Friday, November 6th, 2009
Teaching children to shut up
My daughter’s kindergarten class received its H1N1 inoculation yesterday. Parents were invited to attend at the appointed time to help ease any fears. About one-third of the parents showed up and my daughter had no problems whatsoever.
Oh, but things weren’t totally peachy. The parent(s) of at least one student declined the vaccination. A problem arose when this child began telling classmates beforehand that the vaccination would make them sick, that it would hurt them, and boy oh boy, they shouldn’t get vaccinated.
And thus, at least one of the children broke out in tears (we know because we spoke to the parent of the shaken child).
I’m not debating here the parents’ no-vaccination choice. It’s their roll of the dice with their child. I too was fearful of vaccines at one point early in my parenting career.
However, I do take issue with young children challenging the beliefs of other children or adults. Suppose it’s not vaccinations. Suppose a child is telling your kid he believes in the wrong god, or there is no god, or evolution is real or the Garden of Eden is real, there is no Santa Claus, vegetarian diets are best and Thanksgiving turkey is bad for you, or whatever hot button belief you’ve taught your child that is likely to cause conflict when discussed with people at large.
We’re not talking about young adults able to rationalize and debate. We’re talking very young children who need to understand how to react when they encounter a person who believes differently than themselves.
So, when teaching children your beliefs, also teach them that some people don’t believe as you do. Teach them how to talk, and not talk, to such a person if the issue ever comes up. In the vaccine situation, it’s probably best to hold your tongue, and if asked why you’re not getting vaccinated, say Mom and Dad don’t want me to.
I suppose, too, that it’s everyone’s job to teach the opposite — how to respond to the odd man out.
It’s a tough situation for the one or two children who are different in a class, maybe they’re sort of temporary outcasts. Maybe there’s a pull on that child to ‘normalize deviance,’ to make the difference not so different, to defend it and/or attack the opposing viewpoint.
It seems this dilemma only gets worse as children progress from preschool through high school, with the opportunity for becoming social outcasts only greater, depending on the nature of the difference.
I don’t know. What do you think? My apologies for the provocative title. I wouldn’t use that word choice with a child, but it’s essentially what I’d be thinking if someone was trying to persuade my daughter not to accept a vaccination that could save her life.