Old Enough To Speak?

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Old Enough To Speak? | LazyHippieMama.comWalking the line between providing your children with a moral, ethical or cultural compass with which to function in society and allowing them the freedom to form their own opinions and be their own person can be tricky.

Some parents believe that it is the best course of action to try to present a neutral front at all times.  If a child asks, “Do you believe in God?” Or, “Which political party do you favor?” Or, “Is a capitalist or socialist system better for the average person?” they turn into Socrates and start turning their questions back on them. “What do you think? Why do you think that? Where do you think we could go to get more information?”  Those parents never give so much as a hint at what their own convictions are.

Other parents feel that there is a morally right answer to many of life’s big questions. They have come to their own conclusions about which answers are right/good and which are wrong/bad. They want their children to be good citizens, according to this moral code, and so they teach them accordingly.  “We follow this religion because it is the truth.” Or, “We march against that rule because it is unjust.”

Of course, the vast majority of parents will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between “give a child total freedom in figuring the world out for themselves,” and “teach a child every belief they should value.”  It seems logical to me that parenting to the extreme left would lead to a pack of anarchists ruling your house like little wolf children and the extreme right would land you on the 6 O’Clock news as some sort of a cult leader.

Most of us agree that children need some degree of direction/guidance in their lives and some amount of freedom to think for themselves.  Also, even if you don’t verbalize a belief to your child they see your actions and learn from them. Parents are teaching every moment of the day.

All of these thoughts have been buzzing in my head since a friend posted the video, below of a 12-year-old girl giving a speech about abortion.

First, I have to say, whether you agree with her view of the issue or not, this kid is a gifted speaker. I know a lot of adults (myself included) who wouldn’t be able to speak so clearly and with such passion in front of a group. This debate has been going on for longer than I’ve been alive and everything that needs to be said has been said a thousand times so it’s not like she burst forth with some amazing revelation that no one before her has ever spoken of.  But her points are clearly well-researched and well stated. I hope she got a great grade!

The friend who originally posted the video made a similar observation and said that he hoped whoever the child was who had to argue the other side of the debate was ready for her pointed questions.

Of course, because of the nature of the topic the comments turned into a bit of a firestorm.

What was interesting, though, was that people weren’t arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal.  They were arguing about whether a child of this age could hold an opinion as strong as the one she presents without having been “brainwashed” by their parents.

The two arguments seemed to break down like this:

The child is obviously just repeating what has been told to her. She is too young to have an opinion of her own on such a matter. Therefore, there is nothing I can learn from this speech. It has no value beyond a classroom exercise in standing up in front of a crowd.

Or

People under-estimate kids. Their thoughts and ideas on topics such as these are just as valuable as those posed by adults – maybe even more so.

What do you think? Keep in mind, I’m not asking about abortion, specifically, but using it as an example of a controversial, traditionally “adult” topic.

Are children intellectually capable of forming their own ideas on “big/adult” topics such as abortion?

Should children have a voice in society’s discussion of such things?

If your answer is no, what age (on average) is “old enough” to speak?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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About Elizabeth in MI

I'm a married mama with 2 beautiful step children, 2 from my own belly, and the best husband in the universe! I work part time at my church as a secretary and youth director and I truly enjoy 3 hour naps and reading fiction beneath my education level. Write me a note, any time at lazyhippiemama@hotmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.

8 responses »

  1. To be honest with you I had mixed thoughts about this topic and watching the video. Yes, I think children can have their own opinions on topics larger then which is the best cartoon or where they want to eat. An educated child can form a logical conclusion and form an opinion. We want to raise meat chickens and while my son understands the why of why we want to….. he gets the quality of the animals life, etc….. his opinion is still NO. Why? Because emotionally he is not ready to handle the concept of killing and consuming something you raise. He is almost 8. We respect he understands AND that his opinion differs from ours.

    That being said, this video… well the topic the child is dealing with is NOT age appropriate and for that I blame her parents. The words she used and the way she acts about “knowing” things are beyond her scope. Honestly, I believe it was written for her and she was coached on how to deliver the message. She does not have the ability to understand the extreme emotional issues of having an abortion. She has no life experience to draw from. Christ, she probably hasn’t even menstruated yet! And for her to act so well versed on rape and to claim to understand the medical issues involved… well either she was coached as I said, or her parents have done a disservice to their child by exposing her to such issues at such a young age. What happened to the innocence of childhood!?!?

