Stepping Up

Is your child shy or comfortable in the spotlight?

My youngest has never been bothered by the spotlight, but he’s never purposely sought it out either. Others have seen his comfort with being in front of others — whether in a school play or talent show — and encouraged him to shine, and he’s obliged. He’s fearless in this respect.

In elementary, his after school group was going to form a student committee and asked for the kids to run for certain positions. My son was eager to participate and run for the presidency. He changed his mind a few days later after finding out others planned to run as well. When we asked why he no longer wanted to run he shared that he knew how bad one of the other kid’s wanted the position and it just wasn’t that important to him. He was happy to see his peer get the role. At the time my husband and I didn’t know if we should be proud or concerned. We wanted to make sure he wasn’t dropping out of the race to avoid incurring failure. No one wants to experience failure, but there are life lessons learned in these moments and we didn’t want our son intentionally missing out on this. He convinced us he was fine with running but his heart was no longer in it, so we backed down.

Fast forward to this school year. His school decided to put together a school council with representatives from each grade. He had to put together a speech (how he’d represent his class and convince his peers he was the right person for the job) and post a video delivering the speech. He was working on it one evening when I came into his room and asked him how his speech writing was going. I saw he had only a few sentences typed on the computer. “I’m just not sure how to say this,” he said. I read what he had down and asked some clarifying questions. “What do you mean here when you say you want the school to be safe and clean?” “Well, the school sound be safe where everyone can be who they are and not be worried about being teased or bullied. And clean, means we all need to pitch in and keep our space clean,” he said. “And why do you need your space clean?” I asked. “Well, because it’s our environment. When you have a clean space you don’t get distracted. It makes you feel better and it’s easier to focus.” “Great,” I replied. We then discussed how he just needed to think through the main points he wanted to get across and how to better explain his ideas to his classmates. We role-played him giving his speech for a while and then I left him to it. The election was held and he was chosen as one of his class representatives. He was so proud that he was selected by his peers. We were proud he was willing to step up to the challenge. The fact that he actually was picked was icing on the cake.

How are you helping your child stand up? How are you helping them to shine?

Please Stand Up

Have you ever been reluctant to take a stand on something? Or let others know how you truly feel when it might not be universally popular?

I have. I hate to admit it, but over the course of my life there have been more times than I can count where I’ve kept my mouth shut, hand down or otherwise stayed out of sight instead of saying (or showing) how I really felt for fear retaliation — judgment, embarrassment, and shame. Now for all the times I’ve stayed in the shadows or been quiet I don’t truly know what would have happened if I stood up for myself because I didn’t do it.

I can remember one of the first times I did stand up for myself. A boy on the bus decided to pick on me one day. I can’t remember what he said exactly, but it left me in tears. I got off the bus at a friend’s house and was greeted by my friend’s mom who asked what was going on. I told her about the boy and she asked me, “Why would you put up with that? You need to let him know he can’t get away with that!”  It was the first time I can remember someone telling me how to stand up for myself. It was the words I needed to take action. The next day on the bus, I went right up to the same boy and was very direct with him — I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to put up with him picking on me any longer. I don’t know if it was my tone, or what he might have viewed as aggression (I seem to recall walking very swiftly towards him with my index finger pointed squarely at his face), but he backed down and actually apologized. The experience taught me that standing up for who you are or what you believe in can be very freeing. You don’t have to stay in the shadows or feel trapped.

I am stepped out of the shadows this weekend, participating in the local Sister’s March in unity with others in my community who believe we are stronger together and that coming together is better for all. I wanted my boys to see their mom in action, standing up for something she believes in, and let my kids know they can stand up for things they believe in to (when the day comes). I felt it important they understand each of us has values and beliefs we hold dear, and we can’t let fear hold us back from taking a stand when we feel compelled to do so.

When I asked what my kids what they thought about me marching they said, “That’s pretty cool, mom.”  Standing up for myself sounds pretty cool indeed.

How do you stand up for yourself? How are you helping your child stand up for themselves?