Saturday, November 14, 2009

Children are People

This quote is from David Balan at Less Wrong:

" I've even heard parents go so far as to say things like: "it's not your room, it's the room inmy house that I allow you to live in." This attitude makes little sense on its own terms, as it suggests that parents would have no legitimate authority over, say, a famous child actor whose earnings paid for the house. Worse, it's a relatively minor manifestation of the broader notion that the child has a fundamentally lower status in the family just for being a child, that they deserve less weight in the family's utility function."

This really strikes a nerve in me. I remember as a teenager being told by my stepfather and mother that no one else (other adults with homes) would be willing to take me in and deal with me, so I should just be glad that they didn't throw me out. I knew that they couldn't legally turn me out on the street, but that fact wasn't much comfort. 

Growing up, I accepted that children counted less than adults - I heard it so often opined that I didn't think to question it. When I look at my two daughters now, I am outraged by the notion.


  1. Excellent point. I wonder (having no tots myself), how does one draw the line between the basic rights kids have as human beings who count the much as the rest of us versus the rights that are taken away from them because of their youth and dependence?

    Enjoyed the picture of your daughters. What are their names?

  2. Under that logic, when do children become people? What is the difference between an adult with thoughts and feelings and a child with thoughts and feelings? For that matter, where is the line between authority and tyranny?

    As a parent, the idea that any parents (or stepparents) feel justified in belittling their children to gain power is maddening. Ideally families should be united by more than shared space, and certainly not governed by selfishness and oppression.

    Adults are supposed to know better; that's their job. I don't have expletives strong enough to describe the unfairness of it.

    Sorry if this is poorly phrased; it's a pure visceral reaction.

  3. Justin,

    My eldest is Elizabeth and my youngest is Angela.

    It can be very hard for parents (as the ones who get to decide) to be fair to their children. After all, I feel MY wants much more strongly than I feel my children's wants. And of course children, like everyone else, sometimes want things that won't be good for them and won't make them happy.

    The best way that my wife and I have found to handle this is to always keep foremost in our minds that children act out when they aren't getting what they need. I need to do a post on this, but basically when we see the kids exhibiting negative behaviors we know that we need to increase care and attention, and often that we need to discover and address a particular issue that has started bothering one of our daughters.

    We agree that our kids needs have to come first because kids have needs that must be met as they grow, whereas many adult needs can usually be deferred for a little while without serious consequences.

  4. Jenn,

    Thanks honey. You know how this was a bit of a difficult thing for me to write about. Thanks for standing up for me...

  5. Robert,
    I feel you and Jennifer are the best parents!! I can be very difficult when children are in the picture. They have needs that raise above 'adult' needs, since the child is not capable of doing some things for themselves. I am sorry to hear about what your parents said to you as a child. There can be no explanation for hurting a child. Even if the child is 'difficult', we should always be the error on the good side, not making a child feel less than what they are, a person.
    Each child is their own person, we are the vessel that directs them so they do not hurt themselves and teach them how to survive this crazy world, but they are their OWN person.
    I couldn't agree more with Jennifer if I tired. Parents owe their children the best they can give in teaching and providing a supporting and loving family.
    You and Jennifer are the roll models for other parents!!

  6. You should write a post -- no, several posts -- on your parenting philosophies. You're an excellent parent.

    You're welcome, love.

  7. BTW - Anonymous is Mom Bickinella :)

  8. I, too, would love to see more posts on parenting. I really liked this post and appreciate you sharing your personal story.

  9. Thanks to everyone for your kind comments.

    I would like to do a post specifically about raising children, but I'd also really like to see other people with blogs post more of their thoughts / philosophy / experiences as well. I know many of you are bloggers. How about it?

  10. Chris and I agree completely. In fact, as we've been discussing our parenting philos over the last year we repeatedly come back to "Kids are people too." It's our parenting mantra. We thought about blogging about it once, but lacked follow through :). Thanks for yours!

    I'm angry at how easily I fail to do this sometimes. Even in simple things -- like when I address parents about their children instead of children directly, or talk about Elijah (my newborn son) as if he wasn't present, when he is right next to me. Or some of the tones that creep into my words, suggesting I'm the victim of a rough night of his crying, rather than expressing an understanding that we're both having a rough night and what can we do about it?

    Also -- I attended a dinner party where the daughter of two highly successful research professors crawled around the floor throughout the evening acting like a cat. Afterward my date (not Chris, my husband) expressed his disgust at the parents' lack of discipline. We had a heated disagreement over it. Although I was sad about the neglect that led to her behavior, at least they weren't compounding the problem by punishing her for her coping mechanisms!

    As for other posts -- I wrote the following awhile back. It's not parenting directly, but related.

  11. Sarah,

    Thank you! Something tells me that you and Chris are already excellent parents. Usually when I talk to people about parenting I try to keep reiterating that the important thing, the thing that works, is to be willing to get up off the couch or to interrupt your conversation and take care of the child who is asking for help and attention. It seems like you're way beyond that basic level. I wish I was more of the time.