We Need to Talk About Childism

afflinkWe Need to Talk About Childism

I recently got my hair cut. And I mean CUT cut. It was halfway down my back and now it’s just above my shoulders! I knew I’d love it so was pretty confident when the time came for the big chop.

The hairdresser, on the other hand, was a little wary.

It actually seemed like she didn’t quite trust my judgment and was worried that I didn’t understand the decision I was making. As I sat myself down in the chair and inhaled, ready to launch into an explanation of what I wanted, she broke eye contact and instead asked my husband ‘how would she like it cut?’ He, of course, directed the question back to me, and I explained how much I wanted off.

She got everything prepared, picked up her scissors, held my hair in her hands ready to cut, and then paused… again, turning to my husband, ‘are you happy with this length?’

Now he was really confused and again redirected the question back to me. You know, the actual owner of this head of hair. I replied I was happy with it. With another glance at my husband to double check his approval, she began to cut.

Are you outraged yet? The thought that my husband should get the final say on what I should do with my own body is enraging right?

But what if we replaced me with my 5-year-old daughter, and my husband with me. How do you feel now? A little less angry? A little more accepting?

Why?

Why is it unacceptable for my husband to have such a major say in my appearance, but it’s fine for me as a parent to dictate how my child’s body should look?

Because we all recognise men and women are equal (hopefully). We recognise sexism, we recognise racism, we recognise homophobia, but we don’t recognise childism.

childism

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You can likely see examples of childism every time you step out of the house or open up the internet. Every day, in many ways, children receive the message that they are less important, less deserving of respect, unequal, and inferior, whether we mean to send that message or not. It is so ingrained into our society the majority don’t even recognise it.

It’s every time a parent is asked ‘is she hungry?’ or ‘does she like strawberries?’ instead of the question being directed at the child who is very capable of answering.

It’s every time a child’s emotions elicit laughter instead of empathy.

It’s withholding food/water/affection until a child says ‘please’ to satisfy an adult ego.

It’s adults believing they have the ‘right’ to physically punish people because of their age.

Its countries where hitting children is legal and there are guidelines as to where and how you can smack them. Guidelines for hitting your wife would be abhorrent, but age somehow changes perspectives.

It’s a general intolerance for childish behaviour interfering with an adults desires, and the view that children should be ‘seen and not heard’.

It’s adults making decisions about cosmetic alterations to their child’s body such as circumcision, ear-piercing, haircuts, without consent.

We Need to Talk About Childism

It’s forced affection or ‘give me a cuddle or I’ll be sad and cry’, sending the message that a child does not get to make decisions about their own body.

It’s whenever a child’s photo is posted online in an effort to shame them as a way of getting them to submit to an adult’s will.

It’s adults who believe they deserve automatic respect (most often defined as ‘obedience’) for nothing more than their greater age.

It’s children’s emotions being dismissed or stifled for adult comfort.

It’s every time children are talked about in a conversation as though they are not even in the room.

It’s rejoicing in their absence when it’s back-to-school time.

It’s developmentally inappropriate coercive education systems.

It’s finding it acceptable to use punishment and rewards to manipulate a person’s behaviour to meet your needs, if that person is a child.

It’s a world where there are books, tv shows, and blogs devoted to teaching parents how you can ‘train’ your child, often by means of ignoring their needs.

It’s needing research to prove that abandoning a child so that they will learn to ‘self-settle’ is detrimental, instead of just treating babies like humans.

It’s reading this list and dismissing it as ‘over the top’, ‘ridiculous’, or ‘not a big deal’.

All of these scenarios would be unacceptable if they didn’t contain children. But children, unlike adults, don’t seem to be seen as real people deserving the same level of respect. Children are less developed and less mature than adults, making them naturally dependent. But being dependent does not equate to being subordinate. Just as you should not treat a disabled adult who depends on your care with less respect, the same is true for children. Having a responsibility to guide and care for children, does not equate to ownership over them. Children are people in their own right, with their own minds and bodies, deserving of equality and respect.

