Are we radical enough to be inclusive to children?
Children make up about half the world's population. But the irony is that, according to research, they are the most oppressed and excluded social group.
Children make up about half the world’s population. But the irony is that, according to research, they are the most oppressed and excluded social group. This exclusion is not only experienced by children who suffer from various physical, mental and social disadvantages, but it’s an issue which is common among most children. The problem is to do with our understanding of who children are, and the way we see and treat them.
There is a famous incident in scripture which captures the inclusiveness of Jesus. The message translation of Matthew 19:13-15 reads, “One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these. After laying hands on them, He left.”
This text, though it finishes on a positive note, leaves us with some important questions on why the disciples tried to exclude children. What were the underlying issues (cause) as opposed to the behavior (symptoms)? Understandably, there were some conspicuous cultural barriers that must have contributed to this exclusive behavior of the disciples.
I have listed three barriers, and I believe the same serve as barriers in today’s society.
1. The most powerless members of ancient society were little children.
This is obvious in our culture too. The best example is the corporal punishment we all believe in. When we physically punish a child, we send out a message that children in our perception are less powerful than us. We also believe in the lie that corporal punishment is the key to bring change in the lives of children. The reality is, the child grows in fear and misplaced trust.
Application: Recognise the potential in children.
2. Children had no status; age increased one’s social status and authority.
The patronising attitude we have towards children is a huge barrier we face in today’s society. This attitude stops us from including children in decision-making processes in our families, religious settings and schools. They must feel valued. They are capable of making good observations and offering valuable advice. Let’s give it a try.
Application: Trust and involve children in decision-making processes.
3. People around Jesus could have thought that it is beneath the dignity of Jesus to spend time with children.
Quite often our maturity and dignity are questioned in our culture when we mingle with children, even in today’s world. It gets worse when a child has disadvantages of various kinds, even more so if it’s a girl child. The gap in the knowledge and experience we see in children must be seen as opportunity for growth and development, and not as weakness. Let’s not deprive them of meaningful and quality relationships that can harness good moral principles in them.
Application: Develop strong, meaningful and healthy relationships with children.
In spite of the cultural and social barriers Jesus faced, he was willing to break the status quo and radically communicated back his understanding of who children were and what potential they hold for the future. Are we willing to follow the footsteps of Jesus in acknowledging that children are valuable, they deserve to be included, and it is crucial that we invest into their future?