Whether we’ve read Anne of Green Gables or we’ve been told about it by our parents or grandparents, we’ve all heard about the old parenting philosophy that children should be seen and not heard. It’s certainly a bit stifling but with the newer ideas we’ve kind of thrown the baby out instead of the bathwater. Like all traditional ideas, it has its merit, even if it’s not the optimal approach.
The Virtues of “Seen and Not Heard”
Whenever you’re considering whether an abandoned idea should be readopted, adapted, or forgotten, you must consider why it was created in the first place. Anyone who’s spent time with children know that they can be quite rambunctious and noisy, which would be very disruptive to the adults who are trying to have a conversation. It’s also easy to become unconcerned with children’s happiness when you have ten of them and there’s a good chance several of them won’t live to adulthood. However its best point is that it teaches boys the stoicism and girls the poise they should have as adults.
Our Current Ideas
We seem to have adopted the belief that children are some sort of miniature master race. We cater to them and even use disciplinary philosophies that can never be replaced by something more mature, like an honour system. So often parents refuse to punish their children or even deny their wishes. We coddle our children and risk them growing up to believe the world revolves around them, literally and metaphorically. We’ll even reject academic standards to protect their self esteem, something I may have found a solution to. We teach them etiquette that either puts them first or denies them the right to agency, rarely anywhere in between.
The Rightful Successor
So if the old ideas are wrong and the new ideas are wrong, then what should we do? We need to find the balance. We need to adapt adult etiquette to children’s nature. We should teach children to respect the use of all spaces at all times. They can make plenty of noise wherever they’re expected to play but seen and not heard stands where the adults are having a conversation. Every time we’re considering a parenting decision we should ask ourselves “would a child need to reject this lesson to become a healthy adult?” If they will, then it’s the wrong decision. We should adapt but never contradict adult etiquette, and put reality ahead of identity or self esteem.