Children Should Know Their Place
When my children have ideas about what we should do today, I listen.
When they’re not happy with something I’ve done, I listen.
When they say no to a request, I listen.
When our needs don’t align, I listen.
And then we have a conversation. We problem solve. We figure out a way that we can all have our needs met. A solution that we are all happy with.
When I share one of these conversations, people get angry.
“You are the ADULT. Your children are not supposed to tell you what to do!”
“We need to instil in kids that sometimes someone else is in charge and we need to do what we’re told”
“Children now are being taught to be completely self-centered and that all that matters is what they want to do.”
Considering a child’s feelings, needs, and opinions is radical, evidently.
I could understand this kind of reaction to someone advocating for pushing aside your own needs and always doing whatever your child wants. But that is not the case. To provoke this kind of reaction, all you must do is simply compromise with your children. Come up with a solution you are both happy with and willing to do.
The mere thought of adjusting your plans for a child, even willingly and at absolutely no cost to you, is triggering for people. The same type of negotiation between two adults would be perfectly reasonable, but as soon as one party is a child people are uncomfortable. Presumably, an adult should not be willing to adjust their plans to accommodate a lowly child. An adult should be an authority! If you are not controlling your children, then they must be controlling you. Children should know their place!
Society is so invested in the idea of children being inferior, that any hint of their opinion carrying equal weight to an adult is met with fear and warnings about all the terrible ‘kids these days’. People everywhere are ready and willing to jump in and suggest how to put children back in their place. How very sad.
It’s time to reevaluate what exactly the place of a child should be, and throw off these archaic notions of children being subservient to adults ‘for their own good’.
Parenting does not require control, force, coercion, or punishment. There is a much more beneficial way to relate to our children, which values connection, unconditional love, mutual respect, autonomy, and equality.
“Much harm has been done in the name of love, but no harm can be done in the name of respect” – Magda Gerber
If we want to raise children who are confident, capable, respectful of everyone’s opinions and feelings, able to convey their needs effectively, problem solvers, caring, and good decision makers, then we simply must recognise that the perfect time to learn these skills is childhood. Overriding their wishes just so you can feel in control teaches none of this! Instead, children feel resentful and learn that their opinion doesn’t matter.
Yes, I want my children to know their place! But a child’s place in society is changing, for the benefit of everybody.
What should children know about their place in the world?
That they are loved unconditionally.
That their opinion matters.
That they are worthy of consideration.
That they deserve respect.
They are an equal part of families/communities/society.
That people care about their needs and feelings.
That they have a right to make choices about their lives.
That their freedom and autonomy should be protected.
That they are valued.
That they are whole people, with an important place in the world, from birth.
Imagine just how we could empower a generation if every child could know their true place in the world, their rights, and their importance. We have the power to do that. We can start by listening to our triggers and challenging any childism present in our thoughts and beliefs.
A child being considered, resepected, and treated as an equal should not be a confronting thought. Maybe one day it won’t be.
I started reading “myth of the spoiled child” by Alfie Kohn and he points out that people have been saying “children these days are the worst, back in my day blah blah blah” for centuries. I think this is proof that our memories aren’t always accurate.
I try to do it this way. But what I find difficult, is that my 2,5 year old son, doesn’t take my needs into account. Even though I explain them to him.
So actually we do it his way, or my way, forced. Both doesn’t feel good.
Do you have advice? Or is he too young?
(I’m no a native english speaker so I hope you understand my comment)
I thoroughly appreciate this, and I couldn’t agree more. Much of this happens right under our radar. We think we’re helping children to understand the requirements of adulthood or maturity, but really, we’re just using our power over them to make things more convenient for us. It’s good to find spaces where adults are learning about the necessity of trusting and respecting children. Yes!
I couldn’t agree more. I don’t always do what my children want. Sometimes I say no. I don’t always explain myself if I’m in a hurry. However, they do know that they will always be listened to, and that their thoughts and feelings will be taken into account. That I will try to be fair. That I will usually explain my reasoning for any compromise I expect them to make (bearing in mind that I might sometimes see a bigger picture than they are able yet). Sometimes it doesn’t seem to go to plan. My children don’t like the outcome and they become frustrated and angry. I’m thinking about yesterday when my seven year old really didn’t want to leave a party, but we’d had two late nights, and while they had eaten at the party I’d come straight from work and hadn’t eaten… I gave them a warning that we were leaving in ten minutes, I told them to have another bounce on the bouncy castle, then it was time to go. He got very upset and angry but I took him anyway. I knew this wasn’t his usual self – usually he’s pretty good at understanding and respecting my viewpoint and needs, and accepting that sometimes he won’t get his way, but sometimes he will. This morning he apologised and said he had been tired and hadn’t behaved well. It makes me feel good to know that while we all have bad days, I am raising such thoughtful and considerate children, just by being thoughtful and considerate myself.