It seems that some adults (maybe all of us, from time to time) forget that kids are kids, not little adults. If we expect them to act like adults (only smaller), then we might be disappointed to get exactly that: emotionally detached, needlessly formal, high-stress children.

Three lessons come to mind:

One approach comes from Christine French Clark, editor at Highlights Magazine. She describes a fundamental lesson handed down from their innovative founders: the kindest thing we can do for a child is to inspire that child to think…

“…to ask questions, any questions, even those that are unanswerable, to think and discover for themselves.”

How do you lead a child to think?

Another lesson is in a brilliant question once put to those of us on the board of trustees of The Columbus Academy by its then new headmaster at the end of his first year. John Mackenzie said to the board:

Our kids are doing wonderfully well. They are learning about so many valuable things, achieving such heights scholastically, athletically and artistically. They are growing into impressive leaders. They are already enviable, wonderful people. But we have to ask ourselves a question: “Are they living good lives right now?” Because, if they are not, we are failing them.

I thought that his question was more than wise…

…it was courageous, because so many parents treat their children as assets, working to increase their value for some future return on investment. But John’s question implies otherwise: Children are people, living valid lives today.

The third lesson arose as I polished my social graces with today’s newspaper column by Miss Manners. (Yes, Gentle Reader, even your faithful correspondent must study to exercise his etiquette.) In today’s column, this gem answers a dentist who wonders whether to correct grammatical errors from the young people who sit in his office chair:

…Youth shouldn’t be considered an invitation to embarrass people about their general inadvertent failings.

Miss Manners, too, regards children as “people,” living valid lives now, not merely seedlings waiting to become trees.

Children are due respect and dignity. Let’s apply the Golden Rule with people of all ages. (#1: Let’s not gossip about them behind their backs.) Let’s treat them kindly, so that they might become adults we would like as friends.