We Need to Talk About Childism

‘But children have fewer responsibilities and (arguably) contribute less to the world’ some will say. But rights are not something to be earned. Assuming less responsibility and being limited in contribution does not mean you deserve restricted rights. Rights are not dependent on size, ability, mental capacity, experience, age, or anything else. All people deserve bodily autonomy, freedom of expression, and to not be physically harmed.  All people deserve respect, the right to have their opinion heard, and a say in the decisions that affect them. No one deserves to be shamed, coerced, or otherwise manipulated into doing things to meet other’s needs. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully and equally. No one is the property of another person to ‘do with what they like’ (unbelievably, a common argument when it comes to children and parenting).

So why don’t people recognise childism? Why don’t people believe that it is an issue? Why will people read this and roll their eyes while they exclaim ‘they’re just children! My children are happy and healthy! This is just the way it’s always been and we’re ok’? Maybe because they spent their childhood feeling the same. Inferior. Powerless. And now that they have reached the superior social status of ‘adult’ they feel it is their right to be able to finally wield this power. Compromise, understanding, equality and respect for children might feel like some sort of defeat or relinquishing a title they have waited for.

But power shouldn’t come at the expense of others. And a self-worth based on the oppression of children is a very fragile self-worth indeed. Instead, we can aim for a much more positive type of power. The power to instigate change. The power to protect and be a positive role model. The power to stand up for what is right. The power to choose to parent in a way that keeps our child safe, supports them to develop into the people they were meant to be, models fair treatment of all people, and sets boundaries respectfully when needed. All without sacrificing their rights as humans in the process.

It is possible to parent so that children grow into admirable, competent, respectful adults without control, punishment, or diminished freedom. Respectful parenting is not permissive parenting, and it does not mean giving total control to children. It means we are equal, this is a partnership, and everyone’s voice is heard. If you can have a relationship with your children that is not based on coercion and control, then why wouldn’t you?

“A strategy I have encountered that is useful in visualising this new way of being with children is to imagine that children are beloved adult visitors from another country who don’t know our customs or ways. How would we treat such a visitor? We would give them guidance and support without shame or judgement. We would accept their mistakes, celebrate their accomplishments  with them, and cherish the experience of being with them as they explored and gained mastery of our culture. This is how life can be with children if we let go of our fears and control.”  -Teresa Graham Brett

We Need to Talk About Childism

Most people love children. The childism ingrained in our society is barely even recognised and often not deliberate. We treat children how we have been socialised to treat them. Maybe you’ve never considered childism as an issue before? But you can take the time to think about it now. You can decide to break habits and remove prejudice from your home. You can talk about it with others and encourage them to consider it too. You can build deeply connected relationships with your children based on equality and respect. You can decide that if something would be considered disrespectful to another adult, then it’s probably not appropriate to do to a child either.

You can show the children in your life with your actions and words that they are important, worthy, significant, lovable, appreciated, adored, and deserving of respect. Maybe they will grow up always knowing their importance and worth? Maybe they will grow up knowing all humans are equal? Maybe they won’t have as much work to do dismantling negative social constructs when they are grown?

You have a choice to do things ‘the way they’ve always been done’, or to make a change. To protect and empower the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society. To give them the respect they deserve.

What will you choose?

We Need to Talk About Childism

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If you’d like to learn more about respectful parenting you can browse some more of my posts on the topic here. Particularly this one about parenting without punishment.

I also HIGHLY recommend reading Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and Unconditional Parenting. Both fabulous and helpful books!

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We Need to Talk About Childism

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75 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Childism

  1. Hi Sara,

    Amazing article. I totally agree with giving respect to the child and treating them as equals. I always knew others are doing it wrong, but I could not put my feelings in words. You wrote my heart out. Very well said.

    I love the quote by Teresa Graham Brett. If we really imagine them as visitors from different country, everything is so easy! I am going to try this.

