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March 01, 2018

Respecting Children in Public Places

I'm not sure as a society why, in general, children are treated so oddly by adults. People tend treat children as if they are unintelligent, lazy, wild, or unmotivated. They treat them as if they are somehow not fully human, not fully capable, not fully deserving of our respect. And, you know what, it's just so weird. Why? Children work harder than any adult I have ever met. They dropped here on Earth unable to even lift their heads, and yet in a couple short years they overcome so much to become so very independent. 
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” Maria Montessori 
We have recently had to instances where it has become so clear that not everyone is like this. The first, we were at a botanical garden with Nora. She was deeply engaged in a conversation with Henry about the plants we were seeing as we were moving from one room to another. The door way had a divider, which she walked into and fell down. An adult man laughed uncontrollably at her. Thankfully, she was fine, but she did notice the man's behavior.

Tips for respecting children in public places

And, in the second instance, Nora and I were at IKEA together. The lines were huge and she was busying herself among the many items placed in the line are to attract waiting customers. She picked up a small glass candle and brought it to me to smell. It was lovely and despite Nora's desire to purchase it, I reminded her we had enough candles at home. So, she took the candle to a nearby patio set, sat down and was carefully admiring it. A random customer behind me, got out of line, went to Nora, ripped the candle from her hands and start admonishing her for playing with glass. She was telling her how she was going to break it and then the store wouldn't be able to sell it. Nora immediately burst into tears. 

In both cases, I intervened as fast as I could. Making comments to both the adults and then checking in immediately with my children. Doing the best I could to model grace and courtesy, while very clearly telling my children that these adults were in the wrong. But, in both cases I was left shocked. Left realizing how differently many adults see children. 

So, if you are in public with children, or see a child, don't be like these people we have encountered. Here are some things to keep in mind when interacting with children in public: 
  • Respect them as you would any adult person, a warm smile and a "hello" go a long way
  • Don't laugh at children even when they make mistakes
  • Don't comment on their appearance, especially if you think something is out of place 
  • Ask before touching their bodies 
  • Trust children (and their caretakers) that they are fully capable of undertaking whatever task they are engaged in
  • Don't assume they are out to make trouble 
  • No need to comment at all about their behavior to them (especially as a stranger) 
  • Use basic manners when interacting with children
I'm sure there are other things we could add to this list. But, I hope these are some things you can keep in mind when interacting with your children, or others while in public places. Your behavior effects them. And, they deserve better. 

Tips for respecting children in public places

Have you or your children experienced these sorts of disrespectful behavior from adults in public places? How do you react?


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Sara said…
Wow, I would be so upset if a stranger treated my child this way! Good for your for keeping your cool.
Anonymous said…
I had never really thought about it this way. I grew up that way and it was almost like a rite of passage. But you're absolutely right, thank you for opening my eyes on such am important thing ��
Carolina F
Carolina F said…
OMG! Both cases made me so mad that I even need to comment! I can't believe the Ikea story. I'm shocked!
Michelle Sydney
Michelle Sydney said…
When our 4yo said to me, "How many times do I have to tell you, Mom??" I got mad. And then I realized it's something I say to our kids! I quickly promised not to say it, either. Now we've all made a promise not to say this phrase to each other, at all. Our kids show us the righteous path. It's important not to be hypocritical in our treatment of children. Thanks for writing about this!
Finnie Beginnie
Finnie Beginnie said…
Unfortunately we are running into this in our public school where my daughter attends Kindergarten. We haven't been able to get her into a Montessori school; the public Montessori's are lottery-based and the few seats fill up quickly. We practice Montessori and positive discipline at home and my daughter is having a hard time adjusting to the radically different atmosphere at school. I haven't decided how or to whom to bring the topic up with, but the lack of respect shown to children in a school that has won awards for character education is abhorrent. Obviously, they hold themselves to a far lower standard than they hold their students.
Katya said…
So much yes!! Ugh. I almost dread going to public places and seeing how some parents interact / treat their kid .I am certainly a work in progress myself but goodness do the boundries get crossed when kids are involved!
Unknown said…
I love this article, it is always quite shocking to see the disrespectful attitudes that some adults have towards the youngest members of our society, like they should be contained. I remember a few years ago I tripped walking along a main road, and a dad and his two sons pointed and laughed their heads off at me. I thought what a way to be raising the next generation....but laughing at a child who hurts themselves....unconscionable! Thanks for highlighting this issue!