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.