Commandment 2 of Rights-Based Communication with Children: Give them the respect their individuality deserves

Children are not to be treated as dirt. They are created with dignity of human person. One of the greatest possessions they came to this world with is dignity. It is the responsibility of their custodians to preserve same if children must live a meaningful life. What is dignity? It is defined as ‘the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect.’

I must hasten here to say that one of the tested ways to bring out the dignity of children is to treat them with the respect their individuality deserves. The individuality of a child is a function of his humanity and not necessarily a function of age. When we do not respect our children, it has three consequences: the first is that they will not respect us. It is a trite and acceptable saying that respect begets respect. If we do not respect our children, we must not expect them to respect us. The second is that they will not respect themselves or carry themselves with respect. The third is that they will not demand respect when they deserve it or they will not even know when they are being disrespected.

In communicating with our children, we must identify elements of respect with the aim of preserving their dignity of human person. Permit me to identity the following as elements of respect:

I.            Courtesy:  It is important we are conscious of our manners when communicating with our children. There is no better way to teach them manners than by example. The most effective of all examples that our children will follow is the way we treat them. Words like ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘please,’ and many more should be used when communicating with our children.  ZIG ZIGLAR Submits on Manners: Psychiatrist Smiley Blanton says that roughly 80% of all of the counseling he does is the direct result of parents not having taught their children manners.  He emphasizes that he is talking about more than table manners; he’s talking about the whole spectrum of deportment and civility.  That’s significant because the record indicates that most top executives in any field of endeavor are courteous, thoughtful people… old-fashioned courtesies, including, “Yes, Sir,” “Yes, Ma’am,” “Thank you,” “Please,” and other expressions of good civility and deportment… Just in case you’re thinking, “But that’s old-fashioned and people don’t do those things any more,” of course, you’re right in both cases—which is the reason why the people who do take that approach stand out like beacons in the dark as they move to the top.  Think about it.  Be courteous yourself.  Teach your children to be courteous and I’ll SEE all of you AT THE TOP!’

II.            Have respect for their time: this may sound like an abomination in this part of the world. I should have respect for the time of my child. I think depending on the nature of the communication, it may be important to respect the time of the child, even if it has to do with chastisement. For example, a child returns from school, he has the plan to eat his lunch and attend to his homework. As he is about to finish his lunch, his father or mother strolls in and demands to talk to the child immediately. In most cases, depending on the age of the child and his relationship with the parent, he is not likely to say anything than to obey. In some cases, where the child speaks out, he is likely to be told ‘to obey the last order.’

Now, here is my point, we can interrupt our children’s plan, depending on the nature of the matter, but it must not be the standard way we relate with them. There are some matters; we may need to deal with, which will be overtaken by time if we do not deal with it immediately. This must be known to our children as an exception and not the rule. The rule must be to have respect for their time. For example it may be important to ask the child depending on his age what his schedule is and be ready to give attention to it.

When we do that, we are introducing the child to an orderly ways of doing things. When we interrupt the child’s schedule including the time to play, read, eat, have a siesta and all simply because we want to have a talk with them and we cannot wait just because we are their custodians and they must always dance to our tunes, we are not only damaging their sense of order, we are killing their self worth. I admonish us to respect their schedule and find a respectful way of working ourselves into their schedule. In most cases these schedules are even created by us or the institutions we registered them in like institutions of learning.

III.            Choose the appropriate place of communication: there are places, which are conducive for communication as there are places that are not. I do not think it is right to chastise a child for his wrong in the presence of all, except in some cases when we want to create a precedents of behaviour for the observing others to follow. And even in such cases, we have to be very careful not to rob the child of his dignity and self-worth in the name of chastisement. It is important that if the matter at hand is not urgent that we find an appropriate place to hold discussions with our children. This we must do to protect their privacy and dignity. Besides, the environment of a discussion also aids it effectiveness.

IV.            Use clean and encouraging words: Please note that being one-on-one with a child does not immune his psyche against abusive words. There is no level of misbehavior that will qualify a child for emotional abuse, that is, use of uncomplimentary words. Psychologists have told us that for every one wrong world, we say to a child, we need seventeen to correct it. We must be careful. That is why when it comes to chastisement, we must not correct a child when we are angry because when we are angry, we communicate nothing but anger.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.

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One comment

  1. Can a parent abuse their child?
    Child-abuse is not a very new phenomenon. According to Odu Bimbola Kemi and Bosede Funmilola in International Journal for Cross Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 2, Issue, 1 March, 20111, child abuse consists of any act or failure to act, that endangers a child physical emotional health and development.

    The responsibilities of parent as well as those of the state are well defined in those documents. For instance, Articles 31, 32 and of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2003 state in part that:
    “the child has the right to rest, leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities…the child has the right to be protected from work threatens his or her health, his or her physical, mental, spiritual moral or social development as well as his or her education…the child has a right to protection against all forms of exploitations not covered in articles 32, 33, 34 and 35”.

    Here, the parents/guardians have the unique responsibilities of ensuring that the child observes relaxation at appropriate intervals at home, is protected from anything that threatens his or her existence (such as exploitative work) and also participates in socio-cultural activities in the community. By this parameter, it is obvious that most parents and guardians have failed in their statutory responsibilities towards the child. The 2005 Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Crime and Development in Africa shows “300,000 children are taken from their homes in West Africa each year and into domestic slavery(, 2006).

    Sometimes, caregivers and people in ‘locus parentis’ to children also abuse their children. They do this sometimes unconsciously and unintentionally. However everyone should come to this consciousness that CHILDREN ARE A RARE AND UNIQUE GIFT OF NATURE WHICH MUST BE TREASURED ALWAYS.

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