A discussion came up in one of my Facebook groups recently about people who hate children. Here was my comment:
Hating children is no different than hating any other group of people
It’s a reflection of where that person is. They have biases that are triggered by any number of things (upbringing, culture, trauma, etc…) and they need to take responsibility for exploring why they give themselves permission to hate a person for existing. There’s always something beneath that and it’s important that these reason(s) are investigated if there’s to be any growth.
I have known people who find it difficult to be around children for a variety of reasons. They’re loud. They’re demanding. They mean responsibility that the adult may not have much experience with holding and that can feel intimidating. They require patience and resources of adults that may not have been asked of them before.
What is important is to note that none of these reasons reflect on any child. Yes, some children can be loud and demanding. Yes, some children can be difficult.
But do you want to know a secret? So can some adults.
There is a problem, in conservative religion in particular, of how children are viewed. If they’re not being treated as the family dog that is expected to submit to any and all demands made of them, they are treated as if they should have the intellectual reasoning and emotional regulation abilities of an adult. And when they inevitably fail – because no child can obey perfectly or operate with the maturity of an adult (unless trauma has made it necessary for them to premature grow up) – they are blamed and found to be at fault.
I’m sure that I am not the only former evangelical who used to have conversations about young children or even infants that cast shame on them for simply being brand new people.
Routine developmental milestones, such as the awareness of separation between that child and their primary caregiver leading to anxiety or clinginess can be seen as selfishness.
That mischievous glint in that 1-year-old’s eye as they venture into rooms they know that they’re not allowed in is seen as rebelliousness.
The nonstop “no, no, no!” from the three-year-old who is becoming aware of their own wants and needs and is beginning to experiment with boundaries is seen as disobedient.
The lies slipping out of the lips of the four or five-year-old who is learning how to play with fact and fiction is seen as a liar.
Meltdowns and temper tantrums are seen as overly dramatic and things to be silenced immediately.
I’ve even known parents who believe it is appropriate to return give as good as they get with infants. They wrongfully believe that a baby or a toddler is capable of the same sophisticated reasoning as an adult. So when a parent has their hair pulled or is bitten by their child, they do the same to them.
Parents: If you do this, be aware that you are not teaching your baby anything. You are, however, guilty of child abuse. Your child only knows that you are hurting them. They do not understand why you are hurting them. It’s cruel. Stop it.
We need to understand that children are people. They are brand new people who are just learning about their world, their bodies, and their emotions. They have not yet learned the skills they need to control or regulate their emotions. They are literally incapable of these things. Its something to make space for, not something to shame them over.
These children will have hard days. They will have hard moments. They will need the adults in their lives to have enough empathy for them to sit with them while they struggle. They need adults who will love them and accept them when they are hard to be around. This is one way they begin to internalize that they are inherently worthy of love.
To write off an entire group of people as worthy of being hated is the inappropriate thing. It means that there is something going on with that particular person in which they have negative associations with children. That is worth exploring, perhaps with a licensed therapist.
I promise you: whatever your excuse is to hate children, it’s not the actual reason. Dig deeper. Become curious about your prejudice. Learn something new about yourself.
But don’t punish children for being children. Don’t hate them for not being grownups.