A young mother who identified herself as a practitioner of "attachment parenting" recently told me that "children should be approached with reverence."
I told her I disagreed. Adults should not make idols of children, I said.
That helps no one, especially the children in question. I proposed instead that adults should approach children with compassion, love and respect. She didn't think there was a difference, but the difference is night and day.
Children need compassion for the fact that they are inclined, by nature, to choose anti-social behavior over pro-social behavior. That is why they need corrective discipline from compassionate, loving, respectful adults.
Until such discipline is delivered and begins to "stick," it can accurately be said that children truly "can't help it" when they misbehave - they were "born that way."
Children need adults in their lives who have tremendous respect for their needs and equal amounts of compassion for the fact that they don't know what their needs are. Furthermore, children rarely want what they truly need.
It is the responsibility of adults who respect a child's potential for creative adulthood to give children all of what they need and little of what they simply want.
What are their needs then? Here's a short, but far from comprehensive, list:
Children need to be contributing members of their families. Therefore, they need to be assigned daily household chores for which they are not paid. This is the stuff of family membership.
Children need adults who allow their brains to grow and develop naturally without much interference from television and other forms of electronic media.
Children need to be told to eat what is on their plates not because it is good for them but because it is rude to refuse to eat something someone, even one of your parents, has spent time and energy preparing for you. This very civilized lesson begins at home, at the family table.
Children need adults in their lives who value and promote proper character traits over academic and athletic skills. One of the most important of all character traits is "do your best at all time." It does not matter if you are not as good as someone else in some area. What's important is that you do what you are capable of doing, and no less.
Children need adults who confront them when they misbehave - adults who calmly communicate that they will not tolerate anti-social behavior, even from a 2-year-old.