Sunday, March 12, 2017

Childism: Can We Please Stop Referring to Babies as Half People?

"Two and a half?" the waitress asked, after my husband, our baby, and I entered the restaurant.

I chuckled. Because she meant it as a joke and I was being polite. I don't want to be one of "those people" the world is rolling their eyes at because I'm too sensitive or take things the wrong way. But after a year of hearing this joke, I don't think I'm overreacting. I get that this is "just" a joke. Many family and friends and strangers have made this joke, and I'm not angry with any of you. You don't mean to play into childism, but you do. So here's my gentle plea to stop referring to babies as less than a whole people.

What is childism? 

First of all, let's define childism since it's a relatively new concept. Childism is a prejudice or discrimination against a young person based on their age. (Just like sexism is prejudice/discrimation based on sex, racism is prejudice/discrimination based on race, and ageism is prejudice/discrimination based on mature age.)


What does childism look like? 

Childism looks like adults ignoring a child's attempt at adding to a conversation "because the adults are talking."

Childism looks like hitting a child in the name of discipline even though it's never okay to hit any other person.

Childism looks like making a child sit at the kids table during Thanksgiving even though the child feels more comfortable eating and talking with the adults.

Childism is forcing affection (hugs, kisses, etc.) even though it's never okay to force affection or touch on an adult.

There are endless examples, but at it's basic root, childism looks like treating a child with less respect than we would give an adult.


What if we treated other people the same way we treat children? 

Imagine you're talking with a group of friends, and another adult approaches and has something to add. Would you stop them and say, "Not right now. Go do something else. We're talking." No, right? Because it's dismissive, rude, and shows you don't value that person's thoughts. If you were that person being turned away, how would you feel?

Picture you're having a bad day. Maybe you're tired and hungry, so you snap at someone or forget to take your coffee mug into the kitchen. So, to show that you need to be kinder or more responsible, someone hits you. Not okay. Never okay.

Your Uncle Harvey comes over and, for whatever reason (any reason at all), you don't want to hug him. You tell him no, but he wraps his arms around you anyway to hold you against your will. When he lets you go, you're upset, but everyone else in the room tells you not to be so rude. That's so messed up.

Now let's go back to the restaurant scenario. Let's call a woman half a person. Let's call a black person only half a person. Let's call Great Grandpa half a person. "Two and a half of you?" No one would chuckle. We'd be outraged. We'd talk to the manager and take our business elsewhere because sexism, racism, and ageism are unacceptable.

Yet it's okay and even funny to do this to young people? I do get the joke. Babies are small and cute. They can't talk yet. They'll throw more food than they eat, and they think fart noises are funny. But...none of these things make babies less than a whole person. This joke is a tiny tip of a giant iceberg called childism.

So just like I did in the restaurant yesterday, if someone asks me, "Two and a half?" I'll say, "No, three of us."



More on Childism

If you're interested in furthering your understanding, some other bloggers I love talk about childism too. Check out their posts!

"Childism: Not a Call to Action, Just a Beginning" by Our Muddy Boots

"We Need to Talk about Childism" by Happiness is Here

Spotlight on Childism: the Uncomfortable Truth about Mainstream Parenting by Bespoke Parents; Unique Kids


Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts in the comments and check out my Facebook page for more on crunchy momming with faith, gentleness, and boobs!

22 comments:

  1. Childism? Oh please! We already have ageism and sexism and racism. Let's concentrate on combating those first before rushing out to invent a whole new thing to get offended over. Sheesh.

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    1. Anonymous, I can't think of a better way to combat ageism, sexism, and racism than to raise a generation of people who inherently appreciate a person's worth regardless of differences than to raise that generation to feel worthy and respected regardless of THEIR differences. There's one reason we absolutely should fight childism.

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  2. I am a bit mixed on this one but I love that you made me think this morning!

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    1. Thinking is always good. :) Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Thanks for this Food for Thought! Certainly the list of "What does Childism Look Like" is something that I have thought about before and work diligently to avoid as a parent... but I hadn't considered the "and a half" as being part of this issue. I more considered the "and a half" as a cute way to tell the hostess at a restaurant that we don't need an extra large booth for a full body because my children are small... so they only take up about half the space... we can squeeze into a smaller table... I will definitely consider my use of language in the future!

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    1. Yeah, I totally see how someone would use it in that way. I think that's what people's harmless intentions are. But it still might send kids a message that they're less.

