how about a little respect?

26May11

I’m going to go ahead and say it because there is no sense in dragging this out…

How about a little respect dude?

I spent the morning chaperoning a group of lively first graders.  Fun, right? (Umm, sometimes.) My daughter was delighted and I was, well, a bit taken aback.  The field trip itself was fine and I once again vowed my awe and admiration for elementary school teachers (how do they do it?).

But, I was bothered by the attitude. It troubled me.  No  – that’s a lie.

It pissed me off.

Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a prude.  Call me whatever you want but I’m going to be bold here and make a huge generalization – our kids don’t respect us because we aren’t doing a good job teaching them about respect.  

There.  I said it.

There is no reason that a seven-year-old should be questioning or mocking or arguing with the request of the adult that is in charge.  Period.

My kids are absolutely forbidden from speaking to adults that way, meaning, you say yes ma’am with a smile.   But . . . they back talk me.  Let me get that out there so that you don’t  think that I am lecturing to you about how to teach respect; I don’t know.  I’m their mother which gives them carte blanche to express their dismay and to challenge me.  I don’t agree with it; I scream about it, “How dare you speak to me that way?”  In the moment, it feels good but it’s never effective. I confess: I did the same.  So did you.  That’s what kids do – they push their parents to the brink with their smartass mouths and rolling eyes.  OK.  Fine.

But with teachers?  Coaches?  Chaperones?  Other parents?  Umm, no. Not cool.

Here’s what I propose:

1) Insist on respect.  I’m talking about the good old-fashioned kind.  When people speak, you listen.  Stop talking.   Make eye contact.  Shake hands.  Say thank you.  What’s happened to this?  Youngsters and tweens must learn that you have to show respect to earn respect.  Make them.  Have them practice with you.  Send them back to say thank you.  It’s not enough to ask them if they did and take their word for it.  Be there, however inconvenient it may be for you, to make sure that your kid is following through on the expectations that you’ve set for them.

2) Be appalled.  Our job is to follow through with proper repercussions when our kids behave inappropriately.  We have to hold them accountable which means we must also hold ourselves accountable (gasp!).  When your kid spits on another adult at a playdate (true story folks) you better respond accordingly.  It’s not all right and, by the way, they did mean it so react dammit.  And, for the record, react immediately.  Some conversations can wait until you get home and some cannot. Disrespect to others is an immediate show stopper: you stop, they stop, everything stops so that you can impress upon your children appropriate, acceptable, respectful behavior.  I’m not saying you have to spend thirty minutes in this suspended world but taking thirty seconds to reprimand, correct and model – that’s hardly a dent in anyone’s timetable.

3) Lead by example.  They are watching us all the time so if you are wondering why your kids don’t look at you when you’re talking or why they never answer when you call them or why they interrupt their friends thoughts all the time – self reflect. When your kids talk to you, do you put your phone down and stop texting long enough to listen?  When they call your name, do you answer right away?  How do you talk to your friends?  Your partner?  This is what is being modeled so be aware. And, so long as you know you are being watched,  please do not let others kids be disrespectful to you.  What?  Huh? When we back away from uncomfortable situations, we are being complacent.  If my kid disrespects you – call them on it.  If your’s disrespects me, trust me, I’ll do the same.  This isn’t about using a village; this is about decency and moral standards and saving our society from slipping away into an abyss of coded, unspoken language that exists only on mobile devices.

4) Follow through.  You can’t pledge to do this for a week – this must be at the core of your parenting.  Respecting others is what propels us forward; it keeps us out of trouble, it fosters friendships, it breeds confidence and self-assurance.  If you want the world to respect your children for who they are and to not impose social expectations on them, don’t keep their gender a secret, raise them to respect themselves, to respect you and to respect others.

Today was rough.

But, it ended up rather hopeful: a brave parent set an example of patience, an amazing teacher upheld her expectations and a forward-thinking parent followed-up.

Amen.

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4 Responses to “how about a little respect?”

  1. 1 Keith "Panda" Riggs

    Wow! Spot on. I was just speaking to someone about that last week. Yes my Conner is very respectful to other adults and Luke is “doing his best”, but at home it is completely different. Michelle and I have discussed what to do about this lack of respect and general disregard for our authority. The pouting, the mumbling, the whining and the expectation to have what they want. But it’s not only Michelle and I fault, but our general society mentality of “I deserve what I want, when I want no matter what”.

    Thanks for the post Amy.

  2. 3 Lauri

    Nicely said…things to think about. Your children have always been respectful to the adults in this house so you are doing something right. Do Californians “yes m’am”?

    • Thanks Lauri. My kids will ma’am – that’s what happens when your midwestern parents raise you in the south for a decade and then move you to the west coast. I am still adapting to addressing adults on a first name basis (really????). But, no worries dude, we’ll figure it out… xo


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