Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Person Is A Person, No Matter How Small

Not too long ago, a friend was amusing themselves at Felicity's expense. As her mom, I was, understandably (internally) not happy, especially since, if you know Felicity, she is very shy and sensitive about such things and if she gets embarrassed, which she can do easily, she will quickly stop everything and hide. Fortunately, at the time, she was eating and didn't give this person a second thought as food came first. If she had understood, I know my Felicity, she would have stopped eating and either cried for me to hold her or tried to hide. Then I would have been vocally upset.

In speaking to someone about the incident, I was reminded that the friend is not used to being around small children and, while such a thing might very well have been met with a less than happy response by an adult, the possibility that a child might be more sensitive may not have occurred to this person. The potential ignorance certainly could make a difference but I wondered about the possibility that this person might never have said anything if Felicity had been an adult. Could it be that this friend felt such a thing could be said simply because she was a child, and a small one at that? Do people treat children in a condescending manner simply because they are children?

There is a children's show on Disney Channel called The Imagination Movers. It is about 4 men musicians who use their imaginations to come up with creative solutions to problems. The general concept is a fun and good one. My great dislike of the show are the actors/musicians who, in my opinion, overact to the camera. They ham it up simply because their audience is children. Children aren't that dense. They pick up pretty quickly on things. Personally, I find it insulting the way they seem to think they need to treat children just to make themselves understood. But, it raised the question for me, does society regard children in a condescending manner?

Personally, I've found that, no matter how small, you don't need to be condescending to children, it can be harmful to be condescending if they understand you are doing so, and your ends may even be met easier and better if you do not condescend. For example, I know sometimes, if I bark an order at Cecilia, I can get immediate resistance. But if I explain to her why I want her to do something, she is generally more compliant. Her comprehension of my thinking gives me credibility to her agreement of the request and she is more amenable if I treat her like a person of equal thinking and understanding.

It is true that sometimes children require some extra consideration. When my dad strained a muscle in his knee, telling Cecilia that Grandpa strained something wouldn't mean anything to her. But telling her that Grandpa has a boo-boo she understands. However, putting things in terms children can understand is not the same as talking down to them. Speaking to them in a way they can understand is a charity that lifts them up to your understanding. Treating them in a condescending manner is unloving, emphasizing the gap between their understanding and yours.

Obviously, in the case of the unborn, society doesn't even regard children as necessarily worthy of life. Is it logical, then, that society would regard children as lesser beings than adults? While children have always been taught to respect their elders, children have not always been treated as expendable or as an accessory as society today seems to regard them with on-demand abortion and tailor-made children implanted from petri dishes and planned around financial statements the way people might plan buying a car.

Children may not understand everything the way an adult does and they may be smaller; they may not understand some things at all or they may be completely helpless, but the Golden Rule applies no less to them than it does to any adult. They bear the exact same human dignity and divine seal of the Image of God that every adult does and are just as worthy of the same considerations for their dignity and self-respect that adults demand for themselves.


  1. Perception is a funny thing. What you perceive as condescending is more likely just bad acting. The Movers aren't trained actors by any means. I suggest if you haven't looked into who the Movers really are and their motivations for creating the show, you might want to check out, or just Google them.
    One of the things they strive not to do is talk down to children just because they are children.

  2. It might be bad acting, but I'd be curious to know if they would act the same if their audience was composed of only adults.

    Per your suggestion, I did read about them on their website. They seem to have noble intentions, and maybe I missed it, but I did not read anything to suggest that they "are" children. From the website, they certainly all seem to be decent guys and I am thrilled to read that 3/4 of them have kids. It makes me wonder, do they make the same exaggerated facial expressions to their kids? I love the idea of the show and some of the things they come up with, but the exaggerated facial expressions can get over the top.

    Recognizing a name in your email address to be the same as Mover Dave, I will say that I do not think all 4 of them do it to the same degree. In fact, 2 seem to do it much more than the other 2 (Dave being among the pair who do not do it so much). If they are genuinely not trying to condescend to kids, maybe Disney could invest in some acting lessons?

  3. I think there is a natural tendency to consider someone who is exactly like myself (my age, gender, race, class, etc.) to be the pinnacle of human and to see people as less and less human the further they get from that ideal. Natural, and wrong. Thing is that today we are not told it is wrong to consider someone nearly not human because he is very young or very old -- in some circles, that's considered bioethics.

    I think condescending to children is usually a product of laziness, it's a lot easier to pat someone on the head and look away than it is to turn enough attention on them to have a real conversation. I'm sure I'm guilty of it myself.

    Good post.