A couple of days ago when I was at work, a mother came up to me that needed help. I assisted her in finding the toy she needed to pick up for a birthday gift, and she thanked me afterwards. While I was walking her and her daughter to the aisle, her daughter made it a point to educate me on the importance of getting a Star Wars Lego set over a Batman one. Of course it was because the recipient, her classmate and close friend, had a favorite Star Wars shirt but not a single Batman shirt. After agreeing with her logic completely, and showing them the selection we carry, the girl proceeded to tell me more about why her friend likes Star Wars, and how they saw Rogue One together, to which I responded with talking about how I saw Rogue One with my brother and owned many Star Wars Lego Sets as a child. The mother then decided our conversation served its purpose, thanked me for the help, and proceeded to head to the cash registers to check out. One of my coworkers that watched me help them then approached me and asked me why I talked to the little girl the way I did. I gave him a confused look and explained how I thought that is how everyone should talk to kids, after all, they are going to grow up and speak like that eventually. He didn’t seem to quite understand my point and questioned why I didn’t just say “Wow, that is sooo cool!” and other bland (my word, not his) responses to the girl. I am glad to say most people I know aren’t like that with children, but I have seen people who are that way, and that patronizing voice and banter only makes the child feel alienated by the speaker. I know this to be true because this is how I was as a kid. Children don’t see themselves as children, they see themselves as “almost adults,” as I like to put it. And so when you talk to them in that fashion it just makes them wary of you at best, and annoyed with you at worst.
The next day I reached a quote in the book I was reading that beautifully exemplified my opinion on this subject. It is a thought the main character has when describing why she compliments and trusts her elderly neighbor so much. Her neighbor treats her as an equal and just expects her to ask questions when she doesn’t know a word, or understand the connotations of what she is saying. The quote is as follows:
“The importance of the unknown words she used, the excitement of apprehending their meanings, the fact that she never diluted her language to fit the infirmity of my understanding – all of these things formed a major part of my joy in her company.”
-Rebecca (pg 106)
The Ballad and the Source
I remember having a similar thought to this one when I was around my paternal grandfather. He is a man who will at times try to accommodate the “infirmity” that younger children have, but only until they can fully participate in conversations with him, then he takes the training wheels off. And let me tell you, he can preach. Calling him long-winded is like calling redwoods tall trees; it just doesn’t do him any justice. He would talk to me about all sorts of things when we saw him, and it could be anything, he didn’t care. He just enjoyed speaking and discussing things with us. He would use words I didn’t know, or make jokes I wouldn’t get and I would either say “Excuse me Bom-Bom (Yes, that is what I called him), what does…mean?” or I would catalog the word or phrase and ask someone else later. Because of this I grew to respect him very much, and told myself that when I became as old as him, I would speak the same way to kids. And I would think my younger self would be proud of how I have maintained that promise thus far. I think speaking to children this way gives them a sort of independence in learning words as they choose, but also it displays a sort of honesty to them because you are treating them the way they want to be treated. And after all, what kid doesn’t appreciate the Golden Rule?