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.
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.
Parenting teens in the late nineties exposed me to a whole new world of parenting. Children’s rights are more protected now. My children are all adults now and as I look back during their growing years, I felt I did give them a few instances on 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 was 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. 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. Her tuition for four years of college is equivalent to one semester in Ateneo.
Through this process, my daughter 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 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 new home in 2007 or to choose their own interior 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.