As parents, we constantly advocate for our kids.
It’s funny, though, how advocating for our kids can look a whole lot like anger. If we let it, it can become anger.
I suppose, by definition, there is some anger there. According to dictionary.com, advocate means to “support or urge by argument.”
I have learned that we are by far the most effective advocates for our kids when we separate the anger from the goal.
This became especially clear to me for several reasons as we entered into parenthood with a child with special needs.
One, having a sick child is perhaps the most important time for a parent to advocate for their child.
Two, there is SO much negativity out there when it comes to the medical profession that it’s almost encouraged in the mom community not to trust your doctor.
I learned long before Evan was born that, if I was going to retain my sanity in this whole process, I had to enter into partnerships with doctors as just that–partners. I literally cannot function if I start off not trusting every doctor I meet.
Trusting doctors, though, doesn’t mean that I don’t speak up. So, that’s the first way I have found that I can separate anger and advocating: Speak up early and often.
Sometimes, we, as parents and just as people, keep our mouths shut about things so as not to look stupid or not to ruffle any feathers. I’ve found that the more active I am in the process, the more I am able to advocate without anger. My priorities and wishes for him are communicated from the start, which allows everyone to be proactive instead of reactive.
Additionally, speaking up often and calmly makes it even more effective when advocating and anger just can’t be separated.
When Evan was an inpatient at the hospital, there was only one time that I got “angry” with the medical team. Even though I felt my anger was warranted, I wasn’t thrilled with the way I let my emotions get away from me. My history of being an open communicator and approaching conversations objectively really made my anger stand out, though.
Were I the sort of parent who constantly advocated with anger, my anger would really get lost in the mix. It would just be another day that Evan’s mom lost her marbles.
The biggest thing that helps me advocate without anger is to trust that people have the best of intentions. Sure, there are doctors and babysitters in the news who make terrible decisions and do dangerous things. On the ground, though, people don’t, in general, go into pediatric medicine, or teaching, or coaching, or whatever you may encounter, selfishly. In my heart, I know this and I remind myself of it each time I encounter a new person.
Finally, I always trust my gut. I have learned to never talk myself out of something. Truly, it goes back to speaking up, even if I feel stupid. If someone rubs me the wrong way, or a decision made doesn’t seem quite right, I have to speak up early instead of letting it go. Luckily for our family, the times when I have talked myself out of a gut feeling have been fixable, although extremely challenging.
Sure, getting angry might be effective in advocating for your child, but it’s not very beneficial for anyone in the long run. So, I hope next time you feel your inner mama bear flaring up when you’re, of course, striving for what’s best for your little one, or even for yourself, you’ll use these three tips to help you–hopefully!–do it a little more effectively.