    I am sharing this article with my husband too. — Arpitha

  2. what a fantastic, thought provoking article. I have recently begun home educating my son, and am finding that this is making me look at our interactions closer. I recently found myself telling him, despite reading lots about unschooling, and totally getting that is the right way for us, that it wasn’t going to work if he wasn’t open to what I suggested, that sometimes he had to listen to me. I apologised for the upset that horrible conversation caused to him (and to me). Yesterday we went for what was supposed to be a lovely family day out, but he was tired because I had woken him up early to go, I caught myself complaining that I thought we were going to have a lovely day (about to make him feel guilty) and instead apologised that my mistake in waking him up too early had meant that we didn’t have such a good day. I am learning how to be more tuned into his needs, it is a steep learning curve, but thank you for this article and to all the other people writing articles that are making me stop and think for helping me understand him, myself and our jourey so much better

  3. I love this post. My son just started school and I’ve seen such strong examples of childism this week. Some questionable things are occurring, and most people are choosing not to believe their children’s accounts rather than to confront the teacher. I just don’t understand it at all and have been so disappointed in parent reactions.

  4. I dont have any children but I have always been a “child person” (I come from huge family, I babysit often, I want to work with young children as my career) in the past few years I have really buckled down learning beyond my own experiences about children, how they learn, how their brains work, how their bodies work, etc. I’m most interested in punishment, or lack thereof. I grew up in a “I’m the adult and you’re the child” authoritarian house and most of my family was the same. As a child I knew it wasn’t fair and as an adult I am also recognizing how mutually abusive a lot of the adult relationships I saw were. People who shamed, talked down to, controlled, even hit their partners and most of the time it was mutual and considered normal. I’ve had people tell me its just a part of being in a relationship and I realized something; we were all treated this way as children so when we are in adult relationships we don’t understand that its wrong. When someone I know says its no big deal that his girlfriend doesn’t respect his privacy or says its normal that her boyfriend yells at her when she doesn’t do chores, or his partner hits him sometimes its because that’s how they’ve ALWAYS been treated.
    II found myself in a horribly controlling relationship and it took me so long to realize it because someone screaming at me for upsetting them was NORMAL for me.
    I dont think parents realize that how they treat their children is how their children will allow others to treat them in the future. My new rule for all children is I take the situation, as you did here, and I say “If this were my boyfriend what would be an acceptable response.” because even now its a lot easier for me to recognize abuse against an adult than a child but I’m working on it and your blog has helped me learn so much!

    • When there is so much political correctness and so little support or enforcement of the basic laws for our safety and dignity as human beings, our attitudes can be over reactive. From another point of view there is so much mental illness from isolation, and if those people had an opinion from another person, this would be part of a healing connection. A child needs to grow up free of all of the baggage of adult carers so that they can think of new ideas to help solve the problems not repeat all the politically correct statements and actions that adults do.

  5. Love this post and wholeheartedly agree. I wrote a post recently with a similar message and received such negative comments – one person actually saying children are not equals and that I’ll be raising a spoilt brat by modeling respect rather than forcing or shaming my son into using manners. It’s a sad world we live in when people think like that but makes it all the more important to stand up for our kids and not worry what others think. Our kids are our only important critics. Thank you so much for this post.

  6. YES to it all! Great article. It’s a difficult concept to grasp if you grew up in an authoritarian home – a real mind bender…BUT I love that with homeschooling I get to practice all day to unlearn childism. It’s hard – some days I think I get it right just to realize later on that I was way off target.

  7. As always LOVE your writing. I just shot a video exactly along these lines last week. I feel equally strongly on the topic and am always shocked and outraged at the lack of even the most basic courtesies to children.
    Thanks for being a voice of reason!

  8. I agree so wholeheartedly with this, wonderfully written. Thank you. I wish I didn’t feel so afraid to share it – I am afraid that my mother will see it and feel criticised for her parenting, I am afraid that my friends will see it and feel that I’m criticising their parenting. Which of course I am. Is it possible to spread this message without offending and antagonising people?

  9. This post was amazing! And it hit so many issues that I unfortunately didn’t even think of until now. You are an inspiration, and I am striving to raise my daughter in similar ways as to how you are raising yours. It is much more difficult than I would hope though, with many members of my family not understanding what is it that I am trying to accomplish. All I can hope for is that they will respect my vision and perhaps even change their visions as well. Thank you so much for putting down in words so much of what I believe.

