ADHD community. I learn from it, I receive from it, and I give back to this community.
So what in the world does this have to with advocating? The confidence in advocating for oneself starts with loving every part of yourself. Starts with developing a positive, wholesome view of oneself. It starts with parents teaching their children to make decisions and supporting them in advocating for themselves. It helps them to be less of a target for being different than having their parents do everything for them. I am not saying parents don't need to advocate, but I am saying advocate with your kids instead. This gives them more power to stand up for themselves even when you are not around. It teaches them how to not let teachers and other adults to treat them in a prejudicial, condescending, harassing way. It helps them to confidently put up boundaries and protect themselves against the abuse and bullying they might incur. For example, as a kid I would NOT LET ANYONE CALL ME "HANDICAPPED" NOR TREAT ME LIKE I WAS. I would not let people tell me what I can and can't do. I didn't let teachers keep me from doing something I knew I could do. I didn't let them make me conform. I didn't let them turn me into something I wasn't. AND MY MOTHER BACKED ME UP! She didn't tell me the school knows best or to ''respect'' authority and put up with their discriminatory actions. In fact, she knew they didn't know best. She eventually pulled me out and home-schooled me herself.
When I was 14 and half, I had my last hand surgery. When I was 14 the nurses and doctors told me I should start keeping track of my blood pressure and my health. At 14 years old! What great advice. In other words, I needed to start taking responsibility for myself now before I am 18. I feel that teens definitely need to be given that kind of permission to take responsibility for their lives while their still teens. This of course requires that you've prepared them for this by teaching them how to make decisions, allowing and if need be teach them to advocate for themselves, and backing them up when needed. Yes you will still be advocating for you kid, but you will be doing with them instead.
Because my mom allowed me to figure out how to make my body and my hand work for me and allowed me to defend my equality against adults, and because she allowed me to overcome my physical challenges in my own way I was able to step right into my ADHD diagnosis at 22 and my trip to the Amen Clinic at 23 from the beginning. Yes the past 11 years has had it's ups and downs, yes I went through a major depressive crash, but I had a framework from which to get started. I have read 50+ books on ADD/ADHD since then, gone through almost 5 plus years of ADD/ADHD coaching, I went through EMDR for my PTSD, I faithfully went to my psychiatrist monthly for close to 10 years, I dealt with everything that came my direction.
As children grow up and become adults, they need to have the life skills to manage their differences in a world that is often bent on conformity and to leave this world a better place to live. Part of managing our differences include having to advocate for ourselves in college, in the workplace, in the family and relationships, with our friends and other venues.
So remember, yes you may have to advocate for your kids at times, but also teach them how to advocate for themselves. Help them develop their decision making skills, love their differences, and to love themselves. Help them learn that they deserve to be treated with equality and respect. This is what helped me to advocate for myself as a kid and as an adult. I have learned to advocate for myself in the job, in college, and in my family, with my friends, and elsewhere.