This week I have decided to talk about the amount of privacy a child can be given… or denied.
Obviously, there is the kind of privacy a child starts demanding when they become aware of their bodies etc. Jack or Lucy haven’t quite got there yet but that is obviously going to happen and by the time it does, I would assume that most children would be able to express their need for it sufficiently enough for their parents to take heed. I want to discuss the privacy that your toddler – child might need and not know how to ask for. This thought came to me after two occurrences.
First, ever since Jack has been properly potty trained, he has asked me to leave him alone in the loo and to shut the door when he needs a number one and especially for a number two. My initial response was that I needed to oversee his developing ablution skills to avoid a potentially smelly or uncomfortable situation but he was really quite adamant and insistent that I leave him alone and so I did. I realized that if it took me longer to teach him how to wipe his bum correctly then so be it, Jack’s right to his own privacy became something I began to take note of.
Second is that when I was a child, I remember my mother saying to me that not even the Queen of England was allowed to come into my room without knocking first, least of all my siblings. From a very young age, we were all taught the importance of one another’s physical privacy and by that I mean ownership of ones space and things and what it means to have a area to arrange, decorate and be yourself in. I think this strengthens a child’s individuality as it allows them a space to define themselves rather than be defined by those around them. It allows them time to just be by themselves, freeing them from the need to satisfy others. They can decide what is important to them, how they will express themselves, how they will organize their stuff and how they want to spend their time. We have continued the knocking rule in our household and Jack may order everyone out of his room if he wishes and he may also choose to not let anyone in. He is just forbidden to slam any door at anytime. It has been difficult to get Lucy to understand this but, for now, she is easily distracted.
The point is that you do not expect a 4 year old to need or want his own isolation but they do! I would say that this is more of a physical need than an emotional one at this time but I think the one leads to the other. As a parent, I believe that respecting your child’s privacy in the form of a space that is theirs (say a room or a drawer) leads to a healthy mutual respect for each others opinions, interests and beliefs later on when they are older. My hope is that if they are assured my respect in this way then they are more likely to share the problems, fears and concerns with me more freely. Let’s hope so!