    Naomi

  10. While I agree with almost all of the article, I wouldn’t agree with ‘rejoicing at their absence when they go back to school’ being classed as childism. Almost everyone I’ve ever met rejoices when they leave their paid job to go on holiday. So why shouldn’t parents who do the toughest job in the world not rejoice when they get a bit of time to themselves?? It doesn’t mean we love our kids any less or that we are demeaning them in anyway, it just means we appreciate the break we’re getting from a role that is 24/7 for a considerable number of years. I also appreciate time away from my husband after we’ve been around each other for a long period of time. The rest of the points were spot on & I see such a difference in my children when I speak to them with patience & respect, as opposed to when I bark orders at them.

    • For me it’s when adults say it in front of children regarding school. We not long started home educating, the number of people at the beginning of the holidays who said “only six weeks to go” is reply “we home ed” to which one lady replied “oh wow that’s going to be hard” which it is but my son doesn’t need to hear that.

      • But since your child is your equal, are you not showing him disrespect by not being honest with him? True respect necessitates complete honesty, does it not? If you “pretend” that it is not hard, are you not setting him up for feeling guilty or like a failure when things are hard for him? He may feel that situations should never be difficult and try to mask his feelings as well which could be unhealthy.

        • I think there’s a difference between being honest when things are hard, and telling children that you are looking forward to their absence. Sometimes my partner and I go through hard patches, and we talk to each other about how we’re struggling with something. I don’t look forward to her starting work again next month, though – I’ll miss her! The idea that school is a blessed relief to all parents implies that children are always a burden. Saying “today was hard work, wasn’t it? We were both grumpy at each other” is quite different to saying “boy, I’m so glad you’re going to be out of the house for 8 hours a day, five days a week for months at a time”.

    • I think if we applied the same to an adult relationship it would be rude. If I posted on Facebook that I was so over being around my husband 24/7 and couldn’t wait for him to go to work and then we all had a good old laugh about how annoying husbands are, that would be disrespectful. I think it’s the same with children.

      • I think the hardest thing about school holidays is the lack of routine. I think a lot of people would agree if they thought about it. It’s a shame the children get the blame!

  11. This is a really good, thought-provoking article. I have been practicing and modeling some of these points with my son who just turned six. For example, I ask, “May I have a kiss?” or “May I have a hug?”, rather than just grabbing him (unless we are already playing). You have put much thought into this subject and provided a wonderful list of more ways we can improve how we interact with our kids. Thank you!

  12. I love this article and before having children would 100% agreed with it, however in practice how do you encourage a 2 year old to brush their teeth when they don’t want to? Another example is my 7 year old son needed a hair cut, it was annoying him, in his eyes. I’d asked him, he said no, he complained he couldn’t see. He complain he was too hot, that others mistook him for a girl, hated having it washed & brushed. In the end I took him to the hair dressers, he wasn’t happy, I empathised with him that it hurt when she brush it, but I did make him have it cut. Afterwards he was clearly a lot happier and it has changed him, he’s a lot smiler And chatty.
    How else could I have handled the situation?
    The outcome was a good one but the journey wasn’t.
    Would love to hear how others would have delt with these situations

      • in theory that sounds great, however my son can, like me, be very stubborn. I’ve suggested he goes every 6-8 wks, which for now he has agreed too.
        As for the teeth brushing ds2 has decided to brush them first then allow me to do it.

        I have been putting into practice treating “them like beloved adult visitors from another country who don’t know our customs or ways” the day has gone smoother. There are somethings which I will still have control over like TV/screen and running off.

      • Allowing children to decide for themselves is needful, but that can be so hard sometimes! Showers! OMW! Discussion upon discussion does not result in our 8 year old choosing to take a shower. Also her panties are very frequently dirty and smell atrocious because she has decided to not wipe after using the restroom. I have explained that there are multiple concerns, but it is her body. (I hope she will decide to take the medicine for the yeast infection or UTI that could result.) She just does not understand “our customs or ways” yet, but I am hopeful that someday she will choose for herself to shower and wipe.

        • How about a camp with other little ones where everyone does the same thing. Children can’t see themselves and so often I find that as an adult I only now realise something quite basic about myself through a lot of self examination e.g. That my nose has a freckle just there. A lot of children who seem so stubborn about everyday routine, turn over from one day to the next and do everything that you struggled to explain to them without any effort at all.

