What Everyday Adultism Looks Like

When we talk about adultism we usually focus on big, gigantic topics like taxation without representation and youth segregation from mainstream society. However, adultism also has an “everyday” face that we must learn to recognize and address. Following are some ways adultism happens throughout our society everyday. Remember that adultism is anytime the perspectives of adults are favored just because they are adults. I am not saying adultism is always wrong; I am just saying it always exists. We need to be realistic about this, and this list helps illustrate exactly how adultism affects young people right now.

Just because they are not adults, children and youth can be:

  • …listened to, read, or viewed without permission in all their private communications. 
  • …restricted in their communications. 
  • …sent to their rooms.
  • …made to take time outs. 
  • …cut off from their money and credit cards without their permission.
  • …limited in their ability to drive.
  • …forced to drive.
  • …kept from their personal property.
  • …robbed of their personal property or have it damaged without compensation.
  • …prevented from leaving.
  • …searched at anytime, either through their belongings or their rooms searched.
  • …violated and have their privacy taken away.   
  • …restricted in their Internet use.
  • …restricted in their television use.
  • …restricted in their access to videos, CDs, books, or other media.
  • …prevented from getting a tattoo or piercing.
  • …forced to get a tattoo or piercing.
  • …made to cut their hair. 
  • …forced to wear their hair a certain way.
  • …prevented from wearing makeup.
  • …made to wear makeup or wear it a certain way. 
  • …stopped from using perfumes or colognes.
  • …made to use perfumes or colognes.
  • …prevented from wearing certain clothing. 
  • …forced to wear certain clothing.
  • …stopped from contacting or associating with certain people.
  • …forced to contact or associate with certain people.
  • …spanked, paddled, or hit you (other than in play).
  • …forced to lower the volume of your music or stop making noise.
  • …restricted in their social activities.
  • …made to participate in certain social events.
  • …made to have an abortion.
  • …prevented from having an abortion.
  • …prevented from smoking.
  • …made to smoke.
  • …prevented from drinking alcohol.
  • …prevented from using drugs.
  • …prevented from taking medication.
  • …made to drink alcohol.
  • …made to use drugs.
  • …made to take medication.
  • …prevented from eating.
  • …made to eat.
  • …made to travel.
  • …prevented from traveling.
  • …made to work.
  • …prevented from working. 
  • …made to get a job.  
  • …made to quit a job.
  • …made to shower or bathe.
  • …prevented from showering or bathing.
  • …made to cook.
  • …prevented from cooking.
  • …made to clean.
  • …prevented from cleaning.
  • …made to do household chores.
  • …kept from doing household chores.
  • …made to be silent.
  • …made to speak.
  • …subjected to a curfew.
  • …made to do yardwork.
  • …prevented from doing yardwork.
  • …made to go to bed.
  • …kept from sleep.
  • …restricted in their dating activities.
  • …made to date someone.
  • …made to attend school.
  • …made to stop attending school.
  • …made to quit school.
  • …made to get certain grades.
  • …made to take certain courses.
  • …made to enter a certain profession.
  • …prevented from entering a certain profession.
  • …made to see a therapist.
  • …prevented from seeing a therapist.
  • …forced to see a medical doctor.
  • …prevented from seeing a medical doctor.
  • …made to have surgery
  • …prevented from having surgery.
  • …forced to undergo an extreme medical treatment.
  • …forced to enter a treatment facility.
  • …prevented from entering a treatment facility.
  • …threatened with arrest.
  • …violated by having the contents of their computer or other electronic device examined. 
  • …made to participate in religious activities.
  • …stopped from participating in religious activities.
  • …forced to join a particular religion.
  • …prevented from joining a particular religion.
  • …made to exercise or play certain sports.
  • …prevented from exercising or playing certain sports. 
  • …prevented from getting into certain areas of their homes.
  • …restricted in their hobbies.
  • …shouted at.
  • …insulted.
  • …pushed.
  • …blocked physically.
  • …physically restrained.
  • …restricted in their diets.
  • …kicked out of their bedrooms.
  • …kicked out of their homes.
  • …made to live somewhere they don’t want to live. 
  • …robbed of their money legally by parents or guardians.
  • …told how to spend their time.
  • …hurt physically.
  • …shouted at with orders.
  • …threatened.
  • …made to commit a crime.
  • …made to join or quit a gang
  • …stopped from joining or quitting a gang.
  • …made to join or quit a group or organization.
  • …prevented from joining or quitting a group or organization.
  • …forced to harm others.
  • …bribed to do things.
  • …”checked-in” on without permission
  • …forced to be in contact.
  • …spied on with electronic devices and Internet applications.
  • …forced to hurt themselves.
  • …prevented from helping others.
  • …forced to help people they don’t want to help? 
  • …forced to marry someone.
  • …prevented from marrying someone.
  • …humiliated in front of other people.
  • …ignored when they speak. 
  • …blamed for things that weren’t their fault. 
  • …subjected to decisions made for them without them every moment of everyday.
  • …forced to move a certain way.
  • …made to feel inferior.
  • …subjected to rumors spread about them.
  • …corrected.
  • …manipulated
  • …criticized.
  • …forced to feel guilty. 
These are just some of the ways adultism happens everyday throughout the lives of all young people everywhere. Again, I’m not saying these are all wrong or “bad.” However, it is worth noting that everyone of these actions can be done against children and youth just because they’re young. 

