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a Child vs. Telling Them Not to Interrupt
This story is from around 2001. Written by S. Hein
The other day I at the hostel I was sitting alone on the front porch when a young girl and her older sister came around the corner. They were laughing, smiling and playing. The younger girl was perhaps 5 years old and her sister in her early teens. I smiled at them and asked the teen what her sister's name was, where they were from etc. While we talking the younger sister was entertaining herself by climbing on things. Then she said something to her older sister. My eyes turned to her as I listened to see what she had to say. Her older sister also quickly turned her attention to the child. Which, without really thinking about it, pleased me, since so many adults will continue to talk when a child approaches them. Many will even tell the child not to interrupt. My philosophy is just the opposite, however, I believe the children come first and that when a child approaches it is generally better for the adults to stop talking and see what the child wants.
Something interesting happened to me once when I did this. I was in the home of a young, working class Australian couple and their two young children. While I was talking to the father one of the children came up and said something. I turned my attention to the child and responded to him. The father looked a little shocked but he let us talk. Later he said that wants to teach his children respect and that it was his belief that children should not interrupt when two adults are talking, but that since I was the guest of the home he didn't say anything to his son. I explained to him my belief that my idea of teaching respect was to show respect by listening to what the children had to say. I added that my belief is that children's needs come first and that my theory is if we give them lots of attention when they are little they won't try unhealthy ways of getting attention later in life. He didn't know quite what to say after that, but it was seemed clear to me that he found this to be a bit of an odd way to look at things!
2014 Note -- I want to add that when you direct your attention to a child, you help fill that child's emotional needs to feel important, valued, cared about as well as respected.
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