        • I’m sorry… but letting your child suffer from a uti because you won’t make them take the medicine is not ok. Children are still learning. They don’t understand and reason through stuff like we can. It’s our job to help them. I’m all for explaining it to them….or giving them a choice about when to take the medicine. But it shouldn’t be a choice to take it or not. Same with showering or wiping their bums. “Honey you need to take a shower. Would you like to do it tonight or in the morning?” They have the choice of when….but not if!!!!

          • Sorry – but that’s child abuse!!!! You’re letting your child contract an ‘illness’ because they don’t wipe after they’ve been to the toilet?????????? Who does that?????

    • Read this article and the comments and felt compelled to leave a reply. I disagree. I feel that the article, as anticipated by it’s author, is out there on the far end of the spectrum. I feel that I was parented with tender love and care, and that’s what I’m trying to do too. Violence is not allowed, we agree there! But, I’m the parent. I’ll make the decisions regarding health and safety and sometimes that means practicing obedience. Because if my daughter can learn No means No because I say so, then I can stop her from touching a hot fireplace with the sound of my voice. Then, outside, I show her that the beehive is like the fireplace and can be dangerous if she gets to close. She trusts me to know this as the parent. I trust her to listen to me because we practiced inside all winter. I think in practice, a lot of what I do and you do are similar, but based in different principles. And, we’re always keeping a growth mindset! Enjoy your parenting journey!

      • Bingo, Erica! Health and safety decisions (e.g. Changing underwater, bathing, brushing teeth, etc.) are not left to someone who doesn’t have the life experience to realize the impact of possible consequences. That’s neglectful and irresponsible, IMHO.
        I wouldn’t let a guest in my house get away with certain things, just because he was a guest. My house: my rules! I don’t get to skirt around my parenting duties because they’re hard! If my children want to only eat candy, guess what?!? I DO NOT LET THEM!! Sonetimes it would be lots easier to simply say, “okay! If you REALLY want type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, that’s YOUR CHOICE!” But I don’t. I deal with the various states of discontent when I say, “Our bodies need healthy food. Candy doesn’t give your body anything it needs. After you’ve had enough healthy food, you can had a small “treat”.”
        While some lessons can be learned “the hard way,” others need to be forced. Sorry. That’s part of the parenting role. It’s not the best part, but it’s a part.

        • In which part did I say leave health and safety decisions up to them?

          “The power to stand up for what is right. The power to choose to parent in a way that keeps our child SAFE, supports them to develop into the people they were meant to be, models fair treatment of all people, and sets boundaries respectfully when needed. All without sacrificing their rights as humans in the process.”

          There is a way to do this respectfully, and a way to be a dictator.

    • Also, @Ena, I let my tot brush my teeth and that makes it fun. I was letting her brush her teeth her way for a long time, and she was getting worse and worse. I brushed her teeth for her one night, showing her how to touch every tooth, and her brushing really improved! One of my friends has success with “cheese mode” where you put on a big grin and get the front teeth with real enthusiasm. You could model “cheese mode” and see if your tot wants to try it?

      • Thanks for the teeth brushing advice, since writing yesterday he’s wanted to do his teeth and allows me the have ago. I will try “cheese mode”

  13. Love, Love, Love this (well the article, not childism). I have been feeling/seeing this and not having a word for it. Like when adults (sadly A LOT in early child education/care settings) dumb down their speech when speaking with a child…etc. It is really so prevalent yet so accepted in our culture, which makes it seem hidden almost, it is everywhere.. especially in the marketing of things to our children. I even see it in clothing. Anywho, thank you for writing this!

  14. You’ve put into beautiful words what I’ve always thought! You can listen to a voice one aisle over in the grocery store and just KNOW that person isn’t speaking to an adult. It’s everywhere. If you tried to “spank” an adult, they’d hit you back. People treat children they way they do, only because they can because children are smaller and can’t yet fend for themselves. I definitely don’t always get it right – but I sure do try! Thank you for your beautiful words!

