Underestimating Children

Nine year old Sarah shares her reaction to President Obama’s speech to school children last week. She’s adorable, so go ahead and watch even if you fear that she’s just a brown shirt away from a subversive youth movement.

If you go through to the YouTube page, you’ll find some comments, one of which bears a bit of scrutiny:

awfulllll there is no reason for a 9 year old to have any comment on the president and his speech mostly because its probaly something there parent said. She doesnt pay health care she doesnt pay taxes she isnt 18 therefore she shouldnt have any sort of opinon on anything the president says or does.

im very sorry if i was to blunt

Wow. I knew you had to be 18 to vote, but this is the first I’ve heard that you needed to be 18 to have an opinion! This is the second time in recent days that I’ve encountered someone who seems to believe that children are robots of sorts that yield only to the programming you put into them. Keep them pristine and free from renegade code, and they will act just like you’ve designed them. Man, are these people ever in for a rude awakening.

As I’ve explained to my own kids, my success as a parent is based on whether they grow up to be productive well adjusted adults who are capable of making good decisions and adapting to a changing environment. Inasmuch as my parents couldn’t have possibly anticipated all the challenges I face in my life, I cannot anticipate theirs. I can’t reasonably program all those rules in, and if dogma is all my kids have to rely on, when faced with a novel situation, someone else will fill that void and tell them how to act. They will be sheep, and I will have failed.

It is a disservice to our children and to our society to keep them protected and isolated. As parents, teachers, and mentors our job is to provide protected age-appropriate “yards” in which our kids can explore the world in relative safety. But keeping them in the house until they are 18 and then sending them out the door is just insane. Kids are wiser and more capable then some might imagine. Underestimate them at your own peril.

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