This week’s blog post is written by Explorer Family Mom, Brittany Williams, from @bbwilliams21. Brittany has written this post for us today to talk about advocating for children’s rights in the outdoors. Brittany is a mom of 1, living in the beautiful state of Tennessee. Brittany is an advocate for adventure, and also an advocate for allowing your children to have a voice. Today, she has shared with us ways that you can create an inclusive atmosphere to allow your children to have a voice. Here is advocating for children’s rights in the outdoors:
Children have rights, too
As an adult you feel like you have certain rights, right? Do you feel those rights you have are the same for children? How can you be an advocate for young children’s voices to be heard? It all starts with listening. Too often adults are making decisions for children and while the adults mean well with those decisions they are really doing a disservice to them. Of course young children can’t make all of the same decisions adults can, but they do have a voice and it does matter, if you allow it.
Let them have a voice
Children deserve to have their voices heard and should be allowed to express their thoughts and feelings, and our job as adults is to listen to them. We must allow space for our children to feel comfortable to share their opinions, needs, and desires. You may be asking yourself how am I supposed to do this and still have any control – if I do this my children will run all over me and think they are the boss. My response to this is – it’s all about balance.
Yes, you are still the adult and yes, much of the time you are likely to think “told you so” when your child is insisting on doing something a certain way. But, this isn’t how children learn. Children learn by doing and sometimes that means failing. Being allowed to make a choice as a young child is huge. Being the adult watching and guiding the child through that “failure” is the ultimate learning opportunity. So, it’s all about balance. In my previous KWE podcast I talk about setting expectations. In doing this (and sticking with it) you set the tone for whatever experience you’re about to have.
Some ways that children can have a voice and be in “control” (because children love to be in control) is to provide choices. Even the youngest children can make choices when you are setting the stage for that to happen.
“We are about to walk in the parking lot, do you want to hold my hand or be carried to the car?”
You are telling the child what is about to happen and letting them make a choice about how to get there. If they choose to hold your hand to the car yet on the way there is some struggle, what do you do? You choose to hold my hand in the parking lot – if you are unable to do that safely then I am going to have to carry you.
“Our plan for today is to go to the park. Do you want to go to the park with the swings or the park with the creek?”
You are setting the expectations for the day by telling your child the plan, then letting them help choose the plan.
All of these sound so great and doable, right? So what happens when the child makes the choice and then gets to the park and is now sobbing because they want the park with the swings but they picked the creek… You are probably thinking – yeah, I’m just going to take my kid to the park and not even give them a choice, they should be happy we are even here. I totally get it. Stop for a minute and think about what comes next and how this sobbing episode can be a learning experience.
Naming the emotion
You’re at the park that the child chose to go to, when it hits them – they got to the park and it made them remember how fun the swings are but… they picked the park with the creek – great now you have an emotional kiddo who is going to be very hard to reason with. When children get to a high emotional state they are not able to process what you are saying let alone able to be very logical. This is where you remain calm and let them know you understand they are upset and that they are feeling sad because there aren’t swings at this park. You can let them know that next time you will go to the other park if they want. You can remind your child that they can still have fun in the creek and then if you are able to distract them with something interesting that will hopefully change the course of how things are about to play out. Now – sometimes this isn’t going to turn out beautifully and you are just going to have to make a choice to leave or stay.
What does all of this have to do with raising children's voices so they feel heard?
I fully believe that children are our future and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are brought up in a way that shows them they are valued, they have a voice and their voice is heard and respected. It’s not the easiest way of parenting or maybe even the most correct way, but it is deserved because our children deserve to live in a world where they are seen and heard. What other ways can you ensure you are working towards a more inclusive household by allowing your children to have a voice?
Thankyou for taking the time today to read Brittany’s blog post on advocating for children’s rights in the outdoors. Don’t forget to tag us in your adventures using @KidsWhoExplore and #KidsWhoExplore #KWE for your chance to be featured on our Instagram page!