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    2. Maybe it would be an opportunity to teach your children about the subtlety of language, if they take it that way when it's not intended that way. A child will certainly need to learn that sometimes people say things that accidentally push their buttons, but aren't meant offensively at all. The child must learn to own their own "buttons" and not try to make others responsible for them. As must we, of course.

      I mean, I take it you agree that children must be taught things, and that in that sense they are in fact less than adults? As your baby grows into a toddler and then a preschooler you'll find they are very concerned with their own growing process, and that feeling that they are less than adult is a key driver for them developing themselves towards adulthood, learning to go potty, learning to stay dry at night, learning to cope with their emotions, learning to use knife and fork, learning arithmetic, and so on. A child knows that they are not an adult yet, and it's probably quite important to reinforce that for them if you want them to develop normally. I'm not sure how this childism theory helps with that. Like, if the adults are talking and the child interrupts, that's rude, that's not laudable behaviour, and it shouldn't be encouraged. If the child wishes to join in to an adult conversation, they must do so on the terms of adult conversations.

      Totally with you on forced intimacy/hugs/etc. though.

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  4. This is an interesting concept. I don't have kids and I'm not around them much but I do try to be aware of the impact my words and actions have on them, when I am around them. If I ever do have kids I hope I don't belittle them and their existence by using any of the 'childism' things. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

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    1. If you do have kids, I'm sure you'll do great! You already sound so respectful of children. :)

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  5. It is easy to treat children difrent the other people because of their size. But your right, we need to be better at remembering that they are not any less then us just because they are kids.

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  6. ejnosillA/RedefiningHERstoryJune 18, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    When I first read the title I chuckled. I had no idea what a half person was and I guess I never heard of anyone referring to a child in that manner. Also, I thought your blog post was interesting but I would have to disagree with some of your above mentioned points. I am a member of the old school club and I believe that children should be treated as children and not little adults. I think when we as adults allow children to cross that line and allow them to think that they are on our level... then that is opening up the door for disrespectful behaviors to walk in... Just Saying!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree that we shouldn't treat children as little adults. They're definitely not adults. :) Treating children with respect is a different ball game, in my opinion.

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  7. I have mixed feeling about this. I've never really given it a lable before. I try to treat my children with the respect that I would like to be given. We do not spank and try to include them in our conversations as much as possible. Just because they are not grown ups yet doesn't mean they don't have something to contribute.

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    1. Exactly! They have so much to contribute. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  8. Hmm I am not sure what I think about this, but I absolutely believe that children are such a gift and should be 100% valued and respected. Thanks for getting people thinking!!

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  9. Just one more thing to be offended about.
    No one says that joke as if they think the child isn't a whole or "real" person. The person who says it is actually going out of their way to recognize the child.
    Also- hitting as a form of discipline is actually playing into their mentality, it's using something they understand to get your point across. Children hit. They understand it is anger and frustration. They understand that it is an extreme means of getting attention. They understand hitting. Try "talking it out" to a dog, or a horse, or a lion. They do't understand. But they do understand brute force. you have to speak 'their language' if you want to get across to them.. the same can be said about children. They don't 100% understand you, and sometimes you need to speak a language they do understand.
    And lastly- if an adult rudely interrupted a conversation between other adults, and someone was annoyed by it... yeah, they would say shut up and go away we were talking and you were not part of the conversation. Especially if a stranger did it. Especially if this person had a RUDE habit of always butting in when they were not wanted or needed. By teaching children NOT to do this, we actually create better adults.
    Stop being an offended snowflake. Start raising better kids, since they are the only human beings you have control over.

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    1. The person- usually at a restaurant- who says "two and a half?" is actually going out of their way to recognize the child, to be funny, and to make you feel comfortable or better that they acknowledged your child. Because, you know, feelings are everything.

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  10. Please tell me this is sarcasm? If not this is an extremely unintelligent overreaction. When someone says "half" they mean small, tiny, or short. Not that they literally aren't a whole person.

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  11. Yes, for 16 years they learn at a very visceral level every day that society and the people they love condone predjudice, oppression and objectification (against themselves). So of course they learn predjudice, objectification and oppression against others is acceptable and indeed act out their past trauma against others. Alice Miller's For Your Own Good, or The Drama of Being a Child, do a good job of explaining the psychdynamics behind this. We all experience this, yet we all go on to commit and condone it.

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  12. See the book Childism: http://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300192407/childism; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the 'Children Act' legislation in Wales; as signs of hope.

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