Children’s rights?

There are now international laws about children’s rights, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of Children in 1989. I understand a lot of the intent behind this, however, some of these sections can be interpreted strictly to keep parents from bringing up their children the way they feel is best. This disturbs me. Sure parts of it sound good (like the protection from illegal drugs and abduction), but what about parents’ rights? It would now seem the children and state have more rights than their parents in the raising of children. I admit I don’t know all the details, but parts of what I have read in the Convention alarm me. The US has not yet ratified it.

Article 14 compels governments to “respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” And makes it a right and duty for parents “to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.” This would seem like an endorsement for passing parents’ religion on the the children. However, it doesn’t say it needs to be the same religion as the parents. Rather the parents are forced to help the child no matter what belief the kids want to hold. So if a child of Christian parents wants to practice witchcraft, the parents are obliged to help the child! Furthermore this freedom “may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” So the parents have little influence their child’s decision or new practices outside the home.

The bit about protecting the morals of others can and is being construed as no public religious displays or practices of any kind. Christmas displays are prohibited in public places including airports. Muslim women’s headscarves are prohibited in some European countries. Christian cross necklaces have also been prohibited. As a result, all religion is being undermined and religious tensions are increasing worldwide.

Article 15 is the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association with “no restrictions” unless this violates other laws or interferes with others’ rights. Fine, the kids can get together with their friends. But what about if the friends are a negative influence as determined by the parents? What if they want to “assemble” at 2am in a place that has no legal curfew? Or what if the curfew is midnight (a very common curfew hour) and the parents want their kids home at 9? This takes the discretion of who their children associate with and when away from the parents. It makes no determination for the age of the child in this matter so a 6 year old has the same rights to assemble as a 16 year old.

It does mention in Article 19 that parents and legal guardians have primary responsibility for the upbringing of the child. However, “The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.”

Article 26 gives children the right to benefits from social security including social insurance. I don’t mind helping a truly poor family through a tough spot. The problem I have with this is parents who abuse the system by being lazy. An acquaintance of mine in high school when we were discussing what we wanted to do after school said she wanted to live on welfare because you lived better and didn’t have to work. Her mother was a drunk on welfare who couldn’t hold down a job more than a month. Why should I have to spend my tax dollars on these families just because they have kids?

Article 27 establishes the children have an adequate standard of living. Who determines what is an adequate standard of living? Is it the cultural norm for the country or just very basic food, water, and clothing? What about families who choose not to have the customary standards such as modern appliances in a developed (Western) country? The kids are healthy and happy without it so why should we be forced to have unnecessary stuff? Is it a basic right to have a tv, computer, and video game console? Some would argue it is under cultural norms for adequate standard of living and abusive not to allow kids to have them!

Article 28 and 29 deal with education. Article 28 is the right to an education including taking measures to insure regular school attendance and preventing drop outs. Also, “elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods.” (Art. 29, sec. 3) Here in the US we have the latest scientific and technical knowledge as well as modern teaching methods, yet our educational system is in sad shape with record numbers of dropouts and functionally illiterate graduates. Latest, greatest isn’t always best.

Article 29 deals with the goals of the educational system. No where does it mention teaching kids the think, reason, or make decisions. Instead it is very socialistic banning anyone to “interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions” (Art. 29, sec. 2) Some countries have banned homeschooling in favor of socialized public schools, “given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State..” (Art. 29, sec. 2). No mention is made as to how such standards shall be established nor what they should contain.

Article 32 deals with child labor. It gives the “right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” (art. 32, sec. 1) I’m fine with kids not working in factories and such but it’s got to be kept in perspective. Some would interpret this as anti-homeschooling since may homeschool activities are hands-on such as 4H animal care, sewing clothing, cooking family meals, gardening, etc.

A proposal in Europe calls for children to be paid a minimum wage for doing chores in their own home. This extreme measure is supposedly to combat child labor. We do give our kids an allowance but not an hourly wage. That’s silly! Doing chores is a wonderful way to teach children responsibility and helping others for mutual benefit. If they see it only as a Job then it misses the point. This seems hypocritical since you wouldn’t expect a mother to be paid for all the work she does as part of women’s rights. Where is the money supposed to come from? Some families (especially larger families) may not be able to afford to pay their children’s “wages”. What then? It’s always been expected that children help with the household chores. As long as the chores are not excessive or dangerous, I don’t see the harm. No child has ever been permanently harmed from washing dishes once a day or dusting. I think this proposal undermines families and would ultimately backfire. Instead of teaching kids responsibility it is teaching them consumerism. They would never want to voluntarily do something. They would only think of the benefit of their actions to themselves rather than others. It would put the kids, not the parents in charge of the household. Who would enforce it? How? What if the kid refuses to “work”? It doesn’t make sense!

Article 37 deals with punishments, “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (art. 37, sec. a) The rest of the section deals with state punishment and detention such as arrests. Under this section, all forms of physical punishment would be illegal. Again this on the surface sounds like a good thing to protect against child abuse. However, this means even having a child stand in a corner in time out (our method of punishment) would be illegal along with spanking. Sitting on your hands for misbehaving at a restaurant? Nope, illegal for being physical punishment. This would greatly take away parent’s ability to discipline their children. I’m sorry, but just simply saying “No, be nice.” Or “Please stop doing…” doesn’t work with young children. Or if it does, it doesn’t keep them from repeating the behavior 5 minutes later. They need to know their misbehavior will have consequences. Punishment isn’t supposed to be fun. That’s the point of punishment.

Article 39 “States Parties [governments and government agencies] shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.” The state controls what is considered abusive and what is considered normal to be reintegrated into. This is a big issue right now in the US with the over 400 FLDS kids being removed in Texas in April to state custody. Again, if you aren’t part of mainstream society you are in danger of having your kids removed to be reintegrated. I can understand this article as applied toward kidnap victims but not just cultural differences within a country, which is how I see the FLDS debacle.

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