A good rule of thumb

Isn’t it funny how some things might seem so obvious to us, and yet it appears that someone else simply cannot get their head around it? No, it’s not always funny. Sometimes it’s actually infuriating. That’s why I would like to emphasize a general rule that may be new to some people – it is the idea that kids really really are equally deserving of respect as any adult would be.

I am not here to tell other parents how to raise their children, but perhaps I could share a few reminders to everyone interacting with children who are not their own. Please know that being a neighbour or a passer-by who interacts with a child a few times per year does not qualify you as being in a close relationship, and that the following is NOT an appropriate nor respectful behaviour towards a child:

  • Touching a child’s face (do you let strangers on the metro touch your “cute nose” or “chubby cheeks”?).
  • Forcing a kiss or a hug when the child’s body language clearly shows tension and refusal (if you so badly need a hug, find a tree!).
  • Lifting up their ballerina skirt and commenting about how it is “so adorable that the chunky thighs are touching” (I can’t believe I just typed this).
  • Grabbing the toy a child is holding or insisting that they give it to you (I’d love to see how you would deal with a stranger on the street trying to get the iPhone out of your hands).
  • Lifting them off the ground – especially from behind – without asking if they want to be lifted or even as much as a warning (yes, you would scream too!).
  • Wiping a child’s nose without asking first (I would suggest that perhaps parents can be left to deal with that – I’ve written more on snotty matters here).
  • Making up nonsense to “correct” a child’s behaviour – ex. “Don’t put the fingers in your mouth or your teeth will fall out” (actual quote).
  • Trying to convince a child that they are being unreasonably scared of your dog (have you seen what your dog actually looks like to someone who is under a meter high?).
  • Speaking about the child in front of them as if they are not there – ex. “She’s a bit fussy today, no?” (they can hear you and will ask their parents about what “fussy” means when you leave).
  • Making “funny” threats about how you are about to steal the child’s snack from them (the image of that happening on the metro between strangers is actually quite funny, but – no).
  • Insisting on getting a child to interact with you when they have their face buried in their parent’s chest or legs (it is a clear gesture they don’t even want to see you, let alone answer your questions).

Maybe it gets a bit confusing because children are so small and cute, and the temptation to get near their delightful energy is just too much to resist. But I would say a good rule of thumb is – if you wouldn’t do something to a teenager or an adult that you are not very very close with, just don’t do it to a baby or a kid. Because really – where do you draw the line? And with the rest of it, when in doubt – ask for permission first and pause to hear, see or sense the answer.

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