Why Children Should be Seen and Heard

At a recent event, a crying baby interrupted Donald Trump's speech. At first, he brushed it off, reassured the mum that he loves babies, and he didn’t mind the crying. No more than 2 minutes later, he retracted his statement and humiliated the mother by telling her to 'get the baby out of here'. We don’t know what happened to the mother and child next. My guess is they left – embarrassed, flustered and stressed.

Unfortunately, Trump’s view that children are a nuisance, and parents and children are only welcome in public if they are seen but not heard, is shared by many others in society. We live in a world where children are not valued by everybody, and some days tolerating children can be too much to ask of some.

We live in a world where children are not valued by everybody, and tolerating children can be too much to ask of some

There are many families who are already disengaged with their community, or struggling in their role as a parent. Maybe this was the first time the mother had been brave enough to bring the baby out to a public event. Public ridicule and humiliation might be the reason she stops attending community events, and the fear of what people will think and say could be the reason she becomes afraid to leave the house. This could easily spiral into a vicious cycle of social exclusion and anxiety, which in turn could lead to other problems and issues for families.

Comments like this show the need for more public spaces that not only welcome families on the surface level, but also have staff that are able to respond empathetically and supportively to parents. Bookbug Sessions, and libraries, are a great space for families. I’ve never made it through a Bookbug Session without a baby crying – and I’ve never once seen a parent humiliated or asked to leave.

I’ve never made it through a Bookbug Session without a baby crying – and I’ve never once seen a parent humiliated or asked to leave

The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) campaigns for children’s rights. The convention has four main themes which aim to ensure that children are treated fairly regardless of race and religion, given opportunities to learn, and participate in cultural activities, have their voices and their opinions heard, and have people acting in their best interests. Trump’s comment highlights, more than ever, the reason why we need the UNCRC and the importance of raising awareness of how we treat the youngest members of our society. The UNCRC urges us to see babies and children as contributing members of society. If we can do this, and value their contributions, then we support children to develop into the next generation of adults who are engaged, interested, and empathetic.

It’s easy to dismiss this event as an American incident, but I’ve heard the same sentiment here. If we disrespect babies, we are disrespecting their parents. And if we can’t show parents and children respect and empathy, then how do we expect children to grow up able to do the same?