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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The other day, I was at the playground with my 2 y/o charge. There were lots of children there, ranging in age from late infancy to what looked about 13/14. Lots of other parents, as well. While we were there, one of the mothers shouted across the playground to her child "GEORGE! DO YOU HAVE TO GO PEE PEE??" The baby looked about 3, maybe 4 years old. He completely ignored her. The parent then loudly told the other mothers that they were potty training and she couldn't tell if he had to go. The rest of the parents loudly chimed in with their own children's potty habits, while they were feet away. Inside, I was mortified for this baby. I remember being that age, and if my mother had broadcasted my potty training needs/habits, I'm sure I would have been so embarrassed, I'd have wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. It wouldn't be socially acceptable for someone to do this to an adult - or even an older child - but somehow, it's acceptable for those of a younger age. Why is that?

At this very same outing, my charge became enamored by a small group of slightly older children (looked about 6-7 years). He sat right next to them and simply listened as they talked. That's all he wanted. But to these children, having a baby present was not acceptable. It was clear that it wasn't because he was a stranger, but because he was a baby. Even though these children had just left babyhood themselves, they shunned the idea of including someone younger than they. Whenever he was in their way, they chose to say 'sorry' and 'excuse me' to me, instead of acknowledging him (even though he could clearly talk and understand them). I told the child, "Don't apologise to me - say it to him." She looked at me as though I was speaking Russian.

These are just two anecdotes out of many moments I've run into around this issue. When people say, "She's not a baby anymore." Or children themselves say, "I'm not a baby." What I've realised they're saying is, "She's a person. A person with opinions, needs, preferences, personality, and an understanding of the world. She now deserves respect, because now she counts as a person." Well, isn't a baby a person, too? Isn't a newborn every bit a person as an adult? Doesn't an infant, toddler, or young child deserve respect?

The way I see it, babies are people, just like the rest of us. They are people who are in a very specific life stage, with unique needs that go hand in hand with that life stage. My grandmother is in a life stage, too. She's in the life stage that means I have to be more aware of how tired she can get. I have to understand that she doesn't have the strength and the energy to host 20 people for dinner, the way she did 30 years ago. But she has my utmost respect. When I meet a pregnant woman, she's also in a unique life stage, and has unique needs that pertain to that life stage. But she has my utmost respect. So, why don't people see babies that way? Why don't we treat babies with the same respect we would have for someone above the age of 7? Why is it okay to broadcast their bodily habits, be forceful with them (I see a lot of forceful sun cream applications, hair combing, and face wiping), or be rude to them? (how many times have you heard someone say 'please' 'may I' or 'thank you' to an infant?)

What I see a lot of people doing to combat this issue, is to simply stop calling their child a baby very early on. I've heard people say of their 9 m/o's, "He's not a baby anymore. He's a toddler." The playmates of my 2 y/o charge, who's a self-professed baby (he happily calls himself a baby all the time, and recognises himself and other children within his age range as babies), have long been told that they're "not babies", and I've witnessed many a time these "not babies" putting down children younger than themselves, while at the same time, acting (in my opinion) every bit a baby themselves. Other children whom I work with far less often (the odd night babysitting) are constantly reminding me that they're "not a baby", as if they need constant reassurance that they've passed this shameful life period, and are now deserving of respect and merit. 'Baby' seems to be just about the most insulting thing you could call a child, and I witness this insult frequently being used among children themselves. "You can't play with us. You're a baby." "Only babies do that." "Go ahead and cry, you big baby!" "That's a baby toy."

