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Treating Children as “Persons”

Treating Children as “Persons”

My big boy approached, head down, shoulders slumped, face downcast. What has happened? Has he fallen out with someone? Did he get himself in trouble? These questions run through my head. As he approaches I ask how his morning has been. “They treated me like a baby!” came the sullen reply. Oh! He had spent the morning taking part in the children’s ministry at a conference. I try to sooth the offence, pointing out that there are younger children there too. As the day goes on he expounds on what it means to be “treated like a baby”. The verb that best encapsulates this is “to patronise”. And it is all to common when we look at the things on offer for children. Language is dumbed down, those working with children are unnaturally excitable, praise is offered for the least little thing- it’s all so false.

We live in a culture where there is an attitude that things have to be dumbed down to make them palatable to children. So many books in the kids section of the library or book store are filled with inane drivel. Children see through this.

When we treat children as persons they rise to the challenge. Talking to children normally i.e. as people, listening to them with intent. Reading books that make them think. A good rule of thumb when picking a book: if you can’t stand reading it, don’t expect them to enjoy having it read to them.

When I was lately reading more about Charlotte Mason’s educational ideas, one of her basic principals is that children are born persons. This idea resonated with me. It is something that I have come over the years to find true with all my children.

Young children ask profound questions, they may not frame them in the sophisticated language of an adult, but they are truly profound. Their questions deal with very things of life, questions of eternity. Their questions clothe their hopes and fears. And we do well to treat them as precious.

Lately I heard a prophet prophecy over a group of children, they were aged from babies right up. As this man of God spoke into these young lives it struck me that God knew the deepest thought of these children. He knew the fears of the youngest child, and to God these were precious and as relevant as any adults fears. God cares about children’s questions, hopes and fears. God does not regard them as less important, or as inferior because they do not come from the mind of a “grown-up”. Their thoughts and questions are not so very different from our own when we come to the crux of it.

I love to listen to my children’s thoughts on the world, how they view the world through their unique eyes. Each one views things through a slightly different lens. They ask questions that challenge me. Perhaps if we treated the thoughts of a child with more respect they would not learn to stop asking questions. Is it not true that too many adults stop questioning, stop thinking deeply, instead accept what culture has conditioned them to believe true what culture propagates?

If our children always know that their thoughts will be treat with respect. That we will truly listen to them, no matter how young, they will keep talking to us. The child who is told to “be quiet” all the time, or who’s questions are treated as unimportant will stop sharing with us. Then when they have the questions, doubts, and fears of the teenage years will they come to us to share them, or will they think we are still not interested?

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