Help! A strange kid is talking to me!
It was an open house. There were lots of people there with questions and only a handful of adults whom I could safely assume worked there. I waited patiently to be shown around and have my turn gleaning answers to my anxious questions as someone who was unfamiliar with homeschooling and still very unsure.
I was greeted by a pre-teen more than once. I smiled and turned my eyes toward the teachers. I’m an introvert and not immediately open to conversation whenever possible to avoid it. This child asked me if I had any questions. After a short “no, thank you” I quickly turned my eyes back to the adults. A clear message he should go on his merry way. He happened to be sitting on a counter. He jumped down and confidently said, “I’ll show you around while they’re busy! Come on.”
I couldn’t find a polite reason for declining, though I felt a bit irritable, simply because I was already uncomfortable in a room full of strangers and unaccustomed to a child addressing me as if I were his peer. I tried not to show my annoyance and smiled graciously instead.
Do you respect children?
Truly? As much as you would show respect to another adult?
Most adults, whether intentionally or unintentionally, look down at kids. Not always in words, it’s often completely clear children are lesser through an adult’s actions or body language. Adults assume children are not worthy of asking for advice or assistance, even if there is no other person around to help. I have not only witnessed this, I have been on the side of that arrogance.
I consider myself to be an open minded, non-judgmental person.
However, when I began thinking about homeschooling and as I was learning how to homeschool in the beginning, the first time I walked into a homeschool co-op classroom I realized I was not quite as open minded as I had thought.
A child, my equal?
I followed this kid around the small campus and it only took me an instant to realize he was fully capable of being a guide to any visitor. I then thought, “Why shouldn’t he be the one to show me around? He attends classes here, obviously knows his way around perfectly, can probably answer any homeschooling questions as well as one of the parents in the other room. He might even have some insider tips for me, coming from the student rather than the teacher or parent. I had to mentally slap myself and I was instantly ashamed that I had judged him as incapable, even, I hate to admit, inferior to me simply because he was a child. But, I had never had any kid act like my equal before.
I liked this homeschooling business already. Such confidence! That’s what I want for my child. The ability to think for himself, stand up for what is right, reach out and help people without fear, not just be a good follower.
Once I was aware I had this mindset I wondered where it came from.
I can only assume it’s ingrained in our culture stemming from hundreds of years of “children should be seen and not heard” mentality. How can we avoid it when spending 13 years or more learning to stand in a straight line and do as we’re told. Parents, teachers, experts, we all speak at children and expect the child to soak in information, do as they are told, and learn what they’re taught. Oh, we might humor them here and there and listen to their ideas with a knowing smile, but it’s clear the grown ups know best. Some day when they are “real” people, adults, they can utilize all that information in a productive way and finally talk amongst other adults with the respect and even authority they’ve worked hard to gain. Someday. I’m no exception to that thinking.
But, what if you don’t live that long?
Or only live a short adult life? Sadly, I’ve known people who did not make it that far or if they did, are completely unhappy with where they’ve ended up. What is it all for then? Is childhood really just to prepare for adulthood? A preliminary stage to becoming an actual human being that can only then be respected?
Since that day almost 5 years ago when I timidly scoped out a little homeschooling class, I have respected kids’ thoughts and opinions much more. Perhaps by now, even more than adults, as children are the ones who are truly open minded with limitless compassion and imagination. I enjoy talking with children and really listening to what they have to say. There’s so much we can learn from a child. They are often wiser than any adult.
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When we give them our full attention, ask questions, and show genuine interest when a child speaks, it sets the stage for life long confidence. They learn that what is in their mind is important, they grow up with higher self esteem, self respect, look for friends and eventually partners who will also respect their thoughts and treat them well.
If a child learns their thoughts and actions are important enough for the adults around them, they will have the confidence to stand up for what is right on the playground and later in life will be able to stand up for bigger causes. What if all our future leaders never have to second guess if what they have to say is worth hearing because of childhood anxieties holding them back? What if they don’t have to stop and wonder if they could possibly be worthy of speaking out or capable of making change?
Children are not incomplete, half humans, waiting to become people.
Their sole purpose is not to work their whole childhood toward someday being an equal, acceptable, respectable member of the human race. Though, this is how they are most often treated, until they are someday capable, based on age, of finally becoming a person.
Children are people. They are living, experiencing, and doing great things now. They deserve acceptance and respect for whatever stage they are in right now, and for what they are capable of right now.
Childhood is just as important a part of life as adulthood. It’s not a waiting room to someday start life from. It is life. It may even be the best part of life. Let’s not stifle it, dismiss it, or undermine it. Let children live to the fullest their childhood days. They can never get them back.