Self-advocacy is an essential skill. Unfortunately, many teens struggle to advocate for what they want/need and many teachers do not teach advocacy strategies for students.
During my years as an educator, I have seen many bright students struggle because they did not learn how to self-advocate.
Instead of asking questions to clarify an assignment or ask for help, these students would stay silent. By the time a parent or teacher discovered that they were struggling with an assignment, it was often too late.
Over time, this created terrible habits, and I saw many students lose their confidence because they started to struggle academically.
The good news is that you can teach self-advocacy to your teen and avoid this potential pitfall. I’ve outlined x strategies that you can implement to help your teen develop the ability to self-advocate. These strategies can help your teen build confidence and reach their academic potential.
What Is Self-advocacy, and Why Are Self-advocacy Strategies for Students Important?
Before diving into the methods you can use to improve your child’s self-advocacy, I want to define the term and outline why it is an essential skill for students to learn.
Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up for oneself. In other words, it is the ability to communicate what you need to succeed.
Self-advocacy strategies for students are essential because they help teenagers stay confident in the classroom and reach their academic potential. A student knows their needs better than anyone else. Without self-advocacy, parents, teachers, and peers are left guessing.
When students know how to self-advocate, they are more likely to ask questions when they don’t understand something.
A student is also more likely to ask for help when needed. The ability to ask for help is crucial because it allows students to get the assistance they need to succeed. Additionally, self-advocacy gives students a voice.
It allows them to share their thoughts and ideas with their teachers and classmates. Students who feel they can contribute to the classroom discussion are more likely to engage with the material and it can improve their motivation.
Lastly, self-advocacy is crucial because it teaches students how to advocate for themselves outside the classroom. Self-advocacy is a skill that your child will use professionally and within their platonic and romantic relationships. The benefits of learning self-advocacy strategies extend far beyond the classroom.
Six Methods To Help Develop Advocacy Strategies For Students
Improving your child’s advocacy strategies won’t happen overnight. It is a difficult skill to teach. Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection, communication, and encouragement is the best way to instill self-advocacy. Creating the right environment is particularly important because students may not see good examples of self-advocacy in school.
1. Teach Advocacy Strategies for Students Through Question Asking
One of the best ways to help your child develop the ability to advocate is by asking them questions. Questions are a great way to prompt a child to reflect upon their experience and share what they need to succeed.
Some questions I would encourage you to ask your child include:
- What do you need to be successful in this class?
- Do you understand the expectations for this assignment?
- What can I do to help you be successful?
- What went well on this assignment?
- What could you have improved?
The answer to questions like these has benefits for both you and your child. Asking these questions demonstrates an interest in your child’s educational experience and gives insight into how you can support them.
Additionally, answering the questions helps your child identify their needs and what would be helpful in various situations.
In addition to asking questions that prompt self-reflection, it is also valuable to ask your teen to elaborate on their answers. Encourage your child to give answers beyond “good” or “bad.”
The more a child can elaborate on their problems/challenges, the better they understand them. Elaborating on their perspective helps identify areas of need and potential solutions.
2. Develop Self Advocacy Strategies Through Validation
Many students struggle to advocate for themselves because they do not trust their thoughts and opinions. As a result, even if they think they need help, students who lack self-confidence may not speak up because they don’t believe their ideas.
You can encourage your child to trust themselves by validating their perspective and opinion. Now I am not suggesting that you agree with everything that your child says but the support of (some) of their ideas will go a long way in helping them develop the ability to advocate for themselves.
Don’t immediately move to the solution when your child expresses frustration with a problem or shares that they are struggling with something. Instead, express understanding by saying something like:
- I can understand why that frustrates you.
- That is a big challenge.
- I am sorry that this is frustrating you.
Validating your child’s feelings teaches them to trust their judgment and emotions. Trust in one’s self is an essential self in self-advocacy.
3. Empower Your Child to Advocate for Themselves
In addition to encouraging self-reflection, another vital aspect of teaching advocacy is encouraging critical thinking. One of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills is by encouraging your child to provide solutions to problems.
Asking your child to identify solutions is a great way to follow up on the questions you asked in the first method. Once your child has identified a challenge or an area of growth, you can ask them:
- What do you think is the solution?
- How are you going to overcome that challenge?
- What do you think the next step is?
Asking this type of question demonstrates to your child that they have the solutions to their challenges and that they are a source of knowledge that can be trusted.
I know it can be tempting to solve problems for your child as soon as they arise or tell them what they need to do to solve a problem. However, this does not teach critical thinking.
To effectively advocate, your child needs to understand what they need to solve the problem. Your child will only learn to do this through practice.
4. Give Positive Feedback To Encourage Self-advocacy Strategies
One of the best ways to encourage your child to advocate for themselves is by praising them when they exhibit the desired behavior. The simple act of saying “good job” or “you should be proud of yourself for asking for what you needed” will not only encourage your child to continue the behavior, but it will also help them develop a sense of pride in their ability to ask for what they need.
Positive feedback and praise is perhaps the most effective method for encouraging your child. So be sure to use it often!
Giving your child positive feedback when they advocate for themselves will empower them to continue doing so in the future.
Conversely, it is essential to limit negative feedback. It can be tempting to tell your child what they could have done better after advocating for themselves, but this will only discourage them.
Studies have shown that praise and negative feedback should be given at a ratio of 5:1. Try to stick to this ratio as much as possible.
5. Practice Advocacy Strategies With Your Child
If your child knows the support they need but struggles to ask for help from teachers and other adults, practicing is a great way to build confidence.
Role-playing can be a fun way to help your child build confidence and practice self-advocacy. Ask your child to explain a situation (i.e., asking a teacher for help). You take on the role of the teacher and provide a variety of responses. Role-playing will help your child anticipate different reactions and learn how to respond effectively.
Alternatively, your child can take on the role of the teacher, and you can play the student. This role reversal is a great way to teach your child how to ask for what they need. Plus, your child will likely have a fun time being in charge.
6. Work With an Academic Coach
Working with an academic coach is a great way to give your child a head start on learning self-advocacy.
An academic coach can help your child understand their learning style, set goals, and develop specific strategies tailored to their needs.
Additionally, academic coaches can provide support and guidance to parents. Working with an academic coach is especially useful for parents who want to be more involved in their child’s education but don’t know where to start.
Let’s chat if you’re interested in working with an academic coach. I have worked with hundreds of students and their families to help them reach their academic potential. Schedule your free 30-minute consultation.
Building advocacy skills in your child will help them stay confident and empowered in the classroom and beyond. The strategies outlined above are just a few of the many ways that you can help your child develop advocacy skills.
So get started today and watch your child blossom into a confident young adult!
About the Author: John Hyde
I am an educational coach specializing in teaching students academic fundamentals and a growth mindset.
After graduating from Duke University in 2015, I taught at a public middle school from 2016 to 2019. Although I loved working with students in the classroom, the public education system was not teaching students the skills essential to academic success.
I left the classroom in 2019 to start Academic Empowerment Academy. Since then, my coaching program has helped hundreds of students realize their academic potential by assisting them in building confidence and empowering them with the skills and mindset to meet their goals in school and life.
If you’d like to discuss how I can help your teen be more motivated, foster good habits, and improve academic organization/performance, Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Here.
Hi I’m John, author of this blog, academic coach, and founder of AE Academy.
I help teens reach their academic potential by empowering them with academic fundamentals, a growth mindset, and critical thinking.
If your teen is struggling to reach their academic potential, or isn’t learning the skills they need to succeed in school, we should connect.
It’s on me – Book Your Free Call Here