By request: How to Teach Teens to Advocate for Themselves.
How to Teach Teens to Advocate for Themselves
When one of my kids was in college, he had a professor that was not always careful with grading. When one of his exams was graded too inaccurately and would cost my son some GPA points, he visited the professor during office hours. At the visit he:
- Thanked the professor for the class
- Politely explained what was wrong and what he would like to see happen
- Thanked the professor and paid a compliment
You know what happened? The professor gave him the points he asked for! My son advocated for himself and got something that he needed.
Self-advocacy is an important life skill. Eventually they will need to be able to stand up for themselves in various settings:
- Work situations
- Medical situations
- Family and friend situations
- Government or tax situations
- Consumer situations
When teens learn while still young how to advocate for themselves, they have a leg up on life. Homeschool high school is a great place to teach and practice these skills so that they are prepared for the events and stressors that life will send their way.
Skills to teach teens to advocate for themselves
There are endless ways to teach teens to advocate for themselves. Here are a few self-advocacy skills I taught my homeschool high schoolers.
When it is necessary to confront someone about something uncomfortable, plus-minus-plus is a good way to handle it. Here are the steps:
- Plus: Say something positive to the person you are confronting
- Minus: In a close to ten words as possible, say what is wrong and what you would like done about it
- Plus: End with a compliment or gratitude
- For more on this method, check out this post at VickiTillmanCoaching.com
I feel statements
Lots of times when teens feel upset, they want to start off their conversation with:
- YOU make me so…
- YOU did…
- YOU are so…
Unfortunately, conversations that start with an accusation (as in: sentences that start with the word “YOU”) are not usually productive. In fact, “YOU statements” are a great way to start an argument. (But a poor way to self-advocate.)
Instead, make “I felt” or “I feel” statements:
- I felt…when you…
- I feel…when this happens…
This opens the door for productive conversation.
Assertive, healthy non-verbals
When advocating for themselves in any face-to-face situation, teens will get better results if they monitor their non-verbals. Non-verbals, or body language, tells the person they are talking to a LOT about the emotions that are being felt. Friendly, co-operative non-verbals help advance a cause better than angry non-verbals.
- Shoulder back, chin up, arms at side
- Nodding head to show that you are listening
- Scowls or frowns
- Crossed arms
- Tucking the chin, staring at the floor
- Looking away
Curiosity and active listening
Curiosity can keep a conversation going. When tension starts to rise in a tough conversation and the other person appears to be shutting down, off topic or uncooperative, try asking some curious questions (do NOT be snarky):
- I’m curious about…
- I noticed…could you tell me about it?
Active listening (also called reflective listening) is a communication tool that helps homeschool high schoolers (and their parents) to show that they have heard and understood what the other person is saying. In active listening, a teen simply repeats back verbatim or summarizes what the other person just said. Never be snarky with this!
- What I hear you saying is…
- I think what I heard you say was…
- You said…, right?
Saying what you need
Teens (and their parents) cannot expect others to read their minds. They need to let others know what they need. How do you do that? SAY it! Simply say what you need.
- I need…
- I would like to see this happen…
- I want…
There are a number of times in life where teens will need to be able to write about a need. Here are a few:
- Writing a government official about a political opinion
- Writing a complaint letter to a merchant
- Writing a product review for a merchant
- So many more places teens will need to communicate in writing when they become adults
That is why we created our High School Guide to Professional Writing. It prepares homeschool high schoolers for adult-life’s writing projects.
- Writing a Business Letter
- Writing a Letter of Complaint
- Writing an Organizational Newsletter (2 weeks recommended for this lesson)
- Taking and Formatting Meeting Minutes
- Writing Advertising Copy and Press Releases
- Writing a Product Review
- Writing a Book Review
- Writing a Set of How-To Instructions
- Writing a Professional Bio
- Writing an Expository Speech (2 weeks recommended for this lesson)
- Writing a Project Proposal and Abstract
My son had an opportunity to use and be successful with self-advocacy skills. You can give your homeschool high schoolers the tools they need to advocate for themselves.
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