By Laura Young, Youth Advocate at Umbrella
Adultism. Do you know what that word means or have you heard it used before? I did not before I became an advocate. See, adultism is a form of ageism (ageism is defined as a discrimination against a specific age group). More often than not, ageism is talked about in terms of discrimination against the elderly. In fact, the dictionary makes no mention of the word “adultism”. However, unlike racism, homophobia, gender or disability discrimination (etc.), adultism is a discrimination we all have experienced at some point.
Do you remember what it was like to feel little? To feel ignored? To feel like your opinion wasn’t valued or that you, as a child were of lesser value then an adult? Honestly, I would be surprised if you did not remember that feeling. Adultism is so engrained in our culture it is second nature and pervasive in so many areas of life. Adultism influences even how our bathrooms are constructed (children often can’t reach the sink, nor can they get on the toilet without assistance!)
Do you remember a time you wanted to talk about something that mattered to you and you were told “children are to be seen, not heard?” Do you remember getting hurt-really hurt physically and being told “you’re okay” or “it did not really hurt”? Was there a time where you were forced to participate in an optional activity even though you did not want to simply because your parent enjoyed or appreciated it? Or how about that time that Grandma insisted on kissing you even when you did not want to kiss her?
These are just a few examples of adultism in our culture. Now, I am not saying that children should never have any basic responsibilities, nor am I saying that a child has never made up being sick or hurt before. I am simply saying that as a culture we automatically devalue a child’s ability to choose, to speak, to feel pain and to have the right to their own body etc. Part of our work as caring members of society needs to evaluate how we, individually and as a community, treat children.
So how can we fight against adultism? Here are a few ideas (some ideas have a link to another site to discuss in more detail why each idea is important and how to go about the idea):
These are just a few things that you can do to help fight against adultism. There are many other ways that we can challenge society’s perspective on children. Children are a gift and deserve all of our respect and care!