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My thoughts on children’s right to participate

I’d like to make it clear that even though I write about parenting and family life, I do not claim to be an expert. I share family experiences and some of my parenting styles that worked or didn’t work for me. You can take what you like and leave the rest.

A few years ago, a group of bright UP students requested an interview on my parental views and experiences on the Children’s Right to Participate. I didn’t have time to research about Children’s rights before the interview but I read up on it after I arrived home. Below is the UNICEF’s Children’s Right To Participate .

Children’s Right to Participation Right to Participation Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) embodied a set of provisions to protect the child’s right to participate. As you can see, CRC stipulates the child’s right to express a voice in decisions affecting his or her life but it guards such rights by certain conditions that guarantee that the outcome represents the best interest of both the child and society. Although it states that the child has the right to freedom of expression, it should not infringe on other rights or contradict the national order.

As a child of very old-fashioned parents, “The Right to Participate” was unheard of at home. An important decision like my college course was chosen by my mother. My choice of school was decided by her too which turned out to be one of her best decisions. Really, as kids of the seventies, we barely had a voice. Raising an opinion automatically branded me as a disrespectful child.

Parenting teens in the late nineties exposed me to a whole new world of parenting. In the course of the interview , I looked back at the past and felt that I did give them a few instances of their right to participate.

1. Respecting children’s views means that such views should not be ignored; it does not mean that children’s opinions should be automatically endorsed.

Expressing an opinion is not the same as taking a decision, but it implies the ability to influence decisions. A process of dialogue and exchange needs to be encouraged in which children assume increasing responsibilities and become active, tolerant and democratic. In such a process, adults must provide direction and guidance to children while considering their views in a manner consistent with the child’s age and maturity.

I say, “Give them informed decisions”. One example is my daughter’s desire to enter Ateneo a few years ago. I told her to go to UP instead which didn’t augur well for her at first. See, we had financial challenges back then. I often give two sets of scenarios taking into account my child’s opinion and stating the pros and cons.

Option 1 : Attend Ateneo but I am not sure if I have the funds to last you till your Junior year.

Option 2– Attend UP and I guarantee you that I can pay for your tuition. UP education is just as good as Ateneo’s and even better.

My daughter chose Option 2 . A few months after in UP, she told me that she is very happy with UP and can’t imagine herself in Ateneo. She graduated in 2009 and guess what? Her tuition for four years of college is equivalent to one semester in Ateneo.

Through this process, my child gained an understanding of why particular options are followed, or why decisions are taken that might differ from the one she favored.

2. The children’s right to participation as outlined in article 12 is closely linked to freedom
of expression.

It is also related to fulfilling the right to information, a key prerequisite for children’s participation to be relevant and meaningful. It is in fact essential that children be provided with the necessary information about options that exist and the consequences of such options so that they can make informed and free decisions.

You know the old saying, “children should be seen not heard” but I have never believed in that. I love hearing my children talk and banter but what I wasn’t prepared for was expression of emotions. You know, I was a controlling mother in their early teens so I didn’t know better. Maybe out of frustration, one daughter says ” You just don’t understand” and a gamut of emotions start spilling out. I soon learned to just let them express their frustration, anger, disappointment knowing that it too shall pass.

My Children’s right to participate is best shown when they enjoyed the freedom to choose their college course, to choose between a home and a condo for our permanent residence, to choose their own decorations for their room and so much more.

Kids are so much luckier these days. They have speedy access to information and given more rights to to speak, participate and decide. The child has the right to be ““heard” during all types of activity. This means that adults are listening, observing and respecting the child’s viewpoints when she is speaking, gesturing, playing, creating, and choosing.

But you know what my kids say after weighing in the options and seeing my point?

I hate it when you’re right mom.

7 thoughts on “My thoughts on children’s right to participate”

  1. during our time it wasn’t the norm to have kids have a say. my folks tried to balance things. my dad said it was machiavellian. whatever that meant. but it was a balance of love and fear. we would listen to my dad and talk to my mom.

    cookies last blog post..WS : MV Doulos

  2. Now that my kids are older (one a teenager, the other a tweener), I know the value of listening to your child’s voice. It’s good to exchange ideas that will help them decide on things this early. I guess, I’m also lucky that I belong to the generation where parents are more modern. 🙂 Good post, Noemi, thanks for sharing!

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