Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Kids" or "Children"?

From: mk-mk.facebook.com
When I first started talking to my parents about my book (Teaching Content Area Graphic Novels, 2012) my father stopped me and said, 'You can't keep using the word 'kids' - people will be insulted, because you use the work 'kid' a lot and a 'kid' is also a goat."

Fast forward a few months...My brother, who is visiting from overseas, said the other day that he was ready to go home because he missed "being away so long from his children."

And, while I have been thinking about my father's comment and choice of words for young offspring and learners in my book, my brother's comment sounded weird to me.  Weird- not that he wanted to be with his children (which strangely doesn't sound weird now as I use it), but that he called them "Children."  His oldest (of four) is twenty five, his youngest Eighteen - all are fairly independent adults.  The way he used the word (or maybe it was just his tone and not the word itself) - made them sound young and they aren't. 

 So I asked myself are my nieces and nephew kids or children?  What would they prefer being referred to as?    Does it make a difference?

"Children" to me connote youngsters, and I will bet my bottom dollar that my nieces and nephews would prefer not being referred to as children.  On the other hand, my dad would emphatically state that "kid" is a baby goat. So how should we refer to our offspring once they hit young-adulthood?

Bill Cosby in his comedy routines, always spoke about his "children" as you see here in this clip:

Robin Williams, on the other hand, used the word "kids" to describe very young prodigies in his Inside the Actor's Studio performance:

When I google-image "kids" and "children" - I literally get the same images.  So at least to Google, these words are interchangeable. 

According to The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (second edition, unabridged):
child (child), n. pl.chil-dren. 1. a young boy or girl. 2. a son or daughter. 3. a baby or infant. 4 a childish person. 5. a descendant.
kid n, 1. informal. a child or young person. 2. (used as a familiar form of address.) 3.. a young goat. 4. leather made gloves

Maybe my brother is simply too formal for my taste (at least when discussing his offspring)? Or, could it be a cultural thing? An age thing?

I recall in the book Frindle (which I've mentioned in previous blogs) by Andrew Clemens, the story focuses a lot on what makes a word a word.  The bottom line is: you do.  So.... while I realize that "children" may simply be a more formal word and "kids" informal, I can't help but wonder...how do OTHERS use and /or connote these two words?

In surfing the web, I found a blog by Drew Gardner (http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2010/07/06/of-kid-and-child-by-drew-gardner/) who tackles this issue from the mindset of an Aikidoka and apprears to disagree with my impression as he notes that:
The kid simply plays around in the dojo, as if it were recess from elementary school, even if he has learned how to keep the appearance that he is in-line...  Others on the mat know his fool-around-mentality from day one, and the odds suggest he will never alter his foolishness... The child is much different from the kid. A child, especially one who finds the opportunity to train with fine sensei, accepts being a beginner. Even if for a glimpse he has a technique down pat, he immediately reminds himself that his senpai and sensei are there to erase such complacent thought for the better. He also realizes early on that he will not master a single technique before he passes away in the perhaps multiple decades to come, but he does know that by looking up to his skilled sensei and respectful senpai, he will become better at technique, and more importantly he will grow as a person.
While I may be totally blowing my brother's choice of words out of proportion, I do still wonder about word choice.  

What does this all mean, and what am I sending you away with? I'm not sure, which bothers me.  I have always tried to send you away with food for thought and/or helpful parenting/teaching tools.  I think though there is an important message here:  Not only do we make a word a word, we have to:
  • carefully chose the words we use;
  • recognize and monitor how we use them and the tone employed;
  • think and be aware of how others might interpret our word choices/usage (sometimes this matters, sometimes it does not - but being aware of this before using a word is helpful); and
  •  understand that words always have an impact and reflect our conscious (and sometimes subconscious) thoughts and we therefore, again, must be careful and cognizant of our choices.

What do you think?  Has the choice of "kid" and "child" every hit you?  How do you (or might you) refer to your young-adult / adult offspring - 'kids', 'children',  'progeny' (wayyyyy tooo formal for my taste)?