What do these behaviors sound like? The following gives us some examples:

  • “You’re so smart for fifteen!”
  • “When are you going to grow up?”
  • “Don’t touch that, you’ll break it!”
  • “As long as you are in my house, you’ll do it!”
  • “You’re being childish.”
  • “You’re so stupid (or clumsy, inconsiderate, etc.)!”
  • “Go to your room!”
  • “Don’t ever yell at your mother like that!” (yelling)
  • “She doesn’t understand anything.”
  • “You are too old for that!” or “You’re not old enough!”
  • “Oh, it’s only puppy love.”
  • “What do you know? You haven’t experienced anything!”
  • “It’s just a stage. You’ll outgrow it.”
  • “Act your age.”
  • “Children should be seen and not heard.”
  • “What do you know, you’re just a kid!”
  • “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • “You’ll understand it someday, just you wait.”

This gives us a place to start to challenge adultism. Where next? Learn more from The Freechild Project’s Youth Voice Toolkit at www.freechild.org/YouthVoice/discrimination.htm

NOTE: This blog entry is based off the Epstein-Dumas Infantilization Inventory (EDII) v. 3.0, © 2010, Dr. Robert Epstein. Learn more and take the survey at www.howinfantilizedareyou.com 

One comment

  1. You are so right! As a Montessorian in the early 1970s with a Newly founded Montseeori school and a new baby, I was very disturbed by the way I saw parents treat their children.

    In 1975 I suddenly had a name for this 'slavery'. I didn't tell others at the time, because I didn't know what to do about it.

    I only realized about a year ago that this slavery relationship between kids and adults is the root cause of all of the problems, troubles, and struggles that develop between kids and adults.

    Over the years I discovered and developed a solution. It works and kids love it, so do the adults who try it. It gets to the root of the problem and eliminates it. Then all of the problems, troubles, and struggles that have developed because of it begin to vanish, sometimes suddenly.

    Please, please let me share this with you. Maybe we could be partners in eliminating 'adultism.' My Montessori trainer called it 'The Tyrrany of Adulthood.' I write about this in my book. Also the first chapter is called 'Silent Slavery,' and another chapter is 'Born Into Bondage.'

    Most of the book is about the solution, including a chapter called 'Creating a Citizen for Democracy.'

    I am so glad that the youth are unwilling to be oppressed anymore. I would love to partner with any organizations that are helping this happen. Let's eliminate adultism. It can be done, bringing harmony to us all.

    Karen Ryce
    karen.ryce@parentchildteacher.com
    http://www.parentchildteacher.com

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