When your child is young, you do most of the advocating for him. You speak up on his behalf at his preschool, you interpret his aches and pains to the nurses at the doctor’s office, and you step in when necessary to help your toddler son negotiate turns on the playground swings. Eventually, however, all children grow up and must learn to fend for themselves.

Learning to self-advocate during childhood is a skill that can help your child throughout his high school and college years, in relationships, and in his career.

Here are some tips to help you teach your child to advocate for himself:

• Teach your child to be authentic and trustworthy. His actions should line up with his feelings. By teaching a strong sense of values and integrity, you are strengthening your child’s inner core, and therefore, his ability to be assertive.

• Teach the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. That old adage “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” is important for self-advocacy. Teaching your child how to tactfully and clearly explain his position and feelings to others – without defense – allows him to be self-advocating, without the need for approval. If your child becomes more concerned about how he’s perceived, then he loses his ability to lead.

• Most importantly, you must be what you want to see. Through your own authentic interaction with others, you are both modeling and teaching your child daily to respect the opinions of others, to evaluate them, and then to follow his/her authentic voice. Life is about relationships, and learning to self-advocate helps your child have the greatest potential for healthy relationships with others. Modeling for your child good managerial skills teaches him to self-advocate without dominating.

• Teach your child to listen and practice empathy. Teach him to value the thoughts and ideas of others; and to not take rejection of his positions personally. Study groups, team sports, clubs – all of these group environments can teach your child to self-advocate without over-controlling.

Advocating for yourself is one way to take control of your own destiny. When your child learns to advocate for himself, he becomes self-actualized and has the opportunity to reach his full potential. The benefits of learning to self-advocate are far-reaching: from having the confidence to walk away from an unhealthy relationship, to asking for and getting the promotion that launches his career.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.