In recent years we have observed significant shifts in thinking and perspectives in how adults view children. In many respects this shift has resulted in great gains for children; we are less likely to patronize children and no longer assume they know nothing; we are more inclined to listen carefully and take into account their perspectives, needs, feelings and issues.
We encourage children to have "a voice", to share their opinions and to offer their thoughts and perspectives. We know that the old saying, "children should be seen and not heard" was a narrow and disrespectful view of childhood.
In our endeavor to parent and educate our children well this concept has at times been incorrectly embraced to assume that in order not to patronize children, to ensure equity, to provide a voice, and to ensure that children's perspectives are considered that we are no longer able or should make a distinction between what the essence of a child is compared to that of an adult.
In other words, some people, professionals included seem intent in trying to portray children as miniature adults.
Of course this is evident in the most blatant (and bordering on) abusive ways such as dressing young toddlers and preschoolers as teenagers, exposing and involving children in beauty pageants, exposing children in their early childhood and early primary years to movies and entertainment that is rated M, (the list goes on).
It is also evident in the covert, unobtrusive and pervasive way. For instance, there are some within the community who seem intent on trying to sell the myth that young children are sexual in their thinking, that the young are able to reason, to perceive, to think, to make sense of, to analyze, to interpret, to consider all perspectives, and to make informed decisions at levels almost equivalent to an adult. That children are being given decision making about matters that may in fact impact upon their futures or present lives that are major issues related to health, education or well being!!!
It is difficult to comprehend why anyone would wish to pursue this line of thinking and action when childhood itself within the species in specifically designed to enable adults to nurture (not patronize) their young. It is also a fact that the developing brain is not yet fully operational and lacks many parts of the brain that are able to fully comprehend, understand the full consequences of actions, analyze and conceptualize major issues and implications. It is also a fact that young children do simply not have life experience upon which to base major decisions upon.
It seems that in our quest for equity for children many have mistaken "equality" for "sameness". That the desire for providing a voice and empowerment to children has translated to "they can understand everything and need to have an opinion on everything"!
The human being throughout the lifespan is a complex mix of biology and environmental influences; both heavily influence brain development. It is a fact that the child's brain, whilst amazingly highly developed and functional is not the same as an adult brain ... a child's brain needs time to develop.
The child needs to be a child and to view the world through the lense of a child's perspective and not through the world or wishes of an adult. Children need to be parented and educated by adults who respect and empower them and provide psychological and emotional security, wisdom and decision making while giving them the opportunity to explore, practice, develop, consolidate, play and be childlike.
Let children be children and for this to be viewed as respectful and empowering and not as "old world or patronizing". Let it be liberating and wonderful!