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The Children's Revolution
Tammy Cox, LMSW
The children of today are in revolution — especially in the United States!
This fact is evidenced by increases in gang wars, juvenile crime (even mass murder), teen pregnancy, school failure and dropout, open disrespect for adults, drug use, involvement in satanic cults, patricide, suicide and admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Other struggles in our society, such as the cold war, economic problems, racism and the women's movement have kept the children's revolution in the shadows, but we are becoming increasingly aware that we can no longer ignore what is happening with our young people. They will not let us!
The causes of the Children's Revolution are the same as for any revolution — feelings of being disrespected, disfranchisement, discouragement and disregard of basic human rights, especially that of self-determination.
Children are probably the very last beings on earth to demand basic human rights. But more and more, and at a younger age, they are demanding them. When their demands aren't heard, they all too often resort to destructive or self-destructive behaviors. We all pay a terrible price for the failure to listen to our children. The price is revenge, and children's revenge hurts us far more deeply than any other because it strikes at the very heart of every adult, parent or not, and puts us all in fear for our future.
We claim to live in a democratic society, but for children this is not true. They are all too quick to point out that they are allowed to fight and even die for their country, often before they can exercise basic rights that adults take for granted. In many homes, children feel that they have very little say in important family decisions, or even their own life choices. The schools, where they are supposed to be learning about democracy are still incredibly autocratic. How can we teach children about democracy when we continue to treat them in such an autocratic manner? We all learn best by experience, but we as a society have provided very few opportunities for children to experience democracy. The legal system, in spite of all the efforts to protect children's rights, violates their basic rights all the time. Even the most viscious adult criminals are afforded more legal rights than children.
We do not consciously or intentionally choose to be disrespectful to children and most of the time we are not even aware of it. But yet we treat children in ways we'd never get away with, or even think of, treating an adult. We speak to them in ways we'd never speak to a friend. We put constraints on them at school that we'd never get away with in the workplace. Try spanking an adult, even for their own good, and see how long it takes to get charged with assault. In some countries such as Sweden, it is against the law to ever hit a child. But, we in the United States are overwhelmingly invested in safeguarding the practice of corporal punishment even though research shows it is far less effective than other methods. Why? How does it serve us?
Books have been written, laws passed, task forces formed and studies made, trying to find solutions to the problems with today's youth. Yet in our arrogance, thinking we adults always know best, we have seldom taken the iniative to ask children, the ones most directly involved, for their input, viewpoints, feelings or suggestions. At it's best this is still a benevolent dictatorship where children are concerned.
The answers are simple — but not easy. If we have any hope of curtailing this devastating war, we adults, the ones with all the power, must recognize our resoponsibility and we must learn different ways of dealing with and being with the children in our society. We keep looking for ways to change them and exert more control over them, rather than focusing on what we might do differently. It also seems easier and preferable to put the blame out there — on the media, peer pressure, movies, music, etc. The last thing we want to do is look inward to discover what basic beliefs and behaviors we could change that would really make a difference. But, this is where the answers lie. For too long we have believed that we should control and manipulate children for their own good. Yet our hearts will tell us that treating children with the respect and honor we accord adults is the only way to win their true respect and cooperation. This is the way we must learn to treat children for their own good — and ours!
This article copyrighted by Tammy Cox, 2002
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