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How to Nurture Gifted/2e Self-Advocacy

How to recognize the seeds of self-advocacy and nurture these skills for your gifted/2e kid

Here’s a phrase I’ve found very useful lately - “Thank you for telling me.”

This isn’t a parenting hack per se. Though it’s a simple phrase to remember and useful in a lot of situations, so please feel free to copy and paste it at will 😉

To support gifted/2e self-advocacy, shift your mindset

I think of the phrase "thank you for telling me" as an easy shorthand for two bigger mindset shifts related to recognizing and nurturing self-advocacy.

In traditional parenting narratives, children’s yelling, screaming, harsh words, criticism, and complaints are seen as problematic and challenging behaviors that need to be reduced or stopped in some way. Parents are encouraged to change these behaviors through instruction, coaxing, punishment, rewards, or other methods.


The first mindset shift is to see those same behaviors as signs of distress.

With this first mindset shift, you try to see your child’s behavior as a sign that something feels wrong or bad to them - that they are overwhelmed, upset, scared, or hurting in some way.

This mindset doesn’t automatically help you feel calm in those moments - you may still feel stressed, annoyed, or enraged when your child screams scream, “YOU DID IT WRONG!” or when they reach out to hit their sibling. But when you can see such behaviors as stress signals, you may feel more compassion for your child. It may feel easier to offer the comfort or regulation they need in that moment (instead of the reprimands, harshness, isolation, or anger many of us received when we were young and upset).

The second mindset shift is to see yelling, screaming, harsh words, criticism, and complaints as the seeds of self-advocacy.

This is where “Thank you for telling me” comes in.

When my kid feels emotionally fragile, he often criticizes my actions and tells me multiple things I’ve done wrong. My instinct is to correct him or explain why I did what I did, but even if I respond that way to try to soothe him, it usually makes him more upset.

But when I say, “Thank you for telling me,” I show him that his feedback is valid. He is more likely to feel like I really hear him. I want him to know that I appreciate he showed me that something isn’t working for him (even if I hope that one day he’ll say it more kindly).

Today on our outing I forgot to pack a sweet in his lunch (which I usually do), and he got very upset. He began to cry and yell that he wanted a treat NOW, not when we got home! I said, "That's my bad - I totally forgot" and “Thank you for telling me you want one now.” That calmed him enough that he could listen to some options, and we decided to stop at a gas station to get a treat for the ride home.

If your kid tries to hit their sibling and yells at them to go away, you can intervene to keep the sibling safe and also articulate your best understanding of what’s going on - maybe “Thank you for showing us you need more space right now,” or “Thank you for telling your brother you’re not in the mood to play together.”

How to look for seeds of self-advocacy

I love how “Thank you for telling me” assumes the best in my kid and shows him I can listen for the heart of his message and his needs even if he can’t articulate them clearly yet.

I love how this approach encourages my kid to advocate for himself and to give feedback when he’s upset - especially because when I was young I was taught to keep my mouth shut and to power through whatever distressed me. I love how this approach models something my child could say in the future - and I’ve noticed that his feedback (when not TOO overwhelmed) has become more detailed and articulate.

Bright kids can notice a gimmick a mile away, so feel free to improvise and change the wording to find what feels most natural to you. “I’m so glad you let me know.” “Thank goodness you told me.” “That was helpful feedback.” “That’s great you gave me that info.” Etc.

The specific phrase isn’t that important.

The phrases are a concrete way to communicate a more fundamental mindset shift - where you see behavior as communication and communication as the seeds of self-advocacy.

Examples of how to support self-advocacy

Below are a couple examples of a more traditional approach to whining or yelling, followed by an approach where you focus on communication as the seed of self-advocacy.

Traditional approach

Child: (Whines) I want more dessert!

Parent: I can’t hear you when you’re whining.

Child: (escalates their behavior in some way)

Approach focused on seeds of self-advocacy

Child: (Whines) I want more dessert!

Parent: Ooh, I hear you. Thank you for telling me how much you like that dessert. I wonder if we should get it again.

Child: (Still sad) Yes, I love it. I wish I could have more now.

Parent: I know, it’s so good. I’m glad you told me how much you’re craving it. We could have it again at dinner if you like.

Traditional approach

Child: You can’t play like that! You’re doing it all wrong!

Parent: But I was just going along with what you said.

Child: (escalates their behavior in some way)

Approach focused on seeds of self-advocacy

Child: You can’t play like that! You’re doing it all wrong!

Parent: Oh I didn’t realize! Thank you for telling me. Something about that was all wrong.

Child: All wrong! You’re supposed to do it THIS WAY (child demonstrates angrily)

Parent: (Honors the request; does it the way the child showed)

Parent (several minutes later or after playing is over, once the child is more calm): That was helpful when you told me the way you wanted it to go. I liked how we…(etc).

Are you interested in trying out this phrase or this approach? If so, I’d love to hear what resonated or what you like about these ideas!  You can email me at danika[at] if you'd like to share.  I'll write back!

If you want more ideas like this directly to your inbox, sign up for Gifted Lab Notes, my weekly email with tips and information for supporting your intense or sensitive gifted or twice-exceptional (2e) kid.

If you like some of the ideas in this email but you have doubts and questions about how to apply them, my group coaching program may be a good fit for you! Support Your Intense Gifted/2e Kid is designed to help parents with emotionally intense and strong-willed kids feel more confident they're on the right parenting path.

You'll learn guiding principles and practical strategies in live weekly meetings, and you'll also have plenty of live Q&A time during weekly office hours and a private coaching call to get help with your questions about your particular family situation.


For example, you may be wondering, "This idea sounds good, but what do I do when my kid is acting aggressively? Can I nurture self-advocacy then?" Or, "But what do I say when my kid calls me a mean name? I don't want to encourage that behavior." The coaching group is designed just for these kinds of excellent questions! Parenting is complex so personalized feedback is incredibly helpful.

​Learn more or get on the waitlist here.

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