Civil rights, minority rights, women’s rights, student rights. You can hardly move, it seems, without infringing on the rights of someone or something. And now we hear about kids’ rights?
If you’re hesitant to read on, it’s understandable. But a concern for “rights” is a fundamental value most of us hold and want to pass on to our children. If you don’t think so, just recall the last time someone tried to limit one of your own freedoms.
Somehow, when it comes to kids, human rights seem to fade behind the (legitimate) principle of parental authority. Often we parents dismiss our children’s rights without discussion or consideration because of the fine line between their “rights” and our responsibility.
Nevertheless, many negative reactions and resentments, and defiant and rebellious attitudes in children stem from a sense that their rights are being violated. Witness the common protests from kids these days: “I have a right to…”; “Why can’t I decide…?”
Defining a child’s rights within a family may be a bit difficult, but doing it together can be an extremely rewarding process. Here are a few “rights” to consider including:
The right to be a child – not a little adult. Childhood isn’t just “wasted time” until a person grows up. In fact, we should hope that certain facets of the child in us will stay active as long as we live. But frequently we parents become so concerned about preparing our children for adult life and the “real world” that we fail to give them permission to enjoy the precious years of childhood. The right to be a child, to be just who he or she is now, is essential to wholeness. Each child needs the freedom to grow up as a unique, one-of-a-kind, unrepeatable miracle that he or she is.
The right to play. Play is more important than we realize. It’s the child’s work. It’s his or her job to crawl, build with blocks, make mud pies, empty drawers, skateboard, or surf. Becoming good at play is just as important as becoming good at making the bed, cleaning the room, mowing the lawn, or emptying the trash. Perhaps it is more out of jealousy than principle that we parents often convey the idea that play is a privilege to be tolerated only after the real work is done.
The right to privacy. Many parents unfortunately believe they have the right to open their children’s mail, read their private diaries, borrow their belongings wihtout asking permission, or enter their rooms wihtout first knocking on the door. If anyone failed to respect our own privacy in these ways, we’d probably be offended, and rightly so. Why shoudn’t our children deserve the same respect? The violation of a child’s right to privacy for his or her own body is the first step toward incest, a concern of frightening proportions in homes of every economic status, according to research.
If you’re a parent who tends to feel that kids have no right because they’re too young or haven’t earned them yet, think again. It’s far better that your children learn the principle of rights from you than from some other source.