Blooming Society Sunday

Every Sunday I share a bloom – a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

white flowers
This Week’s Bloom:
Treat Children like People

This is simple. Children are people, after all. Yet this is an ideal that I have seen violated my entire life. As long as the phrase ‘seen and not heard’ is used to describe children, we have a problem. Youths have a different chemical and hormonal makeup, their experience level is low, but that does not make them unimportant or unoriginal. Their personalities and behavior are as varied as adults. So, how do we stop belittling the little ones?

Talk to Them
This is not the same thing as talking at them. Children are given instructions and commands more often than they are engaged in conversation. A lot of adults ignore children to the extent that aliens would be surprised to learn that children are capable of thoughtful speech. Don’t be one of those adults. Their interests and worries may be different than yours, but that is true of most people. If you can uncover something they care about, they’ll make you care about it too. Share in their enthusiasm and wonderment, they are far more interested in life than most adults.

Answer their Questions
If you talk to a child long enough, you are going to get asked a question. You may get asked fifteen questions in one minute. Take the time to unpack their curiosity and give them a clearer view of the world. All of that fantastic wonder comes from the very lack of experience that society chides them for. If a child asks you a question that seems ‘inappropriate’, answer them anyway. Keep it basic, but avoid the ‘you’re too young’ response if at all possible. If they’re asking, they aren’t too young. There isn’t anything in this world that children can’t understand except for the illogical notions and nonsensical expectations society takes for granted. They have not been weighed down by opinion or disappointment and all they really want is to know how the world works. If you help them, odds are good that you’ll end up learning something new yourself.

adult hand holding child hand

Admit Mistakes
People lie and cheat. People are mean and incorrect. Not everyone all the time, but everyone sometimes. We have a tendency to deny our shortcomings, especially to children. This is a mistake in itself. Children are learning what to expect out of life, what is considered okay, and what is not. When we are dishonest with children, when we cover up the darker parts of who we are, they are given a skewed perspective. Marking out our mistakes does not teach them right from wrong, it teaches them to hide. Most adults struggle with what to show the world and what to keep inside. This starts with the mixed messages we are given as children. Admit mistakes and apologize, especially with regards to children. You’ll make the next generation a more genuine one.

Respect Them
Children are not half-people, they are whole. Their needs and wants are no less important for their small stature. They are not minions to be ordered around. They are not automatons mindlessly obeying every whim. When they speak, listen. When they ask, answer. When you wrong them, apologize. Their inabilities do not make them burdensome. Their ignorance makes them a privilege to know.


27 thoughts on “Blooming Society Sunday

  1. Stephanotis? Some other type of smelly jasmine?
    I’ve never been a child person, I’ve never wanted any. I’m happy to talk to them, often make more sense than adults, but they get treated as adults when I speak to them. So there’s no talking down, or buying into the manipulative games that they are already starting to learn from their (bad) adult examples.

    I had ‘little girls should be seen and not heard’ repeated to me daily. When I last visited my university friends I found it so uplifting that their children were treated as people not as inferiors.

    1. I believe it is jasmine. 🙂

      I didn’t plan on children. Our first was a surprise, but it ended up being a nice one. It’s funny, the people I know that are mindfully childless or weren’t sure if they wanted kids tend to be the ones that treat them more humanely. Perhaps that comes from not having as many preconceived notions of how children should act.

      I looked up the origins of ‘seen not heard’ and it was written in the 1400s and referred exclusively to women. Color me unsurprised. Attitudes are changing on both fronts though, so there’s that.

      I’m glad your friends are not the overbearing type. I spent some time this week with people that said things like ‘children should never have their door closed’ and ‘I don’t have to apologize to you, you’re a child’ so these things are on my mind.

      1. Partner is the same as me. One of our friends said, ‘but you would make a great dad’, to Partner’s extreme horror. (And no he wouldn’t have done.)

        Yeah, colour me beautiful unsurprised sitting in my quiet corner too.

        While I did get the seen and not heard from here to eternity, I was also taken out to lunch with adult friends of my parents. Maybe that plays a part in my reaction to children. Some of those adults were very nice.

        What I liked about my friends (I’m talking three families here), was that we all sat at the dinner table together and everyone was treated equally. To be fair, the couple with younger children would break off conversations when the children interrupted, but so what? Daddy’s friend from university didn’t mean their routine should be interrupted. Although it did mean she was asked to read a bedtime story 😀

        1. I will never understand people’s responses when they hear someone doesn’t want kids. Why it is so unthinkable?

          That sounds like a lovely dinner. I don’t like the idea of automatic kid tables anytime there is a group, though that seems to be the norm in many areas.

          Story time is the best. So long as it doesn’t last two hours…

  2. Thank you for offering such a refreshing perspective, one with which I agree unreservedly. As adults, we invariably fail to recognise our own absurdity [http://wp.me/p4wkZJ-aL] and instead presuppose that our greater sophistication over children ought dictate that we ignore the child’s perspective. Increasingly, we become entrenched in the accretions of our values and objectives, identifying with them to such an extent that we lose the vitality and receptivity of our childhood. Humour seems to be our only salvation, and I can only apologise for offering none here in my typically earnest, adult response.

