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The rights of children

All children have human rights. Let’s look at what those are, how to teach kids their rights and what to do if those rights are violated.

Happy children laying on their stomach, posing for the camera

What are rights and why do we have them?

Human rights are necessary in order for people to live full lives.

They are ethical and moral guidelines for our standard of living, and are based around the recognition of the inherent value of each person, regardless of who they are, where they live or how wealthy they are.

These rights are universal and inalienable, which means they apply to everyone and can’t be taken away.

What are children's rights?

  • The right to education. Children have a right to an education, including going to school and accessing information and mass media without censorship.
  • The right to privacy. Children have a right to keep information private and to be protected from harm that can be caused by lack of privacy.
  • The right to participate. This includes the right to meet with and be involved with other young people, and to have a say and be heard, especially for issues that directly affect them.
  • The right to wellbeing. Children also have a right to play, as this is essential for their wellbeing. This also includes their right to be happy.
  • The right to safety. Having a safe home and being protected (by adults) from things that might cause them harm, like violence, abuse and exploitation. 
  • The right to health. Child health is dependent on nourishment and protection from disease. Children have a right to healthy and nutritious food, safe drinking water and medical care.
  • Legal rights. Children have a right to freedom from discrimination and to access legal information and support if needed.
  • Cultural rights. Cultural expression and religious freedoms are protected by law. 

As parents, we have a responsibility to protect our children’s rights, and to help our children understand and stand up for their own rights. We also have the responsibility to help our children understand their responsibility towards others – that they do not have a right to interfere with or violate someone else’s rights.

Teaching kids about rights

Teaching kids about rights isn’t something that happens once. It’s the little things we do each and every day that allow them to develop a sense of right or wrong, understand respect and safety, have empathy for others, and feel empowered to stand up for their rights.

The best way to teach kids about their rights is to role-model loving, safe and respectful relationships that meet their emotional needs. This includes doing things like:

  • Listening to your child’s thoughts, ideas and opinions and asking questions to understand those, e.g. “Hmm, why do think he said/did that?”
  • Valuing who they are as a person and the things they value, e.g. “Yesterday when your brother was upset, you were very considerate of his feelings, which is one of the things I love about who you are.”
  • Role-modelling fairness, justice and equality when given the opportunity to do so, e.g. “What if everyone took turns on the play equipment?”
  • Role-modelling assertive communication and adaptive conflict resolution strategies, e.g. “It sounds like your friend was upset that no one else wanted to play the game she did. How could you handle that situation next time so that things are fair and everyone is happy?”
  • Showing empathy towards others, e.g. “It must be hard for the new person at your school to make friends. How do you think you might feel if you didn’t have any friends?”
  • Using world events, news, and our media as opportunities for discussion (in a developmentally appropriate way), e.g. “Why do you think those people on the news are protesting? What do you think discrimination means?”

Helping your kids to understand their rights doesn’t have to be complicated

If you’ve got questions, we’re here to help.

This content was last reviewed 21/07/2020

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