Like Barnardos, we at Eureka! The National Children's Museum are disturbed by their research showing that the public has a negative view of children and young people as abusive, violent and even 'feral'. Most depressingly, it emerged that there is a real risk of giving up on children who need help most.
We have been working closely with children from all backgrounds and circumstances for 20 years to understand their wants and needs and allow them to play, learn and develop freely.
When we listen to and value children's ideas and opinions, we realise how much there is to learn from them. Children are innately inquisitive and open-minded and when given the opportunity to explore the world around them, discover things that we as adults are completely unaware of.
Why do adults have a negative perception of children?
What is clear from Barnardos' research is that there is a serious lack of understanding and empathy with children amongst adults. Not only is it a completely false perception of most children in the UK but it is also entirely shortsighted in terms of what might cause abusive, disruptive behaviour in some children - which is often abuse and neglect by the adults in their lives.
What are the dangers of adults having a lack of understanding of children?
This lack of understanding and negativity is dangerous for many reasons. Partly because it creates animosity and a sense of 'giving up' on youngsters before they have had a chance to take control of their own lives. But also because it assumes that it is appropriate for children to behave within very tight boundaries set by adults.
By limiting children's ability to express themselves in a naturally childlike way, we are also undermining their potential to develop intellectually, emotionally and physically as people and to lead happy and fulfilling lives. It also seriously diminishes their aspirations and therefore what they can contribute to society in the longer term. Why would we want that for the next generation?
How can adults gain a greater understanding of empathy with children?
If adults spent more time playing and communicating with children on their level, there would be much more empathy between generations and a greater sense of well-being and unity throughout society. What we aim to do at Eureka! is to use the power of playing together to turn around the unsubstantiated and negative perceptions about children shared by 49% of the UK's adult population.
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