Monday, 24 January 2011


I was on the bus the other day with my son and a woman standing next to me pinched his cheek. He didn't like it. When she leaned over to do it again I looked at her and said: 'Please don't do it again. He doesn't like it'. I got 'the look' from most people who heard what I said...

Imagine, though, that it is a slightly different scenario: I was on the bus the other day with my husband and a woman standing next to me pinched his cheek. He didn't like it... I find it hard to even finish the story without it sounding ridiculous in my head.

I started wondering why is it that some people feel free to do things to babies they would not dream of doing to ... other people? It is probably especially visible with regards to strangers - I don't think anyone would ever stroke, touch, poke, pinch (the list goes on) another person on the bus. Unless that person is a baby. Why is it then? Is a baby not a person?

This goes along with all the thoughts on interrupting babies (see Janet's, Nadine's) - I don't think anyone would want to (seriously!) interrupt me while I'm trying to work something out, but I constantly see people picking up babies, who are clearly in the middle of something, without a word of warning leaving them with their mouth wide open... this also goes along with all the thoughts on talking and informing your child on what you're doing - I can't imagine anyone getting up and leaving a room full of people looking at him without a word (how rude would that be), but we constantly do it to babies and wonder why they're upset...

I think this goes along with having our world clearly divided into 'children' and 'people'. And I think I finally understand what Janusz Korczak might have meant when he said: "There are no children; there are people' (although I'm sure he meant much much more that just that).

So when do we start treating children as people? When they start walking? Talking? Go to school? Leave the house? When we need their help?

In our road through parenting so far I think what has helped us immensely in treating our son with the respect he deserves as a person, was to always ask ourselves: would I do it to another adult? And yes, children are not adults, they are different in more way than we can count. But they are also similar in more ways than we are normally aware of.

This might be a bit more thinking than a simple pinch on the cheek should get, but I have found that respecting a baby is often not the most natural thing to do. And respect is most definitely something we all deserve.


  1. Thank you for this clear and direct article.
    It seems that in general children are not treated with respect.
    -Magdalena Palencia

  2. This could totally describe my trip to the playground yesterday. My two-year-old was busy trying new things, stretching his limits (under my watchful eye), and other adults kept coming up and "helping" him climb this or get down from that. I got the "look" from them too, and others, when I said something.

    I've only recently learned all the ways I can respect my children, though, so I understand . . . but it's completely changed the way I look at everything they (and I) do.

  3. oh, Mama Eve, I know - it's hard. I think what has helped me so far is just trying to think: would I be happy if someone did this to me? But this again requires the 'stop and think' moment, and it's just not always there, at least for me this is the hardest part I guess.
    And you're so right - it changes how you look at children, but also at yourself!

    I love your website, by the way :)

  4. Oh, wow, how I love this post. We do need to be more mindful of the respect we should show our babies and children. You are right, I do not think it comes natural. But...boy, it would really make a difference :)

  5. Wow. I think we are really in sync on this. I have a post I just moved to my child-focused website, and I think you might enjoy it. I watched a toddler be plucked out of his own experience over and over and I had to write about it in the end, it was so difficult to be near. I came up with a hypothesis that helpless rage gets its origins in these early childhood experience. (I'm a therapist, so I think about things like that in my free time).
    Check it out if you like:

  6. Melissa, Thank you I appreciate your comment - yeah, it takes training I think, but oh my it's so worth it right?

    Miven - thanks! I have just been checking out your website..I was wondering the other day how much experiences like this have impact on how we are as adults (and I think it is, in an interesting way, helping me understand why I am the way I am...). You probably know so much more about this and I would love to talk to you more!

    oh, would it be ok to put a link to your website on here? I think some people would enjoy finding it...

  7. Great post! This also goes along with children being told to hug adults they do not wish to hug, including grandparents. I will share this with the readers of Parenting News, our free weekly e-zine, in the February 8 issue with a link to your post. Thanks!
    Maggie Macaulay, MS Ed

  8. Thanks Maggie! Yes, I was also thinking about that...and about how kids are silenced in a lot of ways. 'Come on, give auntie a kiss' 'I don't want to' 'Oh that's soooo sweet, hahaha (and inevitably a kiss follows)....

    Thanks for sharing this as well!

  9. I know I'm a bit late in finding it, but this is such a wonderful post!

    The expectations to perform, like Maggie mentioned, are huge on my mind lately, too. With grandparents especially, I find myself clenching my fists a lot when I hear, "Do a dance for us!" "Sing us a pretty song." "Talk to me!" etc. I have yet to work out a way to respond that wouldn't be thoroughly hurtful and offensive, but then I find this treatment of my daughter offensive as well.

    It really is amazing the things that people feel comfortable doing and saying to children. I recognize that they really mean well and are generally extremely kind-hearted people, it's not their fault that they're the product of a cultural mindset that fails to respect children as individuals worthy of our respect.

  10. Melissa, Thanks for the comment - you know what though, I have to say that I have to work REALLY hard sometimes not to do these things as well...even though I think about them so much - somewhere deep down, when Antek does something cool I have to struggle not to call my husband and go:' come on, do it again, daddy hasn't seen it yet...' I think we all are a product of our culture, in one way or another, and I always remind myself that people are not out there to do things that would purposefully disrespect my son. And finding a good way of responding to them is one way of respecting them as individuals, the culture that shaped them, just like it shapes us all.

    Thanks for readng and commenting...