  2. You bring up a good point!! I’m happy to have “deeper” conversations with kids at any age as long as the questions are coming from a genuine place! Stumbled this great article. Emily

  3. I would think at age 12 she was well coached, possibly trained for the sake of her parents’ agenda (whatever that may be. Didn’t watch the video.) I’d say 16 year-olds certainly have formulated their own opinions and can display them passionately, ESPECIALLY if they’re the opposite of what their parents believe! 🙂

  4. I too Stumbled this page as I think it is very well written and brings up such interesting points. I unfortunately am somewhat grey in thinking that a child of 12 years old is old enough to have strong opinions. I think all children are to different from one another to put a blanket statement on the subject. Some mature more quickly than others, some are more vocal than others and some are more intellectual while other’s are care free. I do feel strongly however, that today, parents are way too involved in children’s school assignments, especially if they are completing them for their kids. This very well could have been the case here.

  5. I disagree with the assertion that, at 12, she had to have been coached, and was incapable of having her own opinions on the matter. First off, by six (I am now 33), I knew where babies came from and how they got there in formal and informal terminology. My mom was a nurse, specifically, she was the head nurse on a pediatric ward. By 11, I knew how to put on a condom,.I knew the ins and outs of periods (and had been having one for close to two years), and I knew about abortion and had an opinion on it. Actually, at 11, I had a large number of opinions on a variety of topics. By 11, I was also reading Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, and William Faulkner.

    Some people might wonder why on earth a parent would teach their 11 year old child about condoms and abortion and sex…personally, I wonder why the heck you wouldn’t. If you teach it, it becomes normal, and when it becomes normal, it becomes fairly uninteresting (like sticking your finger in someone else’s nose, as my 7 year old says). When I was a kid, my mom had an 11 year old patient that had to have a hysterectomy due to an abdominal pregnancy after being molested by an older neighbor. She had preteen and adolescent patients that had ectopic pregnancies and stillbirths or miscarriages. This wasn’t some inner city hospital either–it was a hospital that served a middle class suburban area and the outlying rural areas.

    I knew about the facts of life because no one bothered to teach them to my mom’s patients. My kids know about sex because their father and I want them to know that we am their first and most accurate source of information, and that we will not lie to them or provide them with feel-good niceties that they cannot trust. My kids know about their bodies, in clinical and slang, because they need to know what they have before they can have autonomy over themselves. My kids know about sexuality, so that they can safeguard themselves from inappropriate actions. (My husband, whose mother was a detective that specialized in SVU type crimes, fully endorses and participates in this approach).

    Historically speaking, the amount of sheltering that the average American child receives is unusual and unprecedented. I don’t blame the parents here, I commend them for raising a future adult (seriously, pick up a parenting guide from the 70’s, you six year old should be able to bike to the corner store, make a transaction, and return home without assistance…in boot camp, I knew recruits that had never done laundry). Its not really all that long ago that 12-14 was considered a marriageable age (and, indeed, in some places this is still acceptable), or that children would be working to support their families (heck, that actually started much earlier). I volunteered for AmeriCorps, working for the Red Cross, teaching HIV/AIDS awareness classes in the suburbs in the late 90’s, and I’m here to tell you that fifth graders are engaging in oral sex and are savvy enough about it to wonder if they should be using protection (and this isn’t just a public school thing either…I went to private schools and even a few homeschool groups too).

    Parents might think their kids are too young to know things or to have an opinion on them…but really, if you wait until YOU think they are old enough, they will already have learned what they want to know from their friends, books, magazines, movies and TV, the internet, people on the street, experimenting with themselves, etc. And if you think that just because you don’t have those things in your home, or you never let your kids out of your sight, that they won’t find a way, don’t be surprised when they come home pregnant at 14, like my best friend raised in an authoritarian Christian home…she got pregnant at a church lock in and had no clue how it happened.

  6. I think these conversations happen when they are supposed to happen. As an educator, I know first hand that children know much more than we give them credit for. It’s important to honor this. Great post!

  7. As the rule of parenting goes, every child is different. I loved the news. I can remember watching about the Iranian hostage crisis on TV. Watching Reagan get shot. The gas lines that I sat in. I was fascinated and have been a news junkie forever. I read the newspaper more than my parents. I could hold a conversation on almost any topic. So is it possible that this 12 year old came to her own opinion? Absolutely. Is it also possible that, at the age of 44, even I’m not sure of my own opinion? Absolutely. Give them the opportunity to have the knowledge, and see what happens. They usually know something already.

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