Parents as child advocates

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell

Parents are their children’s first teachers. Children learn by observing their parents, listening and participating in family conversations, engaging in common interests, and spending time with each other. As parents, we start preparing our children from birth for a happy, healthy, and successful life. As our kids enter school, we take on the additional role of our children’s advocate.

As parent advocates we need to attend Open Houses, meet our children’s teachers, and exchange contact information. We have to establish an ongoing communication with our children’s teachers to enable us to praise our children for their accomplishments as well as address concerns in a timely manner. As parents, we need to make sure our kids are getting all the services they may need or deserve. These include taking the steps to get our children qualified for gifted or resource services, and where needed, securing tutoring. Making necessary doctor appointments to ascertain whether our children have vision, hearing, or other sensory issues are a must. Finally, before entering school all children must be current on their vaccinations.

As parents, we must instill in our children the ability to act independently, exhibiting a strong sense of social responsibility. Independence can be nurtured through simple tasks such as having children dress themselves, clean their room, and take on age appropriate chores. Social responsibility should be learned by observing parents. Social skills such as etiquette, sharing, and playing well with others have to be taught. Similarly, socially acceptable communication skills can be imparted through parental role modeling. For example, regularly ask your children questions and engage them in conversations about their day. “Why” questions are best because they encourage higher order thinking and reasoning plus they elicit more detailed responses. Additionally, make sure your children’s responses are polite and that they make eye contact. Finally, be sure to recognize children when they exhibit the desired behaviors.

On another note, while kindergarten has traditionally been the beginning of school, learning should begin from the crib on. As our children’s first teacher and advocate, we need to read to them, play games, explore, build things, create art, and spend time pursuing intellectual endeavors. Other essentials such as showing respect for others and their possessions, knowledge of proper restroom use, maintaining regular routines, healthy eating habits, and good hygiene help prepare our children for school. As parents, we need to prepare our children for these realities so that their transition to the school routine will be easy.

As their number one advocate, we must use everyday experiences as teachable moments to enhance learning that piggybacks on what is being taught in the classroom. For example, we can model reading for our children, talk to them about our favorite books, take trips to museums, utilize the public library, label their environment, start writing journals, begin a reading log, play games together, teach sight words, and demonstrate that reading is fun. If your child is having difficulty in a subject, be patient – children learn at varying rates. If they are still encountering problems, seek out a knowledgeable tutor. In short, utilize all available resources and means to help your children.

Parents are their children’s first and best advocates. As parents, we must be ready to do whatever is necessary to ensure our children’s social and academic success. If you encounter difficulties, ask your child’s teacher for advice. If you find this exchange incomplete, many other resources are available such as guidance counselors, school psychologists, literacy centers, tutorial programs, and similar specifically targeted programs. The key is to empower your children by providing them everything they need to grow into happy, well educated adults prepared to take on the world. This is our responsibility as our children’s #1 Advocate!

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 25 years of educational experience. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Dr. Maxwell at


Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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