Why we should treat our children like adults

By Pavitra Kumar

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There’s this kid in my class with the energy of a hundred people. Every emotion packed in him bursting out seamlessly. Patience Pavitra, I tell myself, don’t label him (Apni Shala training!). Instead, I wait, and engage him in class activities. Cut to the fourth session, he settled down and he allowed me into his world.

Why the sudden turnaround? Because instead of telling him what to do, I asked him, reasoned with him, laid out options and let him decide his course of action. I viewed him as an individual – a little, bratty individual at that.

Now maybe it’s just me and I identify with those kids a little more than I do with adults, but reasoning isn’t a lost cause with them (and us). But we use it wrong. We barter with them for the silliest things, but fail to present to them a healthy discussion when it comes to the more serious topics in life.

All you have to do the next time you look into those eyes is say to yourself “I’m going to give this little person a fair chance to make up his own mind about things.” All hell will break loose, you might think, but that’s what you’re there for, to keep that hell from freezing over.

 

Children are like sponges, they absorb their surroundings, which is why we’ve got to be careful of what we say around children. Don’t just say things to them to get them off your back, whatever you’re about to tell them might stay with them for the rest of their lives.

 

We’re not letting them grow up. We’re cultivating them like batteries in the Matrix. Want proof? How many times have you said “Don’t act like a child; she is childish; what a baby!” In my case it was said to me earlier in the morning by no less than 5 people, but it’s about the kids!

When did a term that defines a human, biologically, become a label?

The want children have to grow up, act beyond their age, feeling the need to emulate someone older – of course these are natural tendencies, but why the rush to make them grow up?

Remember how excited we got when we switched from pencils to pen in school? Why? Because teachers, parents and important people (read: adults) write with pens.

Emulating adults gives a kid the idea of what its like to be an adult, and I think most of us will agree it’s not very fun. They do this because they want to be heard, and no one listens to children. Maybe if I behaved like an adult, the adults will listen to me. Maybe even take me seriously.

Every child is an adult in process, but for now he/she is just a child that’s growing and possesses the qualities to become super-awesome at something. Considering how much “fun” it is being an adult, lets let them be kids for as long as they can. Just treat them as little people with rights and banish that theory of “kids” and “children” we have in our heads.

Our interaction with children:

Children are like sponges, they absorb their surroundings, which is why we’ve got to be careful of what we say around children. Don’t just say things to them to get them off your back, whatever you’re about to tell them might stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Try not to pass on your inhibitions, prejudices and biases on to them, allow them to reason and find their own belief system. Isn’t that what we all want? Freedom of thought.

Guaranteed it’s a bit of work in the beginning, but get them to be incharge of the rules, I promise they’ll surprise you.

With children, we get angry – react awfully, then apologize for the said behaviour. I mean look at all the time and effort we lost in that redundant interaction. We have got to learn to be more aware of the NOW. Be present, think of the consequences, form our sentences and words with intent.

Constantly talking isn’t always communicating. We’re talking all the time, but are we communicating? Are we getting through? Do we have the courage to be refuted and take it well and reason with it? If this amount of introspection doesn’t happen within us, how are we supposed to enable the children to do any better. We talk about intolerance but we fail to see the intolerance within ourselves.

This is something we pick up really early on and have to be mindful of, when we talk to children. I’m not saying have deep philosophical & metaphorical conversations like “child, is the glass half empty or half full?”

The least we could do is engage them in a conversation that goes back and forth. Maybe, just maybe, the next time we could engage them in dialogue instead of a monologue.

 

About the author: Pavitra is completing her Bachelor’s in Social Work, and has experience of working with sex workers and their children at Khula Aasman. She joined Apni Shala as a Programme Fellow in 2016

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Sheela Sharma says:

    Very well written and articulated from the heart!

    Like

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