  15. Sara, i agree with this and this is what i am aiming to be. It is a journey.

    but (sigh…there is always a but.) Some things are blurry for me whether it should be my decision or theirs. I am looking into homeschooling but i do worry what happens if my child wants to be at school. Should that be my choice or theirs.

    you said in one of your post a while ago,that if your children want to go to school, you wont let them. Is that also childism then? Is that their rights? Or would they be too young to know better so you can decide for them?

    • Hi Elna! Fab question! What I was trying to say in that post is that if they asked it’s just not an automatic given ‘yes’ which is what I think people are wanting to know when they ask that question, like ‘you’re not holding them back from experiencing glorious school are you?’ lol. And instead showing them how if the question was reversed they wouldn’t be likely to ‘let’ their kids homeschool if you know what I mean.

      ANYWAY, back to the question. It seems like a blurry area for me too. It would depend on a lot of factors, age being one. And if I think they understand the decision they are making. Before the age when they are able to fully comprehend then I guess I have to make the decision just as I would with other things that I percieve as potentially detrimental to their wellbeing. But in no case would it just be ‘no’ without consideration. We would talk and find out the reasoning behind it and what needs were not being met and if there was a way we could meet those needs without school etc 🙂

      • Barring the loss of some money if it’s a private school, there’s no great consequence in taking a child out of school if they later decide they don’t want to be there. I feel like trying to convince a child that they won’t like any school before they’ve ever been in one might feel coercive to them, might breed some resentment. I personally hate traditional schooling and think it does more harm than good, but if my kid desperately wants to go to school I think it would make sense to try and find a school that would meet her needs and let her try it out. I don’t think it could do anywhere near the damage in a short amount of time that most of us experienced over the course of many years. I do think this is a decision that it’s important for a child to have a say in!

      • Yes it is a very difficult one indeed. Some things are on such fine lines. In the end,i feel that whether we decide for them or we give them choices, or whether teach them manners or only model behaviours,as long as the child knows we love them ,it is all that matters.

        From my personal experience, my parents (like most parents of our generation) would tell me off if i was being disrespectful,ordered my to say thank you, decided this and that for me, etc etc. They did that because that was all they knew from their own upbringing. I was taught to respect elders no matter what. While many of my views have changed now and i parent my children where they have more says in many things, i remember i didnt mind at all NOT being treated like equals. I knew that i was loved. I knew that they did the best that they knew how to.

        Fast forward to the present, i very much enjoy all your posts Sara. You opened my mind to many things. But in the end, homeschool or traditionl schooling, life has a way to giving each individual opportunity to think for ourselves. We were all traditional schooled. I for one, went to catholic schools in regional third world country. I was told stories of burning in hell if i do something wrong. I believed it. But as time pass, as i grew older and wiser (hah id like to think so lol) , i can see things more clearly for myself. You were schooled too. Yet, all your posts are really inspiring and thought provoking. You found your way to think outside of the box.

        All im saying is that in the end, as long as the child know he is loved, and we all do what we know is right, the rest isnt that bad.

        • Just clarifying my last paragraph as it sounds a bit vague. I meant our intention counts as well. Some parents tell their children to say thank you and please with a good intention of teaching their kids to be respectful to others.

          Where i come from, we dont use the word please. There is no such things. It depends on how you ask for things. I have heard so many times in english language where people say thank you,please (with such form tone) and sorry without much genuine intention.

  16. I do agree that how some people treat children is a real problem in society, but to tell a parent that they are not allowed to teach their child the difference between right and wrong because you think what they are doing is wrong is basically what you are saying we can’t do with children: Tell that what we think they should do without a care about they are thinking, feeling.
    Most Importantly you are ignoring their belief system. Which everyone has their own right to with out someone else telling them other wise.

      • “It’s finding it acceptable to use punishment and rewards to manipulate a person’s behavior to meet your needs, if that person is a child.”
        When you make such a broad comment like this one.
        If that is the only way that a child will start to understand what is good and bad.
        I’m not saying I disagree with everything that you are saying, but some of your wording is so broad and harsh that some people are going to take it the wrong way.
        Like the parent who has no idea what to do and is completely and need help, so they turn to a parenting book, and now feel shame for doing so after reading this article.

