18 August 2011

Negative Attitudes Towards Children. . . Among Children?

Yesterday after dinner I took the kids outside to play since it was nice out and many of the neighbourhood children were playing.  One of the children, A, was out and riding her bike up and down.  She's roughly 8 or 9 years old.  As she was riding past, she made a comment that she would only have one child when she was older.  She continued, saying that having two children would be OK, but having three (or more, I presume) would be bad.  This attitude puzzled me in part because she's not an only child, but has three older siblings and frequently plays with a family of five children.

More than being puzzled, though, it saddened me.  I know our children pick up on our attitudes towards things, so I know that this is a consequence of many being opposed to larger families (though I don't consider three children to be a large family).  It's not uncommon to get comments about "having your hands full" if you're out with three or more children.  In fact, I think I've gotten that comment even when out with just my two children; I know I've gotten that comment when taking my two children plus a friend's child somewhere.

As annoying as it is to encounter that attitude among adults, it's heart-breaking to encounter it among children.  For one, it is their attitudes that will shape the generation following them, since their children will watch them.  We're already seeing a growing trend in child-free experiences - will that continue or worsen if our children are picking up on this attitude?

I think this can also tie in to my previous post.  As a society, we tend to look only at the negatives associated with children, instead of realising how much good and fun also go along with having these children.  In my opinion, the more the merrier.  Or if that reason is insufficient, one can always look at economy professor Bryan Kaplan's book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids (note: I've not read the book yet, but I liked what I read in the excerpt, and I've heard good things about him).

Who wouldn't want more of these?!
Whatever the reason, I think hearing A yesterday was a bit of a wake-up call for me that we don't need to just focus on how other adults perceive us when we have more than two children, but we also need to look at how other children perceive our families.  We need to make sure we don't just complain about hardships or difficulties, but also talk about the joy.  I don't mean to just pretend hardships don't exist, for that isn't helpful either, but to give the whole picture.  Hopefully, given time, this attitude can be turned around.

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