How do I help my 7-year-old daughter to speak up?

I have received a question from a mum whose seven-year-old daughter apparently defines her as not being able to speak up in public and is socially numb. This is a question that is very common and prevalent amongst the children between the ages of seven and ten. The first thing I want all of us to realize as parents, we tend to sometimes ask our children to “keep quiet and don’t interrupt“, and then on another occasion will say “why aren’t you speaking up“. And on other occasions we may be asking “don’t ask too many questions, that’s it!” so what we tend to do as parents is, we are sending mixed and very very confusing messages to our children. They don’t realize when they should be speaking, and when they shouldn’t be, and as a seven-year-old child, he or she actually does not know the appropriate times to speak up, and just speaks whenever they feel the need. So as a parent, there are couple of things you can do to encourage your child.

1) The occasion, to teach your children when they can speak up is when they need help. When they might need help with their homework, when they are having issues with their friends, they might be having issues in school so encourage your children to come to you to ask for help and to speak up either with you as their parent or with their teacher.

2) Also explain to them that it’s ok to ask so that if want something and seven year olds eight year olds, nine year olds, ten years olds and older children can sometimes have unreasonable demands, so as long as your child is taught that it is ok ask, but it might not be always fulfilled, but teach them appropriate ways to ask for their things versus whining. So we would like our children to communicate with us what they actually want, but without whining.

3) Inappropriate touch. Teach your children, especially the young ones, about stranger danger also to be able to give voice when they feel that they are being inappropriately touched, a very important topic.

4) Please refrain from being the voice of your child. I have noticed on many occasions when an adult is asking someone’s child how old they are or which school do they go to or what their hobbies are, the mother or father tend to jump in and answer for the child, and what happens in that occasion is, the child feels like a part of the furniture. The child feels like a third person who is not important and feels like they are actually not there and you also give the message to the child that ‘I’m answering on your behalf so its ok for you to keep quiet,’ and then the child loses his or her voice. So as parents, refrain from answering back to an adult and encourage your child to make conversation because I have actually a lot of teenagers who come to me who find it very very difficult to talk to adults, to communicate with adults and one of the reasons being in childhood, they were not encouraged to speak up.

5) Teach them to express their feelings of frustrations, feelings of anger, feelings of sadness in an appropriate way, and how would you do that? When you suffer from those emotions, so when you tie emotions with words, and expressing them as an adult and as a parent, your child feels comfortable enough to do the same where they know its ok feel frustrated, to feel angry, to feel sad, to feel dejected about something, and also be able to express it through the use of words, and therefore your child feels heard. One of the most important needs that all of us humans have is to be heard.

And the five occasions for you to teach your child to speak up is:

1) When your child needs help
2) To ask for something without whining
3) When they are inappropriately touched
4) Refrain from speaking up for your child
5) Teach your child to Express emotions through words

I hope that answers your question and you have more points with regard to how you can encourage your seven year old daughter to speak up. Incase you think your child is suffering from any self-esteem issues where he or she feel bad about themselves; I would encourage you to get in touch with me. You can call me on (+971) 0561399033 or you can send in more questions to sunainaathena@gmail.com or you could enroll your child for my Youth Coaching Program which is I meet the child once a week for ten weeks for an hour, and, I take them through a process where we encourage the child to be the most confident and the most successful child that he or she can be. I look forward to hearing from you.