I’ve talked about this before, using a different phrase, but after working in retail for some time now, I can’t help bringing it up again.
“Children are meant to be seen, not heard.”
The sentence ignites a great amount of irritation in me. I won’t repeat myself because I went into plenty of detail about why the similar phrase, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, is outdated and makes no sense. But this one feels even more so.
Although it’s short, after the time I’ve already spent working in retail, if there is any age group that should be seen instead of heard, it is adults!
The majority of the customers are pleasant and most transactions go normally with zero trouble. Of the problematic customers I have had, however, I’ve never had one who was a child. Neither have my co-workers. When my co-workers talk about the trouble they have with customers, they are referring to adults.
That’s not to say the children are always angelic. Of course, I hear children cry and occasionally throw temper tantrums. Or they touch things and don’t put them back correctly. I won’t deny that behavior is annoying.
But it pales in comparison to the adult who yells at me because I can’t do their return due to lack of any proof of their purchase (receipt, phone number, and/or sale tags). It’s nothing compared to the adults who frequently come to the register at closing time with a large amount of items for purchase, layaway, or both. It’s not children who leave the aisles a mess, with clothes and trash strewn across the floor (our toy aisle is very rarely messy!).
The worst thing a child has done to me directly at my register? Chatter. Yes, the “worst” experience I’ve ever had with a child at my counter is them sparking up a conversation with me. How dare they speak to me, an adult, when they haven’t been addressed?! Actually, I’m glad they do. They’re quite cheerful and tend to be the bright spot of a long shift.
In fact, the only times so far I’ve heard children continously cry are when they are tired or otherwise uncomfortable, and they’re usually small children (under three years old). I remember one particular small girl who was wailing so loudly, she could be heard throughout the store the entire time she and her family were there. My curiosity got the better of me and when they came to my register, I somewhat jokingly asked if the little one was having a bad day. Her mother flat out said she was tired and needed a nap. Is it the child’s fault she’s not being permitted to sleep? Who isn’t cranky when they’re being kept awake?
Now, I do not at all think children should be treated like adults, and in general, adults are more mature than children. I do believe that. But this concept that a child shouldn’t be allowed to speak solely because they are a child isn’t one I’ve seen to have much merit to it.
If this also refers to interrupting adults when talking, again, that should apply to everybody. Interrupting someone is rude, regardless of your age. I don’t want to be interrupted by a 30-year-old any more than I want to be interrupted by a 3-year-old.