by Oluranti Fatoye
Is there room for children in our society? Most of our culture is structured for adults, and children are unwelcome or even excluded. Children spend most of their time in school and school-related activities, where parents are not welcome.
This harsh attitude toward children can be most evident when shopping; many store personnel seem to view every child as a potential source of trouble. The presence of a child is tolerated – as long as he is perfectly quiet, doesn’t touch anything, and doesn’t look as though they’ll hurt themselves. I suspect, though, that it isn’t so much the child’s potential suffering that storekeepers are concerned about, but rather their own: they are afraid of being sued! This fear can be unreasonable to the point of lunacy. A child, at age seven was once loudly warned in a grocery store, “Get down from that ledge! You’ll hurt yourself!” This dangerous ledge was exactly five inches from the floor.
When we look closely at a child at play, we can see that children have the same instinct for self-preservation that adults have and a good sense of what they can handle. Why, then, are children so mistrusted? At those times when something does need to be said about a child’s behaviour in public, this is often done in a harsh, impatient, and disapproving tone. Yet adults too sometimes behave in inappropriate ways in public – such as dropping dirt on the floor and not in the dust bin. If the adult is corrected at all, such a request is usually made with the utmost cordiality. Do adults deserve more consideration than children?
When children venture out in public, they are rarely spoken to, unless, like soldiers, they are asked for their names and class. If circumstances are such that children appear in public during school hours, they are asked, almost crossly, “Why aren’t you in school?!” How would an adult respond if asked, “Why aren’t you at work?”
Children are expected to be infinitely patient during boring errands and conversations, and never interrupt adults – no matter that children’s conversations can be far and away the more fascinating. Wouldn’t you rather hear about Disney world, or how you are loved Ben 10.
Despite their delightful ways, children in public places are treated as though they are invisible, and their needs are often considered irrelevant. In making their needs known to others, they are at a particular disadvantage, because of their youth and inexperience. Unlike senior citizens, who also encounter unfair age discrimination, there are no child spokespersons to elicit empathy for their condition. Who has not seen a distraught infant or child whose tears are ignored by angry parents and indifferent strangers? If an adult were crying in public, would not everyone be concerned? If an animal were obviously suffering, would everyone walk past?
Even churches, while teaching of love within families, segregate children from the most meaningful activities. Housing discrimination against families is still a problem in many areas, where children are placed in the same category of undesirables as pets.
Could things be different? Sometimes they are, All children behave as well as they are treated – just like adults. Why is it so difficult for adults to understand this? After all, we have all been children. How have we forgotten so soon what it is like to be a child in an adult world? Children deserve to be treated in the same way that we wish to be treated – with kindness and understanding, dignity and respect. As an author wrote, “Human beings should be treated like human beings.” We are all human beings, and, in a sense, we are all children. Some of us have just been around a little longer.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Oluranti Fatoye is a social worker, entrepreneur, and focused on an integrated approach to empowering abuse children.She blogs about everything that concerns children (hhcinitiative.blogspot.com.ng).