I don't see this strategy as working too well. When my charge was just an infant, I made the cognitive decision to continue calling him a baby as long as he was happy with the term, but at the same time, to never to use 'baby' as a negative word. I've also always taught him to show respect to children much younger than himself (apologising to them, taking turns with them, including them). If I'm referring to a child up to age 7, I refer to them as 'this baby' or 'that baby'. "That baby is feeling upset because he doesn't want to go home." "Now, let's give this baby a turn, and then you may have a turn." "That baby doesn't want to share her toy, and you need to respect that." The results I've seen are that my charge initiates play with 1 y/o's (even though he's a month shy of turning 3), 6-7 y/o's, and every age in between. I haven't so far noticed any discriminating behaviour from him based on age (or anything else, for that matter). i've also noticed that he feels much more comfortable in his own skin than a lot of children I've worked with. He isn't constantly telling me that he's "not a baby", and he feels comfortable and unashamed continuing certain 'baby' behaviours, such as being held for long periods (he likes an hour or two in the ergo every day), sucking on a bottle (water only, and just at nap time), taking a nap, cuddling his lovey, talking in gibberish, and riding in the buggy. And while we both think of him as a baby, I don't 'baby' him or coddle him, if you know what I mean. I encourage him to do as much by himself as he's able, and he's asserting his independence more and more. He loves to do many things for himself, which I greatly encourage.

So, anyway, I just wanted to reach out to other parents to see if this is all just me, or if others have noticed any of these things as well. I apologise for this being such a long post. To me, there seem to be so many facets to this issue that I wanted to get as many down as possible.
 

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First, I totally agree with you about children of all ages being people and deserving respect. I think 'please' and 'thank you' are best taught by using those phrases yourself with everyone, as common courtesy. I think that combing hair, putting on sun screen and the like should be done while respecting the person's feelings, whether you are helping a young child or an elderly individual. I think those who use the word 'baby' in a derogatory manner are the ones who ought to be ashamed.

About all of this I think we agree. I disagree with trying to fight the societal view of the word 'baby' the way you are doing it. Since the word has a negative connotation, you make life difficult for your charges by using that word and encouraging them to use it to identify themselves.

Should society change? Sure. Should you entrap innocent children into helping you change society? No. That's where we differ. Children should grow up with as little need to defend themselves as possible so they will be strong, confident adults. That's when they will be best able to fight, so give them a chance to enter adulthood without being battle weary.

If you want to fight society, look for ways to do it without dragging the children into it. Write a book, or a parenting article. Blog. Post eloquent posts on mothering, encouraging mothers and fathers to treat children of all ages with respect and stop using 'baby' as a criticism. You have the potential to do it.

Just my thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
First, I totally agree with you about children of all ages being people and deserving respect. I think 'please' and 'thank you' are best taught by using those phrases yourself with everyone, as common courtesy. I think that combing hair, putting on sun screen and the like should be done while respecting the person's feelings, whether you are helping a young child or an elderly individual. I think those who use the word 'baby' in a derogatory manner are the ones who ought to be ashamed.

About all of this I think we agree. I disagree with trying to fight the societal view of the word 'baby' the way you are doing it. Since the word has a negative connotation, you make life difficult for your charges by using that word and encouraging them to use it to identify themselves.

Should society change? Sure. Should you entrap innocent children into helping you change society? No. That's where we differ. Children should grow up with as little need to defend themselves as possible so they will be strong, confident adults. That's when they will be best able to fight, so give them a chance to enter adulthood without being battle weary.

If you want to fight society, look for ways to do it without dragging the children into it. Write a book, or a parenting article. Blog. Post eloquent posts on mothering, encouraging mothers and fathers to treat children of all ages with respect and stop using 'baby' as a criticism. You have the potential to do it.

Just my thoughts.
Like I said, I decided to use the term 'baby' as long as my charge is happy with it. If in the future, he doesn't like me calling him 'Baby' (which, by the way, I hear people using on a wide age range - including adults), I'll stop using that term. Simple as that. He's only 2. It hasn't caused him any trouble in social situations (it's more the adults who get defensive about the term, not the children themselves, in my experience), and has actually, in a way, fostered a wider variety of play opportunities, because he feels inclined to play with children in a somewhat wide age range (children about 1-5 years, sometimes older). To him, an infant or a 1 y/o isn't inferiour to him; and likewise, 3-6 y/o's aren't superiour to him. In his mind, from what I've observed, they're all on the same level, because they're all babies - all in a similar life stage. (I use stage rather than phase, as a way of differentiating between the smaller phases within a stage; for instance, in the baby stage, there are infants, toddlers, and young children. Not technical, just my own personal use of terms.)

