Children are people too. No matter how young they are, they should be treated with the same respect that you would show any other human being.
If a friend of yours picked up something you thought he shouldn’t be touching, would you snatch it out of his hands without a single request or word of warning? If he walked into a room in your house where you thought he didn’t belong, would you pick him up and carry him into another room (if you could)?
Then why do we treat children like this? Just because some people are smaller and less experienced than us doesn’t mean they deserve any less respect.
Certainly, there are times when children need to be protected from danger—the same way you would grab a friend if she was about to be hit by a car.
Children need the chance to make messes, to get hurt and learn from their mistakes. They have an incredible inborn capacity to avoid danger. It’s only when we expect them to get hurt that they will tend to do so.
It’s no wonder we’re all traumatized and chronically lacking in self-esteem. If our parents and caretakers never trusted us to take care of ourselves, how would ever learn to trust ourselves?
I have witnessed this philosophy of parenting applied, resulting in the happiest, most responsible child I’ve ever seen. When I interacted with this little boy, I had to resist my impulses to snatch things from him. Instead, I had to get more creative in my approach. He was only 16 months old at the time, but I figured out ways to ask him for permission or explain why he something was a bad idea. It took a lot more effort than simply forcing him to comply with my wishes, but I could immediately see the difference it made.
The respect you show children will grow into the respect they have for themselves.
For more on this topic, I highly recommend reading The Continuum Concept.