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To Advocate Or Not To?

It has been said many a times, it will be said many a times in the future too. Parenting is not mathematics. In saying that, I mean there is no constant. As parents, if there is one constant, it is the presence of variables – always.

To Advocate For Your Child Or Not To? - Parenting

To add to this confusion, there is the fact that there is no standard or clear right and wrong when it comes to making parental decisions. There are always the blacks and whites but to add to the chorus, one always finds innumerable other shades in the spectrum.

All along, as we’ve watched the nutty siblings grow, as parents, we’ve faced this dilemma many a times – moot question being – to advocate for your child or not to? And we’ve vacillated like a pendulum – sometimes the answer to that question being “Yes” and sometimes an unequivocal “No”, simply because no situation is the same. There is no standard equation when it comes to kids. There are way too many factors to be considered and things weighed before arriving at any decision.

We faced one such situation five / six years back when, during her Upper Primary school years, Macadamia had been at the receiving end of social bullying. When I say social bullying, I don’t mean that lightly. It was bad. What made it even worse for her was the fact that it was instigated and propagated by someone everybody thought was a very good friend of hers. Our family was friends with their family too. Her parents were under the impression that everything was absolutely hunky dory between the girls. We knew exactly what was going on at school. We could see what it was doing to Macadamia.

This, yet again, brought us to a rather familiar crossroad – not just for us but for almost every single parent out there, I guess, at some point of time or the other – “Should we advocate for our child?”. In the case of our dilemma in this instance, the advocation was more to do with whether we needed to take up the issue with the other girl’s parents and enlighten them to what was happening. Should we ask them to intervene and talk to their daughter, if need be? Should we take the matter up with the school on Macadamia’s behalf? It was a particularly sticky situation.

Advocating for one’s child has both, pros and cons. Every single instance that needs parents to step in, the same question rears its head – by advocating for and on behalf of our child, are we doing them any good or are we actually doing them harm in the long run? By stepping in on their behalf, are we looking at a short-term resolution to the situation by compromising on long-term benefits?

For a parent to decide whether to intervene in a particular situation or not to, involves taking into account a child’s strengths, abilities and last but not the least – their vulnerabilities. Serious thought and consideration has to be given to what the possible repercussions could be to the child, if the parent intervenes.

By standing up and speaking up for your child every so often, one does run the risk of getting the child dependent on the parents totally whenever the need arises for the child to stand up for himself/herself. And by not speaking up for your child at times, one runs the risk of serious damage being done to the child’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth and feelings of self-confidence.

Faced with constant bullying and with it resulting in a massive erosion of her self-esteem then, things came to a head when it got particularly bad one day. We decided that we could not dilly dally on this any more and that a phone call to the other girl’s parents was indeed warranted. This development made me realize one thing – that while we, as parents want our kids to learn to fend for themselves and to stand up for themselves, there are times when we do need to step in for our kids.

Try as one might to convince oneself not to get involved, we did realize that parents can never really “throw the towel in” and say “OK I’m done. Now, whatever needs to be done has to come from you and you alone.” One simply cannot disassociate oneself totally from the situation and be just a bystander. One simply cannot risk throwing the child into deep waters and say “now that you’re in deep water, to sink or to swim is totally up to you”. One simply cannot. One simply cannot, because of that basic, underlying doctrine that every single parent on the face of this Earth is predisposed to. There is an unquestionable, undisputable and inevitable tenet of parenting which simply says “when your child hurts, you hurt ten times as much”.

There are many such situations where kids need parents to stand up for them, albeit a little. There will be multiple other situations when, despite getting hurt in the process, parents need to let children handle things for themselves, by themselves. What makes it difficult for parents is to decide where to draw the line. What makes it challenging for parents is to decide and differentiate between the situations that need intervention and the ones that don’t. Like with many other decisions and crossroads that parents are faced with, the issue of advocacy too, almost always, is one tough call.

“Should one advocate for one’s child or just keep away and maintain a hands off approach”

or on a more personal note

“If faced with the a crossroads situation, would you choose to advocate for your child or would you rather that your child fought his/her battles all the way, no matter what the price paid, in the process”

What is your take on this ?

Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity