30 April, 2009

To advocate or not to ......

There comes a point in life when something has got to give. When something does give. A course of action that has been avoided all along, becomes rather imperative. And this applies, in thought and spirit to each and every one of us. The only question being – what is the catalyst that sets it off, what course of action it leads one to take and what the effects/sideeffects/aftereffects are ?

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 – a typical yo-yo effect – sometimes the answer to that question being “Yes” and sometimes an unequivocal “No”.

The dilemma still persists and I guess it will, for years to come. 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.

I’ve written about this before – about the elder sibling being at the receiving end of a great deal of bullying – of the rather nasty social kind. Derogatory remarks, isolation tactics, creating a great deal of mental confusion, implanting self-doubts …… I can go on and on and on. And this has been especially bad during this academic year. Things seemed to even out earlier on but it was apparently the lull before the storm. It all started in right earnest all over again and surrounded her with a vengeance.

And we are witnessing firsthand as to how much damage social bullying can actually do. Most importantly, it damages the child’s feeling of social acceptance through exclusion and rumor spreading. The second hand and more dangerous effect is one of gradual erosion of self-confidence and self-esteem. That sense of self-worth takes a huge beating.

And this just brought to fore the fact that even as kids grow up, the crossroads never end. Not for them, and most definitely not for us, as parents. While we had been of the opinion that she has to learn to fight her own battles and stand up for herself, this time around, we absolutely had to rethink that policy.

Once again, we came back to the age old question of – Should one advocate for one’s child or not ?

And more importantly, by advocation for and on behalf our our child, are we doing good or actually doing harm in the long run. 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.

An ideal example of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea !!

This time around, when things got particularly bad, a phone call did ensue. Knowing very well that no parent takes very kindly to criticism of any kind, we said that we wanted to know ‘the other side of the story as well”. One side of the story had been narrated by the elder sibling and now we wanted to know the other side as well.

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. When the situation so demands, the kids need that extra bit of help from the parents because, end of the day, fact remains that kids are not adults – not yet.

Try as one might to convince oneself not to get involved, I did realize that a parent 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 simply say “now that you’re in deep waters, to sink or to swim is totally upto you”.

One simply cannot.

Whether this a good thing or bad, only time can tell. I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again. When your child hurts, you hurt ten times as much. Like with many other decisions, this issue of advocacy too is one tough call.

So those are the crossroads we are in, right now.

“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 same decisions, 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 ?

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12 voice(s) said so:

karmickids said...

I think like you do. Smaller issues the kids need to resolve themselves, the ones they cant the parent needs to step in and steer towards an amicable solution. But the child has to know that the parent is not always going to be bailing him or her out.

GettingThereNow said...

I think like you do too. I am sorry to know the older one is going through all this. I remember this one time a friend's MOM launched a campaign against me to mar my image. She was very successful at it too. She was a teacher at my school and, worst of all, my mom's good friend. I remember, through it all ma and pa stood by me. They provided me the support that tided me through that difficult time and I came out of it practically with no emotional scratches (except an inability to trust anyone that easily ever - and that is a good thing to learn, right?)

How did that phone call go? Were you able to resolve anything? Hugs. And good luck. Have you read the book "Odd girl Out"? It is about this very thing. I got only half way through it. Now that S is going to enter middle school, I am thinking of reading it again.

Sujatha said...

Advocate like hell. The most important thing is that the kids need to know that they have a safety net. That certain things are not acceptable and that some of those certain things can only be fixed by adults. I would talk to the school and tell them that they are letting the bullying problem fester by not nipping it in the bud. I would not talk to the other parents first, if ever. My first line of communication would be to the school administration whose responsibility it is to provide the children with an environment conducive to learning. They should have a zero tolerance policy in place for these kinds of incidents. It is unacceptable what Aparna is going through, the poor thing. Yes, we as parents, have a responsibility to teach our children how to deal with certain social situations, but we also have a responsibility to step in and let them know we will fix it for them when the problem is of the kind of bullying.

Good luck with this G and lots of hugs to Aparna.

Sands said...
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Sands said...

I can totally relate to this. Meg went through something similar when she was around the same age and was extremely upset. She felt she wasn't being accepted in some situations even though they were still her friends. We tried to make her realize that the problem definitely does not lie within her. In going through this situation with her we realized that the other kid really wasn't doing things deliberatly but was just being a kid. Some kids like Meg are just more sensitive than others. We did exactly what you did. Got in when the situation got bad and at other times tried to explain the other perspective and gave her the confidence to fight for herself. I have seen this get better as they grow and understand the fine balance of interacting and relating to friends. If it is blatant bullying, I think like Sujatha said, you should go to the school administration. Didn't mean to get so long winded. Good luck and I am sure this too shall pass. Hugs to Aparna.

Shobana said...

I think like Kiran mentioned, small things can be left unto them to resolve. But if it warrants my interferance, then sure. At the same time, I think I will just watch him from the back seat and give him reasonable time to fight it out, and if it gets out of hand, then surely, jump in and offer suggestions on how to take it from there. I understand that it is very painful to see your child suffer. I think this whole, secluding, bitching, gossiping all this stuff is more pronounced with girls than boys, isn't it? Tough times, but be strong for Apu. Talk her through this stage and am sure she will emerge as a strong person.

Tharini said...

I would definitely choose to advocate for my sons G. The situation that you just described seems a little beyond the emotional capacity of a child, because of all the confusing feelings that they already have to deal with, from it. Children imbibe from example, don't they? And from the manner in which you step in and take up the battle, they also learn takling mechanisms, I think. Definitely, advocate in a case like this.

Gauri said...

Kiran : Thanks dear. True. That's the ideal situation or rather the ideal way of dealing with such problems. Trouble is it is a very fine balance when it comes to deciding what exactly is "small" and what can be categorised as "serious". Cos like I said, there are way too many factors to be taken into consideration.

GTN, Suj, Tharini : Thanks so much girls. Will take this discussion offline with you all.

Sands : Thanks. True. Some kids like ours are way too sensitive and precisely because of that they do get hurt more badly or take things more to heart and that ends up affecting them deeply. Good to know firsthand that things do get better as they grow and learn to balance things.

Shobana : Thanks. Yes - social bullying is more common amongst girls. With boys, it is more the physical kind of bullying. Both do equal amount of harm though, as far as the child at the receiving end is concerned.

Neera said...

Sorry to hear abt the bullying getting so bad G. I till some time back used to be of the opinion that one should let the child fight his own battles but experinece has taught me that that doesn't work always. The harm done by being at the receiving end is larger than the harm of being dependent on a parent for bailing oneself out. Having said that, certainly the smaller battles can still be left to the children. But what u r talking abt ceratilnly is a much larger issue. Some months back I read an excellent article by an Indian mom on bullying by girls and what she learnt and did. Unfortunately I have lost the link to that. Howvere while searching for it, I did come across some other good articles. Hope these help and u r able to sort this out soon. Please keep us updated - it would be helpful for moms like me with younger kids.



choxbox said...

I'd advocate for my child G, when it bugs her so much.

Hope it gets resolved soon. Hugs to A.

Just Like That said...

aww, Gauri, Hugs to both of you. it IS a dilemma- you want your child to be confident and self-reliant, but then at times you realise that your kid is just a KID and needs a helping hand....
Sending up a prayer for Apu, that she finds the going a little easier.. But yes, I think its important that she knows you will intervene when the going gets really bad...

dipali said...

I hope things work out soon. Poor Apu. And yes, there are times when we have to advocate. The incident will fade from memory, but the child will always remember that the parents stood by him/her during a difficult time.