Article 5: Acknowledging children’s evolving capacities

Article 5 recognises that parents have rights and responsibilities to provide guidance and direction to children. However, it also introduces boundaries on how those responsibilities are exercised. For example:

  • Parents’ rights exist in order to protect children’s rights. For example, a child has a right to a name, so parents have the authority to give a child a name because a small baby cannot exercise that right for him or herself. Parents can give consent to medical treatment while the child is too young to do that for him or herself.
  • Any guidance or discipline must respect children’s rights. For example, parents cannot impose punishments on a child that causes them physical, emotional or psychological harm. This means they should not punish a child by denying them food because this would abuse the child’s right to be as healthy as possible. Beating a child is also an abuse of their right to protection from violence.
  • Parents should recognise that as children are able to exercise their own rights, then they should be increasingly allowed to do so. They should respect their child's evolving capacities (you studied evolving capacities in Module 1). In other words, parental rights exist until a child can exercise those rights for him or herself. After that, children should be allowed to take decisions for themselves. Children are not the property of the parents. The level of guidance and direction provided by parents should reduce as children acquire greater competence.

Children learn through experience and observation of what is going on around them. They develop their capacities to think and make decisions through guidance by the adults and other children around them. Constant mentoring and guidance as they grow through childhood enables them to develop their capacities.

1.5 Four rights that promote children’s participation

Article 12: Listening to children and taking their views seriously