The Rights of children

Replied to On the Rights of the Child, Part I by Talia Lavin (The Sword and the Sandwich)

As of this writing, every U.N. member state has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child but one: the United States.

I didn’t know about this, but it makes sense: American parents generally seem pretty controlling of their children, on both ends of the political spectrum. On the left, helicopter parenting kids into endless activities that look good on college applications, and on the right, denying kids information about safe sex and gender. Both approaches are about the parent’s idea of what they believe will set their kid up for future success and happiness. Both happen because the parent believes they know better than their kid. Both are about control, coercing children with the fear of failure and lifelong misery.

The idea that children have rights that require enshrining separately from those of their parents is not a winning proposition in this country… In lieu of the rights of the child, the right has developed a parallel but opposing movement: the campaign for “parental rights.”

“Parental rights” obviates the notion that society has a collective responsibility to secure the welfare of children… As construed by the American right wing, “parental rights” is the most milquetoast way of expressing absolute ownership by parents over children—that children are, in fact, their parents’ property, subject to absolute control, and not accountable to any standard outside the nuclear family unit.

It doesn’t seem like it should be controversial that children should not be beaten or abused, that they should get the medical treatment that they need, that they should get a quality education and have access to information. And yet these are all things the parental rights movement protests: they are scared that giving children these rights would mean they cannot raise their children to be what the parent wants them to be. That they will lose control over their children — and thus over society.

This reminds me of seeing teenagers treated as though they were eight — their parents are the masters of the house and won’t listen to their kid’s preferences — then the day they turn eighteen they’re considered adults. They’re deprived any practice in increasing autonomy or responsibility when the consequences of mistakes are low. Sometimes, these kids go wild (and accidentally harm themselves) when they leave home for college or the army, the first time they finally are able to choose for themselves.

See also:

The tactic of destroying the meaning of words

Unite Against Book Bans

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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