When I say that the most distinctive feature of Taking Children Seriously is the idea that children should have the same freedom, rights, respect and control over their lives as adults, people understandably ask:
“Are you advocating children fending for themselves like adults?!”
“Clearly you have zero experience of children, let alone any like my two year old, or you’d know that that idea is completely insane. Can’t see my kid paying her way any time soon. What planet are you on?!”
“Are you saying that children are capable of surviving without help, like adults do?”
No, Taking Children Seriously does not mean children fending for themselves or earning their own living or leading the lives of adults. They very much need our love and protection, our care and attention, fun and play, support and vast amounts of engagement with their ideas and interests. They are not born able to survive and thrive without us.
Why is it that when I say that children should be in control of their lives, people hear “children should be left to fend for themselves”? If you are being guided up a mountain by an expert mountaineer, and you are a novice, and I say “you should be in control of you own life”, would that imply that your mountaineer guide should leave you to rot halfway up the mountain? Of course not.
If you need assistance, support, protection, or other things, that does not mean that you no longer have the same freedom, rights, respect and control over your life as other adults. When a brave soldier loses his limbs in war and then needs a lot of help for the rest of his life, does he lose his right to control his life? Of course not.
Does having the same rights, control, and freedom as others have imply that you must yourself earn your own living? If you are unemployed do you lose the right to control your own life? Of course not. If you are a stay-at-home dad dependent on your partner for financial support, does that give your partner the right to control you? Of course not.
If someone is so stupid and ignorant that we wonder how they manage in life, do we think that their lack of knowledge justifies us stripping them of the freedom, rights, and control over their life that we all have? Is there an exam that must be passed in order to have a vote? Of course not?
Very few of us (if any!) could survive entirely without any help from others. Without life-saving medications and medical interventions, many of us would die. Without shelter, warm clothes, and heating or the knowledge of how to make a fire (or in hot temperatures, sun-shielding and plenty of clean drinking water), we would die of exposure to the elements shockingly quickly. None of us really fend for ourselves. The few people capable of surviving entirely unaided write books about survival and make survival documentaries, and the rest of us read and watch in awe. Does that mean we do not have the same freedom, rights, respect and control over our lives as the survival experts, or that the survival experts get to rule the world? Of course not.
And actually, as in the past before medical and pharmaceutical advances, even the survival experts would likely die a lot younger than people typically die in our society as it is, because few people need no medical interventions and medications for their whole lives, and the environment the survival experts would be living in without any help would be much more dangerous than life in society. So the first time the survival expert gets a dangerous infection, it’s over. None of us really fends for ourself.
Only in the case of children do people think that needing support, protection, assistance, information and other things implies not having the same freedom, rights, respect and control over their lives as others.
See also, my Taking Children Seriously: a new view of children talk, either watch the video (recommended), or if you prefer, read the transcript.
Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘Children fending for themselves like adults?!’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/children-fending-for-themselves-like-adults/