    1. Well said, Hariod. Your post was a truly excellent read. We all put on our adult masks and hide our insecurities about being proper adults. It’s such junk.

      I spent my childhood being told I was separate from the world due to my religion. I always wondered what other people’s homes and lives were like. All the things I wanted to know and discuss were taboo or impolite. Now that I am an adult with close friends, I realize that my life is not overly abnormal simply because we are all strange. It did wonders for my anxiety. All individuals and families have quirks. If we could only be honest enough to let them show, we could stop the acts of adult absurdity.

      1. Thank you Madalyn; I wouldn’t normally include a link as I think it’s rather naff to self-reference in such ways, but this subject is dear to my heart and thought an exception was permissible on this occasion. You are quite right, of course, in saying that “all individuals and families have quirks”, and it’s rather ironic that the quirkiest of all are those who attempt to hide the fact. This is something that we British are particularly susceptible to, and if I were to mention the name Basil Fawlty, perhaps then a perfect exemplar would spring to mind for you.

  3. Yes Madalyn! Wonderful post and topic!

    What I find ironic Madalyn is the behavior of a group of adults who are strangers or don’t know much about each other, perhaps at a big family reunion or town hall event, and MANY of the adults won’t engage each other beyond “the weather”. However, if there are little kids around, ever notice how much attention the adults will pay to them? I have always found that to be comically funny, yet at the same time sad. :/

    If I’m there, I will eventually try to make everyone be kids having fun! LOL

    1. I am most definitely guilty of keeping my lips closed around people I don’t know. Heck, I have to be comfortable around the people I do know to really open up. I’m working on it. 🙂

      The saddest thing to me is that there seem to be a lot of adults without any real friends. By the time we pack on the baggage of adulthood, we are hiding parts of ourselves, even from those we claim to trust.

      I imagine you’re a lot of fun to be around, Professor. 😀

      1. Nothing wrong with being timid at first Madalyn. In several ways that keeps you out of trouble! 😉

        I’m an extrovert by nature because of Mom and Dad less so but I grew up being very social, courteous, engaging, and most of all…finding the humor in all things. Yes Madalyn, I do like and usually can have a fun time anywhere with most, but if it seems “forced”, I don’t care for that either. 😛

        Was mentioning to Victoria NeuroNotes that it would be a BLAST for several of us or many of us to get together once a year minimum. That would be a HOOT I imagine! LOL 😀

        1. Introvert, here. 95%. That’s a rigorously tested percentage, just so you know. I agree, forced is no fun. I make a great listener though. I’m all for a meet up. Let’s hoot the night away.

  4. As one who spent a good portion of his childhood as an appendage (missionary kid to missionaries), I appreciate your post today especially. It is true that I found ways to make the Argentina years reflect my personhood, but it was generally in spite of rather than thanks to the bigwigs in Richmond…

    1. I can relate to being an appendage to a certain extent. Thankfully, we still have the presence of mind and will to be our own people when we are children. It’s when we’re adults with 9 to 5s and emotional baggage that we seem to stop asserting who we are. We talk about children learning and growing, but as I figure it, the moment we stop learning and growing is the moment we die.

  5. Beautiful post Madalyn. As you know I grew up Catholic, and I was made very much aware of the pecking order no thanks to the RCC. I remember thinking a lot to myself (during childhood) how much I couldn’t wait to become an adult so I would no longer feel that “children are inferior” vibe that adults often put off. I think my parents did the best they could considering they were heavily indoctrinated by the RCC, and the RCC’s sole focus (when it came to children) was on discipline. As a species, we are paying the price for the way children have been viewed and treated throughout history (property).

    “Wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honor one’s parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for the respect of a child.” Alice Miller, Ph.D

    1. Precisely. So many of us wanted nothing more than to grow up because our desires and thoughts were given no credence.

      There was an article going around that summerized this perfectly a few months ago. It was a nanny talking about how spoiled kids are today. She used the example of children throwing fits when they don’t get the color of cup they wanted. My kids have gotten upset over being given the ‘wrong’ cup. When it was something I had control over, I would switch cups or give them the one they wanted the next time. Kids have so little control over their life and time, if something as simple as the color of a cup will make them happy, why should I deny that?

      1. “Kids have so little control over their life and time”

        Exactly, and I think adults tend to lose sight of this. I just love the work that the late psychologist Alice Miller did. She dedicated her life to educating about the importance of children being respected and having a voice.

        “Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.” ~Alice Miller

    1. I agree, Mak. Our children are in our homes for a while, but if we spend most of that time shutting them out and shutting them up, they will not be prepared for the life they will lead.

  6. Reblogged this on The Benevolent Thou and commented:

    My good friend and fellow life traveler, Madalyn, posted this wonderful piece recently and I decided to reblog. The only thing I would likely add is to allow children to grow up without being taught what to believe, but how to think. Question everything, listen to the opinions, and make up your own mind. Never teach them exclusive doctrines of any religion, but teach them empathy for all, and to follow the Golden Rule.

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