Children Should Be Seen AND Heard

I watched as two lively, young girls played in the resort pool with their mother, jumping in, splashing and swimming with great joy. Then the moment every kid dreads, time to get out of the pool. With what I deemed as minimal fuss for a four and five year old, they got out and started drying off. Apparently, their father judged their protests harshly and proceeded to loudly and forcefully inform them, “Your words are not important. You need to remember anything you say is not important, at least for fifteen more years.” I inwardly cringed and waited for the Mom to protest but alas, no words came from her, only a look of pain and barely contained resentment.

Although I agree that parents need to be the adults in charge and make the rules, I also believe children should be listened to, asked for their opinions and taught to think independently. What are we saying to children when we tell them their opinions are not important, that their voices don’t deserve to be heard? More importantly, what are they internalizing when they hear someone they trust and love invalidate them? They learn to keep quiet, to not trust their own intelligence or thoughts. They learn they must be submissive.

Both boys and girls need to feel recognized and heard but I think in some ways, it’s even more important for girls. Girls too often feel the need to apologize for their opinions and are often socialized to believe their viewpoint is somehow not as important as the boy’s. You would think that in 2016 that would no longer be true but sadly, it seems to be. Girls and women are still required to prove themselves; to be better, stronger and smarter to be considered equal. Raise your girls to have a strong voice.

Obedience from children is necessary, but obedience cannot come from a place of intimidation and fear. More than desiring subservience from my children, I desired for them to feel strong, intelligent, respected and empowered.  Teaching children that their words and feelings don’t matter is, at the worst, making them vulnerable to abuse from authority figures and at the least, crushing their self-esteem. Respect is a two-way street with parents and children. They won’t be children forever and must be raised to know how to assert themselves. We aren’t raising children; we’re raising adults that must be prepared for the world.

What do you think? Should children be seen and not heard? I would love to hear other opinions!