And I'm certainly not trying to change society through my charge. In case you thought otherwise, I don't tell him all day long, "You're a baby." I use Baby as a term of endearment (in addition to 'darling' 'sweetie' 'munchkin' etc.), and he will often simply remark, happily, "I'm a baby." Instead of correcting him, I simply continue the conversation. I don't make a big deal out of it. I focus much more on who he is as an individual. To me, he's a baby (and many other people, when they meet him, think so, too - I often hear strangers referring to him as a baby). To him, he's a baby. But that's simply a fact about who he is. He's also a certain race and a certain gender. I don't emphasize those, either.

On the other hand, when babysitting other children in the 1-4 age range, they will often remark out of the blue, "I'm not a baby", without my even mentioning the word. I've found this very strange. It reminds me of something my pastor says, "I don't say, 'I'm tall', because I know I'm tall. I'm 6'4". I don't need to say it. People only say, 'I'm tall' or whatever it may be, when they're in doubt of it."


To me, this 'baby' thing is a secondary aspect of a much larger issue. It's the fact that playgroup is now called school; that the first question I'm asked about my toddler is, "What classes is he signed up for?" as if he's in college; that parents always round their child's age up, but they never round down (A parent, who's friends with my charge's family, recently asked me the age of my charge. Incidentally, his children are both one year younger and one year older than my charge. He asked how old my charge was, and I said 2. Immediately, he said, "Oh, he's [Elijah's] age - who's the younger one. In his mind, his 1 y/o had already turned 2.); and that parents are constantly pushing their child to be ahead of the curve, instead of enjoying the phase she's currently in. To fight this issue, or at least voice my views, I'm writing a book, I post on parenting forums (such as this one), and I talk about these issues with other parents. I also happen to live my views openly. I practice what I preach, as some say.

For instance, some people are in favour of everyone sending their child to public school. (I'm not saying I'm one of those people, I'm just using this example to illustrate a point) They say that when more and more parents refuse to send their children to public school, the schools suffer from lack of support, and the children who's parents can't afford private, suffer as an effect of that choice. Now, if one believes in supporting the public school system and the community at large, they would probably send their own children there. Their children might receive a less quality education there than at a private school. But someone has to do it. How can one argue for supporting public schools, when they themselves refuse to send their own children there? If you believe in something, you have to practice that belief.
 

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You can easily prove me wrong with a simple experiment. For one month do not call your charge or any other child 'baby'. At all. That does not say that 'baby' is a negative term. Simply remove it from your use. Completely. For one month.

If your charge is included by the older children, as I believe will happen, then I am right and you are using your charge to fight the fight.

If there is no change, then I will agree that you are not using your charge to fight for you.

Do we have a deal? It will clearly be on the honor system. What do you say?
 

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I can't stand terms like, "Babies having babies." or "Teenagers think they're so smart, but they don't know anything."
Without getting into a teen parent debate (I will not participate in it if anyone starts it.), I just want to say that teens are humans and humans are sexual beings with sex organs and hormones. It's what nature or God intended and I don't think it's shameful nor a disease that needs to be treated with medication. This, also, includes early development in childhood. They call it "precocious puberty" and, for some reason, there is a pill to stop or slow down puberty along with fear-mongering information regarding it.

And teenagers have been going to school, or doing some form of education most of their lives. They must be learning something otherwise we wouldn't have so many successful, professional people in the world. Just because teenagers don't know EVERYTHING (who does?) doesn't mean they are complete imbeciles. I remember trying to show off some new found knowledge I learned. The jerk my mom married would shoot off questions requiring detailed answers he knew I didn't know, and ask away at one second at a time then tell me I know should the answers at the snap of a finger, then go on telling me that I think I know everything. pfft.
Whereas he is the one taking 20 minutes to answer questions during a game of Trivial Pursuit. Sand timers are a lovely invention.

