157. Giving Children Power

The world is run by adults. Some of the adults are dictators and monarchs, some are politicians, and to varying degrees, the rest of us adults get some power to affect what goes on. But just about everyone who has significant power has a certain amount of seniority in common; we’ve all grown up. I have a good friend, Phil Hoose, who works hard to make sure children are heard, too, and have some influence. He wrote a book called It’s Our World, Too, focusing on children who have refused to let their youth prevent them from taking stands and making marks, and have consequently caused good things to happen. He and I are on the executive board of a network of people who believe that children should have some power. For several years, we made sure that there were always children on the executive board. But at some point, it became clear that these children were getting bored at board meetings. They liked each other, and enjoyed being with each other and us, but financial reports, staffing problems, and all the other issues that came up were simply not child-oriented. We could have carefully planned our agendas so that the children could help us
make decisions they cared about, and then go play, but that hasn’t happened yet. Growing up, done well, ought to be a constructive process, and that should make it so that the decisions made by adults help to make the world a better place to live in. We ought to be good at that stuff. And having been children ourselves, and loving and caring for those who still are children, we ought to be good at watching out for their interests. But I don’t think that we adults, experienced and caring though we are, are always the best ones to make decisions that affect children. As the ones with the power, we’d be wiser and fairer to find ways to gradually hand some of that power over to children. They’ll end up with it eventually anyway, and they’ll remember how we used it when we had it. Whether our motivation is mostly selfish or not, we ought to keep in mind the power our children will some day have, and help them get ready for it. Children do like to be children, to some degree. Sometimes it can be comforting for them to have adults do the important stuff. Setting limits for children can actually be a nice thing to do. But somehow, we’ve got to find ways to gradually give children ways to start taking charge.

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