Sometimes, in conversation, children hit the nail right on the head. They come out with something that is an absolute truth, but one parents or teachers simply do not want to hear. They may ask parents why they get in trouble for yelling, yet the parents yell all the time. They may wonder why, if hitting is wrong, parents sometimes hit children. A child who is being reprimanded in class may ask why the “good” student in the class never gets reprimanded for doing exactly the same thing.
When caught off guard with these “zingers,” adults may deflect their discomfort back onto the child, becoming even more angry. However, those questions are very important to children, and are more than demonstrations of “attitude” or resistance.
Children have a very strong sense of justice. They see adults as the arbiters of what is fair and just. They look to them to resolve issues with siblings or peers, and trust them to uphold what is right.
If they see something that seems to them to be glaringly illogical or unfair, it is their curiosity about this striking anomaly that causes them to speak up. Of course they have a vested interest, and that makes them even more impassioned. However, even if the child is not directly involved, they may observe an adult interacting with another child, and make the same observations.
Children are smart. They know when they have nailed us, and if we just sweep their questions under the rug, they will lose respect for us, just as we do for politicians who beat around the bush. If we continue to uphold a double standard, we lose more than their respect—we lose the possibility of having an honest relationship with them, the opportunity to empower them, and a chance to be very honest with ourselves.
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