Hating Kids

No Children

Image by seanbonner via Flickr

The other morning I was listening to an inane radio show, when I heard a caller say, “I hate kids!” She said it with the sort of gleeful disdain that usually accompanies such a statement. She’s not alone in her sentiments. It seems that loudly and proudly vocalizing your hatred of all things child is now the cool thing to do. The reasons given for this hatred generally hinge on the purported stories of screaming kids in a restaurant or airplane. Yet, rarely do we hear people say with such vigor, “I hate adults!” even when presented with the most extreme examples of boorish adult behavior.

I’ve disapproved of the child hate sentiment since before I became a parent.

Not because I think all children are little angels beyond reproach.

Not because I think everyone’s personal goals should include procreation.

And certainly not because I can’t fathom that someone else might not find my kid as charming or as loveable as I do.

Essentially, the statement, “I hate kids” erases the personhood of children.

That statement doesn’t leave room for nuance. It doesn’t consider that each child is an individual with their own personality, culture, experiences etc. It doesn’t consider their different stages of brain development. Most of all it doesn’t consider that kids are human beings too. Hatred is a lot easier when we reject another person’s humanity. When we reject another person’s humanity, it’s all the more easy to oppress them when we wield more societal power than they do.

And boy do adults wield more power than kids do. No matter how many stories we can come up with about some “brat running wild,” the fact remains that adults still run the show. Because of that power imbalance children are vulnerable to being treated as lesser humans than adults. One example being that adults can recommend, justify and debate the appropriateness of hitting children yet have no problem calling it assault when an adult hits another adult.

There are other consequences of child hate. It leads to calls for and the actual banning of children from public spaces. It leads to harassment (and assault) of children and their caregivers. Since women in this society still take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities, child hate and misogyny tend to walk hand-in-hand. After all, aren’t women mostly blamed for their children’s “bad” behavior? Aren’t women the ones who will have to stay home if children aren’t welcomed in public spaces? Aren’t women criticized as breeders and welfare queens for bringing children into the world?

Eff that shit.

Here’s a simple truth: Every one of us started out as a child. Most of us were able to grow into adulthood. The current generation of children will do the same. That child you sneered at today might be making decisions that affect your life when s/he grows up. Wouldn’t it be in our best interests to cultivate an environment that encourages children to grow into empathetic, compassionate, ethical adults?

There are better ways to express not wanting your personal life to be child-centric. Say you prefer the company of adults. Say you don’t like being involved in children’s activities. Say your personal life is too adult-centric for kids and you like it that way. Don’t keep saying you hate kids.

Unless you really do.

But then I’ll have no recourse but to consider you a bigot.

Now check out what these writers have to say on the subject:

On Child Hate and Feminism

My Child Takes Up Space

The Adult Privilege Checklist

Women and Children: Oppressed Citizens

Why I Hate “I Hate Children…”

Dancing on the Tables: On the Personhood of Children

Shorter, Cuter, More Honest People

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Posted on September 18, 2010, in My soapbox and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This is an amazing post. Of course. Wonderful round-up and thank you!

    Our culture is extremely child-segregationist (we also like to segregate in other ways too including not caring for the elderly or disabled who need help). Unfortunately that’s the status quo so people continue to leave it unexplored. Adultism is such the norm people look at you askance if you question it in any way (yes, that link is about schooling but you don’t have to be a non-schooler to start bucking those thought processes). I don’t think most grown-ups are jerks, I think deep down they are frightened.

    “Say you don’t like being involved in children’s activities. Say your personal life is too adult-centric for kids and you like it that way.”

    As a autodidactic homeschooling family I’m seeing that the dichotomy of “child activities” and “adult” ones is mostly a false one; there’s far more overlap than mutual exclusion. When does a “child” magically become an adult anyway? My children have more presence and make more eye contact than many adults I know. Living my “adult” life with them daily I see they do not impede me nearly as much as people; if anything, it’s the often-useless and overblown rules about when/where/how they should be that give all of us the most pain in the ass.

    Nicely written!

    • Thanks, Kelly! I agree with you that there’s more overlap than exclusion between child and adult activities. I think society benefits when we commune with people of varying ages and abilities.

  2. Three cheers for this post! Since becoming a parent, I have become acutely aware of child discrimination. It’s in the sideways looks I get at restaurants if my baby dares to make a peep. It is criminal that our culture views children as intolerable instead of looking to them as a beacons of innocence, peace, creativity, unfettered potential. I always said I prefer the company of children than adults. I think the “I Hate Kids” sect are just jealous about their squandered youth.

    • Thanks, Teresha! I think some of this “I hate kids” sentiment is coming from the idea that children are burdens and that in order to assert independence that means a dissociation from these “burdens.”

  3. I’m appalled at the level of subtle child-hate in our culture. I’m not sure whether it’s a product of or a contributor to the authoritarian/punishment parenting philosophy (children should be seen/not heard, children should obey, etc.).
    I’ve been getting visits/comments from a horrible website/forum that is entirely based on people’s hatred of children (and the horrid people who keep breeding them). The internet is a scary place sometimes.

    • Bleh! I’m sorry you’re experiencing that negativity on your site (which is a good site, btw, dear readers). There are probably websites and forums dedicated to hating just about any marginalized/vulnerable group. It’s more perplexing to me when it’s people banding together to hate on groups that they have been, could be or will become a part of.

  4. @Dionna
    I’m sorry you’ve been exposed to that. I know it’s soul-sucking and terrible. But child-hate is fear-based. It reveals the deep-down mistrust some (many) people hold of human beings an attendant incapacity to take responsibility for vulnerable individuals. I’ve always thought it very sad given we are all vulnerable and need care at one point in our lives, for periods of years in fact.

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