Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Believe me when I tell you, you were born with a voice, and you used it every two hours. You needed to be fed. You had a bubble in your tummy. You wanted to be held. You pooped your pants.
Don't try to deny it.
Your parents got no sleep and came close to losing their minds. It wasn't your fault--all babies are like that. Screaming your head off was a survival skill you needed to make sure you stayed alive--and YOU WERE GREAT AT IT!
You don't scream your head off anymore--at least I hope you don't--because you're older and wiser, right?
But here's what I've seen in the last 25+ years hanging out with kids, and it breaks my heart:
Kids often give up their willingness to speak up for themselves and, as a result, begin to lose their voices. I'm not talking about laryngitis here--I'm talking about kids keeping their feelings inside instead of letting them show. I'm talking about thinking twice about sharing your thoughts with somebody for any number of reasons.
How many times have you been told that you're tattling? That no one likes a tattletale? Probably a gazillion. We all know what it feels like when someone puts you down or makes fun of you for something that we've said. It's no fun. And sometimes we think it's just easier to say nothing at all.
But you know what? Remember that fun fact about you screaming your head off because that is what little babies and toddlers do? Well, your 'tattling' phase is really the same sort of thing. Developmentally, you were at an age where you started to understand that you were your own person and you could set boundaries with other little kids and part of that is letting the adults in your life know that you have a problem, and you need their help. And even if your parents always came to your rescue, there are other adults who probably didn't. Maybe they were even coaches or youth group leaders or TEACHERS! As a teacher and as a parent, I know that it's hard sometimes for adults to stop what they're doing, take a knee, look you in the eye, and listen with an open heart to what is bothering you. Sometimes adults think in their heads that whatever is wrong could be handled really easily--and it might be for them! But if you've never experienced whatever it is you're experiencing before, how are you supposed to know how to handle it? And if adults tried to think back to the 1800's when they were your age (that's a joke, right there) they might remember that they didn't really know what to do either.
Sometimes adults are trying to get you to figure out how to work through problems, and that's important too.
In any case, I work hard to help adults--parents, teachers, coaches, church workers, and anyone else who will listen--to build open and safe communication with their kids. I encourage them to say they're sorry for not being a good listener and show them ways to do better. Believe me, I see every side of the equation. But in and through all that, sometimes kids start to believe that there is nobody who will listen to them--and that's when they 'lose their voices,' that willingness to open up and tell someone how they feel and what they're thinking.
Every kid, at some point or another, feels like no one is listening--but I don't think that's true all of the time. Sometimes it is true that, in that moment, you are not being heard--and that's a really tough place to be.
So I encourage you to hang in there. What's in your heart and mind is very important. I'm going to continue working hard to help adults and kids communicate in a way that's healthy and productive. In the meantime, stay positive and rest assured that #YouMatter. I have found that school counselors are amazing people whose job it is to listen to kids! Start there.
Don't ever lose that ability to advocate for yourself!
Miss Daisy thinks kids are WAY cooler than adults which is why she hangs out with 7th graders five days a week peddling grammar and structure and form. Somehow, she manages to get them to buy into most of it. Well, most of the time. But she also helps kids to find their voices—she shows them how to be heard on the written page. It seems to be working.
In the summers, you can find Daisy in her gardens with her husband. You might also catch her in her office writing underneath a real chandelier. As often as she can, though, she loves spending time with her grandbaby. (He was born on her birthday, you know. She’s been impossible to live with ever since.)
If you would like Miss Daisy to come speak at your school, you will definitely want to share this website with your principal!