Treating people like adults

James Marcus Bach recalls the following from his seventh grade orientation.

At one point the grumpy man said, “We consider you to be young adults now, and we expect you to behave as such.” … No one would say that unless the opposite was true. I had a terrible sinking feeling.

If someone told me that he considered me an adult, I’d be dumbfounded. Of course I’m an adult. Why tell me that? We only say such a thing to manipulate children. Most children, however, do not catch the irony as Bach did.

4 thoughts on “Treating people like adults

  1. But 7th grade is around the turning point of childhood to adulthood; no one would, perhaps, say they considered you an adult, but the cases are different.

  2. Funny.

    Reminding people that you expect something from them, really reflects that you do not really _expect_ that from them.

    A common variation (at least in Norwegian) is to remind people that you trust them, which I find slightly offensive for the same reason.

  3. I find it more useful (but also more difficult) to tell MYSELF that I should treat my university students like adults. A trivial example is lecture attendance. I have colleagues who obsess about attendance and punctuality, and who go out of their way to dress down students who show up late, only to annoy everyone in their classes. My policy is much looser: come when you can for as long as you can, just sign in so I know you’re still in the class. My students aren’t annoyed, they drop by or send me polite notes apologizing if they miss a lecture! The hard part for me is to NOT make this explicit; I only explain it if someone asks me directly.

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