Exploring the Rights of Children

Last week I hosted a parent workshop where we collectively took a closer look at the rights of children. We came together, we talked, we questioned and we reflected on how to uphold the rights of the child in a parental context and in the context of a classroom. At one point I posed the question “children have the right to _____?” and gave everyone a few minutes to write down their responses. I was humbled, deeply moved and encouraged by the things people said. I heard things like-children have the right to:

  • Be heard
  • Say “no” to hugs and kisses
  • Have their feelings and ideas validated
  • Wander
  • Be creative
  • Play without adult interaction
  • Have bad days
  • Take risks that seem scary to adults


As a parent and a teacher I have to get to reflect daily on children’s rights. I find it personally gratifying to advocate for children, and something that is a never-ending and rich topic that is intellectually challenging and promotes personal and professional growth. It also benefits the children that I have relationships with and hopefully models for them the kind of compassion, patience and respect that I hope to impart in some small way. Here is the list of rights I came up with (I intentionally left them broad so they can be expounded upon and specified)…

When considering children’s health, happiness and development they have the right to…

A sense of self and identity
A sense of belonging
Develop at their own pace
Develop and follow their interests
Construct their own knowledge and meaning
Appropriate risk and substantial materials
Express the full range of human emotion
Self-directed, uninterrupted play

I’d like to extend the conversation and ultimately end up with a statement on children’s rights to hang up in our school, a list of our values and intentions for families to see everyday. Please feel free to comment with your contribution!

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