Treated Like a Child
I don’t think adults understand the complaint, “I’m being treated like a child.” I understand that youth are not ready for adult responsibilities (because they are not fully exposed to them, nor will anyone explain, not even in kiddy language until it’s almost time to leave) and that kids should have their reality-deprived childhoods before “the real world” sets in. In my view, and from what I’ve seen and heard, that statement actually goes toward disrespect that youth experience just because they are youth. We are interrogated for what we do, rather than being spoken to about it to figure out the real issues, for instance. Sure, youth do take things “lightly.” There are many things against youth that are understandable – we just DON’T know how crappy the struggles of life are. We just don’t realize how serious it is, you got us there. My problem, with this blatant ageism, is that many adults use our lack of experience against us – in harsh ways. Youth can be talked AT, slapped, hit, glared at, punished without investigation, locked in rooms or placed in corners (timeout), and it is okay, as long as there are no physical wounds. As long as there is no bloodshed, many adults think that this shame inducing abuse is called “discipline” and “child rearing.” Many parents respect this as the way to raise “responsible” adults in our democratic society, a society in which questioning practices for change, and reaching consensus and being fair is supposed to be the foundation of all things. I will be addressing these things, as well as the more extreme versions, emotional abuse, that many youth face in society. I know it’s foolish to speak for a whole group, but every youth that I’ve known has dealt with this. Even my own parents have dealt with this, and worse. I hear parents discuss their abusive actions with a sense of honor, dignity, or humor. I’ve seen adults physically discipline children. Many of my friends have been threatened and abused, just because youth are considered to be perceptually helpless and foolish until the age of 18, and even then, many people risk being faced with continual harassment and disrespect by their parents.
This is a matter of fear and the inability to handle emotions. Humans have not gotten over this hump, and I almost feel like I’m speaking in vain, knowing that governments justify abuse, murder, war and suffering all the time. Violence is still in our nature, and is justified as a solution all the time. However, I need to get these imbalanced relationships off my chest and bring them to light – somehow. It hurts. So just consider the following situation:
I had a rough time at my biology lecture today. I didn’t bring my book, so the professor made me stand in the corner for the first 10 minutes of the lecture. Students laughed, but she didn’t seem to notice them. I initially asked if I could take notes during my punishment, but she said that I should have known better. After that I sat down next to someone that didn’t want anyone near them I guess. They said, “Go somewhere else.”
“Why?” I asked. “It’s just a seat.”
“Well I said so. I don’t want you here, and you better get up and move.”
“No. I don’t under-”
“Did you hear what I just said?”
“I’m not moving,” I said, and that is when this guy slapped me on my arm.
“WHY CAN’T YOU LISTEN WHEN YOU’RE TOLD TO DO SOMETHING?” He shoved me, and then I moved away. For the rest of the lecture I felt unfocused. I was wondering what else would happen.
The rest of the day wasn’t so hot either. When I was at my study group, one of my peers didn’t like the way I was sitting. “Uncross your legs, you look so girly that way,” he said. I did, and the study session wouldn’t have been bad if I remembered the command. I dunno, I can’t help sitting this way right now. It’s just comfortable. Every time I crossed my legs, he’d slap the ruler we were sharing for our math sets down on the table. If he didn’t notice it, his girlfriend would take the ruler and do the same. “Feet flat on the ground. Learn to sit properly and appropriately. Be mature will you?” It was a little hard to focus on the lesson.
At my job, people don’t get fired, but we get in a lot of trouble for not doing what the manager or boss says. If we come with a complaint, our manager tells us not to be so whiny. We are told to be mature and stop complaining because people have it harder than us. “Some people don’t have jobs, so you should be grateful,” is the usual rhetoric. If a customer treats me poorly, then argues to see the manager, even if I know full well that the customer was disrespectful and there were witnesses, I get in trouble. Everyone remains silent as the manager comes out and just glares at me. The customer will get away scott free, and I will have to take time to do dishes, or some other task I wasn’t hired to do. If this happens once or more, then I am not allowed to have my first break. If I continue to make mistakes and not work according to the rules, my manager will send me to my boss, and my pay will be slightly reduced due to my bad behavior. Later on, when my paycheck comes in the mail and my boyfriend sees that my pay is reduced, he will not allow me to call my friends. He says this will teach me to be responsible and learn a lesson. Other times he will make me wash his car, or go and mow lawns for people to make up for the loss. He will keep this punishment until my paycheck level has risen back to normal.
