Advocacy: Is it a choice?

difficult-conversations-with-kids

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

William Faulkner

As a parent and an educator, I have always considered my primary role to be an advocate for children, mine and others… ALL!. Recently, I had an experience that caused me to pause and reflect on what advocacy for children really means. Take a moment to think about the last time you advocated for your own child or someone else’s. It was likely at a time when the child either did something wrong or something wrong was happening to the child. Whatever the situation, it is always at a crossroad of decision making. We, as advocates, have a choice to make. Do we step up and have a hard conversation or do we walk away assuming others will take care of it? What advocacy really is, is a choice and willingness to have a hard conversation on behalf of a child or adult in an unjust or learning moment.

There are many real situations where walking away is the right thing to do, and many times in which walking away is a critical teaching moment missed. “John” Quiñones is an ABC News correspondent, and currently the host of Primetime: What Would You Do?,  who’s show highlights situations where people are faced with a choice to advocate when they witness something unfair or unjust happening. Many times they use situations where a child is involved. We need to ask ourselves one critical question before making the choice to walk away…”Am I certain that someone else other than myself will do what this child needs them to do?”  I’m not so sure many people are comfortable or feel it’s their business to step in and be a voice for a child and turn that situation into a teaching moment.

Let me add some context. Who will have the conversation with/or on behalf of a child or your child: when they are caught in a fight on the playground, bullying another child, ‘accidentally’ stealing a pack of gum from the grocery line, when a parent insists their child has a disability and having difficulty embracing their child as they are, finding out your child is sexually active or using drugs. OUR children are learning beings who don’t YET know right from wrong. They are SUPPOSED to make mistakes and fail. It’s a necessary step in learning. BUT they can’t do this alone. They need advocates who are willing to make the choice to have a difficult, and likely, awkward conversation with the child or their parent or a complete stranger. An advocate faces the situation no matter the person because a child NEEDS us to. If we don’t, then how certain are we that someone else will.

As parents, we often play the game of “Just wait until your father/mother finds out!” As an educator we fall back on, “It’s the parents problem not mine.” As a bystander we often just don’t want to get involved. What I’m suggesting is that children don’t care WHO will be their advocate…they just need someone, anyone to help them have a voice and learn how to be their own advocate one day. Advocacy is a short lived moment that just serves the purpose of voicing another side to the situation, a learning moment, an explicit teaching of what just happened so a child can understand the importance and learn that others care, they matter, and that they too can have a voice and can be empowered.

I am not suggesting that it’s appropriate to stick our nose in matters that truly don’t concern us but I am suggesting that our children need us more than we are sometimes are willing to acknowledge. I’m asking all of us, when faced with a situation of advocacy, to make the choice to have the hard, awkward conversation and teach.