We live in an adultist culture.
What does that mean?
For a quick definition of adultism, here are a few Wikipedia quotes:
Adultism is commonly seen as negative with the logic that, “If sexism is wrong because it valorizes an exclusively male perspective, then adultism is wrong because it valorizes the adult perspective.”
In other words, we adults think that we know best. As a result we go overboard. We tell our children what to do, when to do it, how to do it and how they should feel about doing it (all with an implicit or explicit threat looming overhead, like we’ll withhold our love, approval or more if they don’t fall in line.)
And for kids, this sucks.
And for the quality of our relationships with our children, this sucks.
If you want to see if you are at risk of being an adultist, in other words if you want to see if you micro-manage, over-protect and and disenfranchise your kids thus robbing them of opportunities to be in tune with their bodies, to trust themselves and to feel respected, I offer a litmus test.
WOULD I SAY OR DO __fill in the blank____ TO MY KID BUT NOT TO A FRIEND?
Here are some examples:
- If your friend asked you “Will you hand me the juice on the counter?”, would you say, “Can you say please?”?
- If your friend fell and screamed “Oww, that hurt!”, would you say “It’s okay. You’re alright.”?
- If you were out to lunch with a friend and she told the waiter he could clear her plate, would you say, “Are you sure you don’t want just one more bite of protein?”
- If your husband answers the door and it’s your mother, would you say to him, “Give Mom a hug and a kiss.”?
- If you’re on a walk with your friend and the wind starts blowing, would you say, “Put on your sweater, it’s cold.”
- If you brought a friend to a party, would you explain to the guests as you introduced her that she was shy?
If the answer is YES, as in Yes, you would say these types of things to your kids, but not to your friend, then I hate to break it to you, but you, just like most everyone in the world, are an adultist. (At least it sounds less offensive than being sexist or racist—even if it isn’t.)
The good news is, you can change.
You can listen to your children and respect what they have to say even though you don’t like it.
And no this doesn’t mean they are in charge. Or that you don’t set limits. Or that you don’t have anything to teach them.
To recap. More listening. More trust. More respect.