One time I was crying in the college library. I was pretty hurt because I failed my exam and my professor yelled at me for not trying hard enough, and for not being grateful for all the time he spent teaching me, otherwise he feels I would have done better and cared. I was under a lot of pressure, and so I was bawling pretty loud. Many people in the library were staring or telling me to shut up and grow up. Soon the librarian came over after a few times threatening to send me to my dorm. He came over, yanked me by my shirt and forcefully ushered me out. Then he talked to me about how crying is not for boys. He told me that he doesn’t ever want to see me cry again. He let me go, then called my RA. When I got to my hall, my RA looked angry. He yelled at me to get in my dorm and not come out for anything thing other than to eat and shower, so that I could think about my disrespect. He said that if he caught me talking to anyone on my floor or in the kitchen, I would get in trouble. Still upset, I said I wanted to go for a walk instead. He wasn’t having it, and threatened to hide my favorite foods or disconnect my wireless network adapter if I didn’t listen to him. So I went inside. In my dorm, my roommate lectured to me about respect, consideration, and my grades. As a punishment he took all my toiletries out of my shower caddy and told me that until I get my grades up, I will have to carry these items by hand every time I needed to take care of myself. He said it would teach me to be responsible.
In all of these situations, you are an adult. This is how fellow adults treat you. You can consider this to be nitpicking and over-exaggerating, but I promise you, it isn’t an exaggeration. Parents and other adults really do belittle youth in this fashion, more often than not, jumping to assume the youth is irresponsible, rebellious, foolish, or disrespectful. To finish, here is a real example:
As I was walking home I saw a woman yell,”Thank You,” to her neighbors across the street, as they had just helped her get her sprinklers operating. It seemed like a pleasant scene until her children skipped outside toward her. I don’t know why, but she immediately changed and snapped at them, “Get back inside that house!” The boy and girl, especially the girl who was slightly older, didn’t understand why. They questioned her, but she kept commanding them to get inside. They ignored her, and she kept shoving some, and shooing, but they frolicked and walked around. She hit a little and pushed without getting too violent. “But I’m not tired,” the girl said. The mother managed to win. She had to grab the boy and pull him in as the girl stomped off, screaming.
And people wonder why youth have such fits of rage and treat parents with purported “disrespect.” I tried to think of some reasons to justify her behavior, but it was not appropriate to help them understand that she simply didn’t want to be bothered. seeing how they were indeed to young to understand her need, she could have just adjusted and let them run around a bit in the front and she could have sat on the porch until she was ready to go in. With kids, rather than expecting them to know what you want all the time or please you, you need to work around them and with them to work them into that understanding. This just put them under attack. So, if you treat your kids or any kids like this, then the shock is pointless.
The retort may be that I’m not a parent and that I don’t understand kids. I am not a parent, but I do understand that spontaneity is hard to deal with when you’re older. However, that doesn’t allow you to hop unto the quickest vent and hope that it will get youth in line. It won’t, it will just create oppression. If you’re not patient or emotionally stable enough to deal reasonably with these instances, then you should think twice about being in a situation in which you need to take care of or be around youth. It isn’t fair or wise to disrespect someone just because they are younger than you; just because you perceive them to be without power. These people are coming up into the world, and if that is their way of being raised, they could have serious emotional damage, and you could possibly just perpetuate the cycle of people abusing people and getting away with violence and intolerance. Such people are at risk of being used to being powerless, a terrible thing for a country that is supposed to be democratic and fair.
***Of course, not all parents and adults are like this toward youth.