kids

"My 10-year-old daughter scolded a school staffer, and I'm proud of her."

My daughter has no respect for adults. Last week she told off a staff member at her primary school.

It was recess, and all the kids were playing in the school yard. Two little children, who had just started school, were talking to each other in the language they speak with their families at home.

“You should be speaking English,” the staff member – not a teacher – scolded them.

My daughter overheard and jumped to the defence of the girls.

“You can’t say that!” she said. “They can speak whatever language they like.”

My daughter is 10, and in the last year of primary school. She doesn’t hesitate to give her opinion to anyone.

She went camping recently, and a group of adults was leading a singalong around the campfire. One of them handed out song sheets. My daughter stood up to raise objections to some of the songs, including one about putting frogs in a blender.

“It’s cruelty to animals!” she announced to the bemused adults. “We shouldn’t sing these songs.”

Kids aren't afraid to express their opinions, and that's good. Photo via iStock.

A month or two back, I was shopping with my daughter, and she noticed signs near the toys. One sign said “Perfect for boys” and the other “Perfect for girls”. My daughter marched up to the woman behind the checkout to complain.

“You don’t need these signs,” she said. “Boys and girls should be able to choose whatever toys they like.”

Me, meanwhile, I’m standing quietly nearby. I’m not generally the sort of person to make a scene, even when I believe something is wrong. I’m more likely to think outraged thoughts and unload later to someone I know will be on my side. Maybe, if I’m really upset, I might write a very firmly worded email.

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Certainly, as a child, I would never have dreamt of standing up to an adult. All adults were to be respected, especially at school.

I can remember, as a five-year-old, being so terrified of the school principal that I burst into tears when she spoke to me. As a six-year-old, when the principal accused me of some misdemeanour (I think it was putting my feet on the bus seat), I admitted to it, even though I wasn’t guilty, just because I was too afraid to tell her she was wrong.

I was so timid and compliant. I would have been a prime candidate for abuse.

Parents are raising kids to be more confident in themselves. Photo via iStock.

Kids today are different. They don’t fear adults. They see adults as equals. I know this enrages a horde of bitter, balding, middle-aged men, hunched over their computers, banging out furious online comments, but I think it’s fantastic.

It’s the way that we, as parents, bring them up. We treat them fairly. We let them say what they think. We listen to them. We explain things to them. Their opinion counts (even though we get to have the final say).

Sure, it can be frustrating, and time-consuming, and there are times we want to just snap, “Because I said so, okay?” But there’s a pay-off.

We’re raising kids who can think for themselves and have the confidence to speak up. We’re raising them to expect fair treatment for themselves and for others.

Respect for elders? That’s gone. But just maybe our fearless, outspoken kids will make the world a better place.

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