On xmas day I posted
about youth voice at home, and the notion that engaging young people has to extend throughout our communities, including the places where young people spend more time than anywhere else. My friend Jenn is a rock star goddess mother and writer and youth worker who has been doing this work for a month of Sundays. She replied to that post on Facebook, where I “re-broadcast” these blog entries. Here’s some of what she said, and my responses.
“My 3 1/2 yells that she wants to play hide and seek and I don’t want to. I’m doing this. And then I might want to read. What is the voice she is applying and what is the voice that I might be denying by not always engaging with her 24/7? Where do I draw the line between realizing her person and presence as an equal in this family and where do I learn to make my needs known and admired, too?”
There are many, many significant differences between youth voice at home and youth voice in community orgs and schools, and you just lit up the boards some of them. One is the notion of purpose: youth voice should be infused in community orgs to encourage engagement in the community, and youth voice should be infused in classrooms to encourage students engage in the curriculum.
However, at home, youth voice should be acknowledged at home to reach both of those goals, and much, much more. Those other goals can’t be ignored, despite how much some would do that. Those other goals are determined by tradition, culture, religion, socio-economic class, education, heritage, and a lot more. They may include creating emotional ties, showing support, fostering love, enshrining respect, and encouraging kindness. Because of that difference parents have to take a different tact than youth workers or teachers. Our means must reflect our ends, and honestly I don’t believe young people can reach any of those goals by parents simply acquiescing to every whim of a 3 1/2 year-old. There’s an essential tension in many peoples’ understanding of youth voice, where we believe that engaging youth voice equates to giving young people free reign over a given situation. I think it is important to acknowledge that engaging youth voice means finding a common ground between different perspectives. Perhaps that is where you can engage your daughter’s voice (which I know you do already, but for the sake of saying it…): When your daughter makes her needs known to you, make your needs known to her by modeling appropriate tones of voice and ways of asking. Show the difference between simply giving in and teaching her how to wait for when its time to share space.
“I’m and adult and she’s a child. Our minds don’t think alike and they just won’t for years. Where will the youth voice portion of this confusion and frustration come in? …We have lived on the earth longer and can see some distances better somehow.”
I don’t think that engaging youth voice equates to eliminating the responsibilities of parenting. I don’t think we, as parents, are required to give up, give in, or otherwise refrain from fulfilling the obligations, duties and responsibilities we have as parents. However, I do think that as conscious, considerate and deliberate allies to young people in schools and communities, as well as in our homes, we have a moral and ethical obligation to challenge ourselves when our children are young, and as they grow older, to create spaces and opportunities for our children to share their voices, collaborate, connect and otherwise connect their voices to the livelihood and well-being to the other voices within their families, including parents and siblings.
As a young parent I believe I have a huge opportunity to examine and live this notion of engaging youth voice at home, and I hope I don’t let my daughter down in the process. She gives me hope for the future we are going to share together. How about you?