So I have a pretty middle of the road point of view on just about everything. I don’t really feel it is my place to decide how others should behave in life because I feel like everyone is on their own journey and they get to decide how to make it. If someone ASKS me, I will be more than happy to give my opinion, but otherwise it’s really none of my business.
I do have an exception to this point of view when it comes to children, however. I believe that it is my job as a parent to guide MY children on their “journeys” and that the level with which we guide will change as life changes. A BIG part of how I “guide” is Respect. I believe every child should be treated with respect. All people want to be treated with respect, right?
As I observe other parents, I wonder – do they not think of their children as people? Because I see a whole lot of disrespecting going on out there.
For example… The other day we were at the mall and due to time constraints were dining ala Chick-fil-a in the food court. They have an area with some coin operated cars for the kiddos and in this area was a mom, her double jogging stroller with merchandise on it, and her two children, who of course were climbing all over the cars. This would not be an unusual sight except the little four year old girl was wearing nothing but a pair of pink shorts. Yes, she was pretty much naked. Why? I have no idea. Maybe she spilled something on her shirt that made it unwearable? Well, then go home or go buy a $2 shirt on clearance at Old Navy. They were shopping at the mall – surely the Mom had $2 to spend for her daughter’s dignity.
Just because a child is a preschooler (or younger) does not mean they don’t feel shame or embarrassment. If we teach children that those feelings don’t matter, what are we really teaching them? What about those actions is going to stick with them and inform their perspective as they grow?
In one of the Baby Whisperer books (which I love), Tracy Hogg uses diapering to illustrate the idea of always respecting the child and his or her body. She talks about how strange and disturbing it must be for the baby to be laid down, stripped, and have his legs lifted up and bottom wiped. She encourages talking to the baby through the process, respecting that this might be strange and uncomfortable for him. (And just imagine if someone did that to you – and you couldn’t speak!)
Too often in public places I see examples of young children being marginalized by their parents and it breaks my heart. Just because they don’t have the words to express themselves yet or don’t know exactly how they are feeling or what to say doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t know what’s going on. Imagine how scared they are when entering a new environment or seeing new people. They are so tiny and the world is so huge. They don’t understand sarcasm or hyperbole.
But they know when they are being treated with love and respect. And they know when they aren’t.