Finally, before I go, I just want to give a shout-out to Heather at http://my-2-cents.blogspot.com who is featuring my blog post.  Thanks, and please check her posts as well - there is ALWAYS cool stuff to be seen and learned about.


  1. I've MADE the goat comment, as a joke. But "children" sounds like a Julie Andrews character (Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp)'s terminology.
    I call them "kids", though I would probably write about them as "children."
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. I guess my feelings are pretty much the same as Roger's.
    Children can sound quite formal and less personal.
    I talk about my sons as kids because it sounds more intimate. Of course there are times when they are my grown up children too.
    I like that thought about what makes a word a word...we do. That about says it all.

  3. another great post - love coming here

  4. As a teacher, I was always taught to be careful when writing letters to parents- they are their children, your students. We never use the word kids, and my middle schoolers get offended when I call them kids OR children. Go figure.

  5. Certainly food for thought. Terms of endearment that vary from one individual to the other is all I can offer. I think what we see here is an inconsistencies in our reference to younger generations. My fifth grade teacher always referred to us as 'people'. She never referred to us as boys and girls or kids or children. And that choice had a profound impact on all of us-for the better.

  6. oops-sorry for the grammatical errors!

  7. Hi I'm a new follower
    I really enjoyed reading your blog
    Please come visit me in the uk anytime

  8. What a fabulous way to begin the day! Bill Cosby and Robin Williams are two of the all-time best comedians. As for the terminology...I like kidlets, and kiddos. Very politically incorrect in some circles, I'm sure. ;-)

  9. How many children do you have?
    How many kids do you have?
    How many issues do you have?

    Can these be used in the same context? They mean the same anyway!


  10. I spotted the mention of your blog at Mommy Only Has Two Hands and decided to venture over to see what you may have in store for me.

    First off, I love funny man Bill Cosby - great video clip you pulled out of the archives. He really made me laugh!

    Now to address the word usage debate. I've called our 'children' everthing. Some note worthy titles I've hung on them have been: Kiddos, kids, crumb crunchers, rugrats, wee bits,... and the list goes on.

    Our children aren't little anymore (17-23) and still I'm prone to using one of the words above when I referance to them. Why even when my daughter speaks of her fiance, I'll say "He's a nice kid."

    For me, it gives a sense of comfort to think of my children in this tender fashion. You know, like they were small again if only in my heart. I know good well they are young adults and fully capable of grown up responsiblities, but I simply can't let go completely. Maybe in truth, I never will even though my head is telling me something different.

    Putting all this wishy-washy stuff aside, I doubt, if anyone would really be offended with the word,'kid'. It's just a personal preferance.

    Stop by today to read these posts…
    Wayback Wednesdays…1992
    Chit Chat on Patrice’s Farmhouse Porch

    Autumn wishes!
    Cathy Kennedy,
    Children's Author, “The Tale of Ole Green Eyes”

  11. I'm a new follower and love the site! What an interesting topic on the semantics of "children" and "kids".

    I'd love a follow back at http://beatnikki.blogspot.com.

    Have a good day!

  12. Kids or Children? hmmm.... both! LOL...

  13. You've got a blog award! http://www.thewritingreader.com/blog/2011/09/29/its-a-double-play/

  14. Really love your blog!!! how can I reach you via email? I'd like to bounce some ideas off you!!!

  15. Hi Tracy. I love brainstorming, but do not know how to reach you. Feel free to leave a link or email.

  16. I have honestly never really given it any thought... I only have one, and "kid" seems so much more "friendly" whereas "child" seems a bit... almost derogatory. I don't know, I just don't like the way it sounds. LOL I really like your blog, btw. And because of the definitions you put up, I now understand that old saying about "kid gloves!" New follower from the Blog It Forward Hop! I hope you'll stop by my blog and follow back! Thanks! :) Through the Eyes of a Tiger