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Why Are People Such Jerks to Children?

holdingbreathThere’s a worth-reading post over at Hipmama.com under the headline “Kids Are People” that makes some great points about the incredible double standard so many people apply to what’s considered “respect” when interacting with children versus with adults, not to mention how willing we are to offer our decidedly uninformed opinions (good, bad, and random) about kids based on one tiny interaction.

The author recounts the story of one walk in which her son is called “shy” for not high-fiving a stranger on command, a “mean little boy” for saying “No” to the woman who said “You should come home with me,” and a “a nice little boy” for merely returning a hello. She also compares people’s ready judgments of one young girl’s behavior in a Barnes and Noble for a few hours with the behaviors of the other adults there (not so different).

I’ve wrestled with similar issues, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to teach my daughter to respect others’ boundaries and believe that hers will be respected when most of the world seems to think she actually doesn’t have a right to set any—especially when they, say, are trying to get a hug from her or wanting her to pose for a picture.

“People don’t get mad at me every time i say no. They don’t touch me without asking much. They don’t touch my head and face without asking or being close friends. They don’t tell me who and how I am upon meeting me once,” writes the Hip Mama blogger.

I don’t go the extreme of the writer of concluding that children are the equals of adults or that explanations will always work and behaviorist techniques are always bad (though I expect I’m closer to her position than many).

But I’m right there with her in being aggravated by this kind of behavior. The thing is, you don’t have to believe children are your developmental equals to believe that they are actual real people. They are people with some as yet limited capacities (though more than we often give them credit for), but still people, worthy of being treated with a little dignity.

Why is that so freaking hard?

Photo CC by qwrrty via Flickr.

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