The Rights of Kids

In the past year or so in the world of Mommy bloggers there has been a growing chorus of mothers discussing the rights of children. There are many who feel that children are perceived as second class citizens and that such blatant discrimination must stop…immediately. I must admit as a mother I have very mixed feelings on whether or not children are indeed second class citizens, after all children unlike people of color, gays and lesbians, the disabled, etc. don’t stay children forever.

Recently there has been a lot of uproar and discussion about a restaurant in Pennsylvania that made the decision to not allow kids under 6 in its establishment. On the surface it’s easy to see where such a policy seems unfair but as the mother of a rather rambunctious almost 6 year old I think it’s a rather gray area. Let’s face it there are times when kids can be really energetic in their kid like zeal to life and while we as their parents may be used to it and appreciate it, the reality is not everyone enjoys it.

In some ways I feel such blanket policies are less about discrimination of children and more a backlash to the type of parenting that many of us (yours truly included at times) where we want our kids to be comfortable in their personhood and at times to be frank it is permissive and rarely stops to consider the needs of others. Children need to be allowed to be themselves and grow but is every space appropriate for them? I know once my girl hit about 13 months up until she was about 4 or so we had to limit the types of places we would take her because she could be disruptive. Instead choosing child friendly venues where she could be herself and the Spousal Unit and I did not have to feel nervous or anxious about her behavior, yet there are many parents who choose not to take my approach and this is where I feel the disconnect begins and leads to such bans being instituted.

While kids need not be relegated to a backroom, at the same time kids have to live in the world with others and I feel deeply what is lost in these discussions is that kids as they grow up and eventually grow into circumstances. The same child, at 3, is not going to be the same child at 7, 9 and so on, yet many who argue loudest seem to miss that point. As the mother of an almost 6 year old and a 19 year old, I am far enough in my parenting journey to see that and recognize that there is a season to everything and that includes our kid’s behavior.

I think as parents we don’t have to stifle our kids and turn them into the kids of yesteryear where kids were seen and not heard and not allowed a voice but to give a small child the same privileges as say a tween or teen makes no sense whatsoever.

Several nights ago, my almost 6 year old was mad that she could not go with my husband and college kid to the midnight viewing of the latest Harry Potter film. Maybe I was a meanie by the standard of some parents but frankly Harry Potter was not appropriate for her in my opinion also a midnight showing was way past her bedtime and in the end would have been more disruptive than productive. Instead I offered an alternate film for a more appropriate time and while she was upset, and I was sad about that, I felt I made the right choice. I imagine there are some who would say I was unfair but in our world no good could come of a 5 year old staying up until almost 3 am!

As a parent my job is to guide my children to adulthood and to present life to my children in age appropriate and manageable bites as well it’s equally important to teach them that they inhabit this space with others and that mindfulness is a two way street. As for any particular establishment that seeks to ban kids, we can always use the power of the dollar to send a powerful message if we feel that strongly by patronizing spaces that are welcoming to kids.

2 thoughts on “The Rights of Kids”

  1. I totally support the restaurant owner and his decision to ban children under the age of 6. Some parents are too permissive and they allow their children to be disruptive to others. As a business owner, he has to make a decision that is right for his business.

    Children need to be taught boundaries and they need to be taught them at home so they don’t cause for others out in public.

    My post on this topic can be read here:

  2. I consider my job as a parent, a non-traditional, very not-mainstream parent, is to provide boundaries for my children to help them grow and get along in the world. For me some of this has to do with the difference of being with family/at home or being with other people/out in the world.

    For example, table manners at home are much more relaxed (eating with fingers is fine, etc.) but we talk about how other people out there would find it rude and they would be uncomfortable. We talk about why that is…

    Anyway, I think it’s important not to equate respectfully treating our children as completely human individuals (rather than not-fully-formed toys) with permissiveness. Letting children make the decisions and rule things doesn’t help anyone and, in my opinion, isn’t even respectful to them.

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