I believe that children have rights. Children have a right to not be hit, hurt, abandoned, or to have their lives destroyed by the actions of adults. After years of working with children in all kinds of venues, I still remember one moment when, during a therapy session, a 10 year old girl asked me about her parents’ discipline methods. She asked: “You mean I have to just stand there and take it while they hit me?” I had no answer for this question because much of the world still practices spanking. I could not take away her parents’ right to hit her. I could not bestow upon her a right to not just stand there and take it. When an adult raises a hand to a child in anger, it is abuse. It is abuse because discipline administered in anger is not for the benefit of the child but is designed to vent the anger of the adult. A hand raised in anger is always an abusive hand, and is never a guiding hand.
I believe that adults need to understand that children are not little adults. They don’t think like adults. They cannot assign clear motives to behavior based on analysis that is rooted in life experience. So they assume that adult behavior is about them even though it is not. Adult behavior is always about the adult exhibiting the behavior. I believe we, as adults, are charged with teaching, guiding, and loving children, but never blaming them. Abuse begins with blame. Children are children, and therefore blameless. All that happens to a child is the responsibility of the adult who is that child’s caregiver even if all that happens is due to the behavior of the child.
Our children will combine our teaching with their genetics and become what that combination produces. I believe we have the responsibility to give them the best chance we can. Children have rights. This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.