Everything we do as parents reflect on the lessons taught to us by our parents: from our manners, our personal characteristics, and even our social behavior. Any good parent will take the positives and try to pass them on to their children. At the same time, we try to adjust to our current situation, leaving behind old ideas and evolving them into our new definition of parent.
Do I show respect to the man who cuts me off; swears at me; or flips me the bird?
I grew up in the 80’s (showing my age too much). Strangers told me that children should be seen and not heard; should not listen to adult conversations, and only speak when spoken to by an adult. In contrast, my parents went mad when they heard anyone tell me that I should be seen and not heard. They believed that a child should be allowed to be a child. Children are loud, boisterous and a series of other things! The only requirement my parents had for me was not rude or disrespectful. My parents expected me to respect my elders, my family and anyone else that had earned my respect.
As a young child, I found some of the rules hard to follow. I happened to be the youngest person in the room most of the time, and I found some of the adults behavior did not warrant my respect. That being said, they were my elders, and I had to respect them regardless.
To this day, I am confused. Do I show respect to the man who cuts me off; swears at me; or flips me the bird just because he’s my elder? We’ve never been a religious family, yet ever so often, my dad would spout a few verses from the Koran, and my mum would read me a story from the Bible. I don’t know to what effect because we didn’t practice either-or, and didn’t discuss any of those lessons we are meant to learn from the stories. The one thing I know is that every culture and religion agree that we are to respect your parents.
Even here I find a conflict of interest. (Just to specify, before I go on, I’m not one of these cases.) How about those children who’s parents don’t care? I mean the parents who are too busy partying? The drunkards and the druggies? They might be there in body, but they are not in heart and mind. To me, my children come first. They are the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last before I go to sleep at night. I am trying to earn their respect, so when they grow up, they know the definition of having someone’s respect earned. I want to teach to the respect those who have earned respect.
I don’t understand those parents I mentioned above. How can they put their personal needs before their own? I try to take the lessons my parents and other people have taught me about respect and pass it on to my kids.
I’ll be honest; I find myself saying some of those phrases they used on me like, ‘don’t listen to the adult’s conversation,’ whilst we are all in the car and can hear every word we say. I have to apologize because it’s not fair to them. It would have been more respectful of my parents if they had spoken when I wasn’t around when they were in private instead of having me pretend I wasn’t listening. My lesson to the children is ‘if it’s spoken in public, expect another’s point of view and respect what they have to say.
This brings me on to another point quite nicely. For a while, I was a bit dismissive of what the children had to say and their opinion. They are still young and have a lot to learn, but then I had to think about how it would have made me feel as a child if I wasn’t listened to, even if the adults around me were patronizing me? I would not have felt good; it could have even affected my confidence. Instead of being dismissive, I have learned to stop and let them speak; let them know I understand and show them my point. I have found that they walk away with a smile, not because they might be wrong, but because they have been listened to.
I try to show everyone the same amount of respect, but it only lasts while they reciprocate; otherwise I don’t bother. I treat people the way I want to be treated and have shown that to my children.
They have learned some hard lessons from me. It’s happened on several occasions where they have spoken to me with disdain and thought it was okay. They don’t like it when they got the same treatment in return. After we have this type of interaction, I sit down with them and ask them how it made them feel and if that was how they want people to treat them. I would express how it made me feel, and hopefully, they learn a lesson.
This also applies to any argument they have with their siblings.
As a family, we have also made it a habit of saying please and thank you to each other, no exceptions (including us parents). I believe they are turning into respectful people. They are sweet children and wouldn’t intentionally harm anyone! Family life isn’t always harmonious, yet, I have a strong feeling that they will be fine if they give respect accordingly.