Holidays are over and I’m definitely back in the real world. Sigh. I do have one more story from our holiday that I wanted to share with you though. While we were away, we stayed with some older family friends and as we were saying goodbye to them, Birdy started crying and turning her face away. She’s not very good at goodbyes. And somebody said to her ‘You’re a sook!’. It didn’t worry me too much at the time, but afterwards I realized that we don’t think it’s acceptable to speak like that to other adults. People don’t just say, ‘You’re a whinger!’ or ‘You’re a bad person’ but somehow it’s OK to insult children.
The other thing people sometimes do is talk about kids in the third person as if they’re not there. You hear that all the time. Parents say ‘Johnny has been giving me such a hard time lately’ when Johnny is standing right there hearing every word. But imagine if it was their husband instead of their child and he was standing right there beside them. We wouldn’t say, ‘Bruce has been such a lazy slob recently’, would we? Because we know it would hurt their feelings. But somehow people seem to forget that children have feelings as well.
I think we sometimes we don’t recognize that children should have the same human rights as other people. Lousie Porter is an early childhood academic and the author of a book called Children Are People Too. In her book, she tells how she used to ask her students what a caregiver should do when feeding someone who deliberately spits the food back at them. When the students suggested giving the child a smack, she would say that she wasn’t thinking of a three-year-old but an 80 year-old person with Alzheimer’s. Now suddenly it’s not OK to hit them. What’s the difference? (Obviously you are training the child and not the 80 year old, but the brutality is the same.) I found that story quite challenging, because it made me realize that we don’t always treat children with the same respect that we do adults. But all people deserve to be treated with respect, regardless of their age, sex, race, or religion. When this person called Birdy a sook, he wasn’t meaning to insult her. But he was judging her for acting like a 2 year old, when she is a 2 year old. We don’t judge other adults all the time like we do with kids. And we certainly don’t insult them when we think they’ve acted inappropriately.
Have your children ever been insulted or criticized like that? Do you ever find yourself talking about them as if they’re not there? Maybe there’s been a time when other people judged your children’s behaviour too harshly, eg. expecting a 3 year old to behave like an adult? Do you think society has grown a bit intolerant of kids?
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