I used to gravitate towards older kids and teens. My ears would burn when I over heard them remarking on how cute I was. It made me feel like I was older, too, and more sophisticated and cool. I found that the older kids were nicer to me than the ones my age. When I was older, I got along better with kids younger than me.
 

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I have not said to my child that she is not a baby anymore or anything like that but around 2,5 she started saying "I am big" "I am a child" "I am a big child" and once she started to say things like this I agreed with her as I feel it is good that she has started to move herself towards child and not baby. She is allowed to be small when she wants to but I also allow her to feel "grown up" which I see as just as valid feeling. She has pretty standard ideas of what it means to be a big kid such as not using diapers, being able to do things on her own and talking. She is very nice to babies though and like them a lot and has started to ask for brothers and sisters so I do not see this as a way of her distancing herself from younger kids but instead asserting the feeling she has of being "big".
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You can easily prove me wrong with a simple experiment. For one month do not call your charge or any other child 'baby'. At all. That does not say that 'baby' is a negative term. Simply remove it from your use. Completely. For one month.

If your charge is included by the older children, as I believe will happen, then I am right and you are using your charge to fight the fight.

If there is no change, then I will agree that you are not using your charge to fight for you.

Do we have a deal? It will clearly be on the honor system. What do you say?
Haha, alright, if you are so convinced, then you're on. I'll let you know how it goes. Even though I've mentioned that my charge already plays with children older than himself (his best friend is a year older than he, and he has another friend who's 3 years older than he), in addition to those his own age and younger than he. He's always very eager to socialise, so he's always initiating play with whomever's around. The anecdote about those children at the playground, I don't think had anything to do with my use of the word 'baby'. The problem was the children's perception of my charge - they thought he was a baby (I didn't refer to him as a baby in front of them), and therefore saw him as inferiour and unworthy of acknowledgement.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Just thought I'd update you on our little experiment. Some sticky spots have come up because my charge often uses the word 'baby' himself (in reference to many things); also, many of his books have the word baby in them (in which case, I have used the word where it's printed), but have done my best not to use the word myself in conversation, and when he uses it, I simply acknowledge what he's saying, without repeating the word myself. So far, I haven't noticed any changes in his social behaviour. Those same children were at the playground this week, but this time, my charge didn't notice them, and they paid no attention to him, either.
 

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I'm sorry this is off-topic from the original discussion, but I feel it needs to be addressed. Dawn's Mom wrote:
They call it "precocious puberty" and, for some reason, there is a pill to stop or slow down puberty along with fear-mongering information regarding it.
There really is such a thing as precocious puberty. It doesn't mean having things happen at 9 when the average age is 10 1/2; it means having those things happen at 6 or 7. An increase of adult sex hormones much earlier in life than is normal may increase cancer risk, weaken bones, stop growth in height (it's no big deal to be shorter than average, but keeping your 7-year-old height all your life is not optimal), reduce wound healing, and damage learning capacity. That doesn't mean that slowing puberty with medication is a good idea--it might just make things worse--but we need more research into the causes of precocious puberty (likely environmental toxins) and prevention.
 
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Just thought I'd update you on our little experiment. Some sticky spots have come up because my charge often uses the word 'baby' himself (in reference to many things); also, many of his books have the word baby in them (in which case, I have used the word where it's printed), but have done my best not to use the word myself in conversation, and when he uses it, I simply acknowledge what he's saying, without repeating the word myself. So far, I haven't noticed any changes in his social behaviour. Those same children were at the playground this week, but this time, my charge didn't notice them, and they paid no attention to him, either.
Thanks for the update. It's typical that children change their behavior just when you're testing a change in your own! Ah, well. Maybe next time?
 
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