        • What I’m saying is that there are other ways to convey right and wrong instead of punishment and rewards. There are more options than either strict control or no parenting at all.

          I hear often that we shouldn’t offend parents. I guess I think the risk of offense is worth it if it makes some people think about how they treat children.

          • Thanks for your article and to this question, parents are overwhelmed and pressured by media and society in general but I don’t think there is anyone else who really cares about the children when you see the lack of support in enforcing existing laws for all in society. So parents have to do the best they can and this main article is actually quite gentle compared to some I have been subjected to in the media. Nobody else takes the 24 hour responsibility for a child or loved one, and our extended families and homes have disappeared.

  17. I am a researcher in childhood studies. The word “childism” actually has two different and almost opposed meanings in recent usage. One is the negative or deficit model that you are using, from the late psychologist Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, meaning systematic prejudice against children. The other and older meaning of “childism,” developed in the early 2000s by me and others, is from within the childhood studies movement and has a positive or agency-based meaning that is similar to “feminism”: that is, changing societal norms in response to children’s experiences. The problem with the Young-Bruehl’s definition, helpful though it is to a point, is that it ultimately limits children to being passive victims, in need of adult saving, instead of recognizing children’s own agency, voices, and capabilities to influence their world themselves.

  18. Pingback: Get out of the Play! | Happiness is here

  19. At 68, it’s sometimes hard to change what has been impacted by the strong disciplinarian parent that raised me. But, now that I’m a gramma of two beautiful boys, I seem to have softened, on my raising & the raising of my son (somewhat softer than my mother on me) with these two, quite unique young boys! They know what they want, like, don’t like, that they want long hair of which their parents have let them grow (the 3 yr old’s hair has only been “trimmed” barely one time & is down to the middle of his back!) both love music, drums, guitar, piano (which I let them play on mine, teaching respect, not pounding) & they are very interested in learning to play. The one near 5 has had karate lessons, played soccer, & wants to do everything he can learn. I just get a glimpse of their future older selves & see them very well rounded, one because my daughter-in-law being a very contributing factor of their being great adults & trying whatever they want. Daddy is also pretty much on board with all this too now that he is the stay-at-hone-Dad caregiver from being over the road & gone a whole lot. Art is my thing & I see even that growing in their repitoire. This is a good article.

  20. I had to laugh at the beginning due to a recent experience. I was buying a bus ticket for my 12 year old daughter to ride the bus by herself. The clerk directed all her comments to me, including “have her give this to the driver” while my daughter was standing right next to me. Even when my daughter answered one of the questions, the next one came to me again! Later, my daughter asked me what was wrong with the clerk, lol.

  21. Food for thought. Thank you. Childism…a new word to me. It’s like I could always feel like my parenting ‘traditional’ was not quite right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There is always room to grow. You’ve given me something special to learn and implement in my family. My children and their children stand to gain much. Thank you.

  22. Good stuff here. I like the analogy you opened with.

    I expect, and insist on manners from 5 year olds, 12 year olds, 20 year olds, 45 year olds and 76 year olds. It’s not about ego, it’s about, you know, manners and courtesy. I’ve withheld chocolate from kids, with parental agreement, because their ego refused to ask politely, I’ve asked a specific work supervisor to say please and thank you repeatedly – for years (he was hopeless at basic courtesy), I expect it in the shops, on the road, at home, at work and in life generally.

    Please and thank you. If we can’t manage that, we are all poorer for it.

    Thank you for your enlightening writing.

  23. I absolutely agree with everything she says. I came to the same conclusion years ago, but unfortunately not soon enough for my daughter to benefit from all of it. I believe this is an important post. I will share it, and I hope others will as well.

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  27. Pingback: The Dehumanisation of Children

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  31. You know why hairstylists do this? When you’ve had a parent scream at you and humiliate you publicly, yeah. You make sure they are going to be happy with the kids haircut. Don’t blame the stylist. Blame all the other entitled parents who treat us like shit and make us TERRIFIED to cut your kids hair, ESPECIALLY if it’s something drastic.

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