I've been working with children in some capacity for around 12 years. In that time, I've noticed a change in the attitude of children. The change is in their respect. And not just their respect for others, but their respect for themselves. Now, it is important to note that this change does not come from the kids, but from their parents.
Here are a few things I have noticed:
Kids often run the house.
Now, I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. I have seen it over and over again. The parents bend over backwards to do whatever their children want. Whether it is a sporting event, a concert, a party, or simply making sure their child gets their own way. The kids have priority over everything else. Now, making children a priority is wonderful and I applaud parents who make it a point to spend time with their children, but those kids need to know that they are not the most important person in the world. It is important that they know that their parents have worth as well. That the things that are important to their parents are indeed important. If Mom or Dad want to have a date night and it conflicts with something the child wants to do, well it's ok that that child misses their event from time to time. They need to know that others are as important as they are. Knowing this helps them respect others and their time.
Kids are not allowed to fail.
This is something that has been happening for years and it's terrible. I remember being a teenager and hearing an adult putting a stop to keeping score at a ball game because they didn't want anyone to lose. REALLY??? It was insane then and it is insane now. Kids need to learn not only how to be good winners, but how to act when they lose. And if they don't learn that, they are sadly unprepared for life...BECAUSE YOU DON'T WIN ALL THE TIME IN LIFE. I have had children (younger and older children) burst into tears because they lost a simple game in church. What will happen to that child when they grow up and he/she loses a job, misses out on a promotion, or simply doesn't get the credit they deserve in life. Will they cry then too? Will they throw a fit and march off in a huff? (Yep, I've had that happen too.) That will earn them lots of friends. We have to let them learn how to win and lose as children to prepare them for life. Plus, it helps them to respect the work it takes to win. Those who work hard do well...those who don't, not so much.
Parents no longer expect respect.
Parents allow their children to speak to them rudely. They allow their children to give them attitude and talk back. When I was a child, if I even tried to be sassy, my parents would have stepped in and put a stop to it. They let me know in no uncertain terms that that type of talk was not acceptable and THEY MODELED THAT BEHAVIOR WITH THEIR OWN PARENTS. I saw how they took care an respected their own parents and realized that this was the proper way to treat my parents. My parents didn't talk back to their parents. They didn't sass them. They obeyed them...even as adults. That is powerful in the eyes of a child. Words only have meaning if they are followed up by actions. My parents, then expected me to treat them with respect and I would be punished if I did not. Did I always "feel" respectful of my parents? Did I always "want" to do what they asked? No. In fact, sometimes I would fume because I didn't agree with them...but I fumed to myself. I respected their decisions even if I did not always agree with them.
My friend, Matt posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:
"Our sons will begin listening to their parents and doing what they're told without arguing and excuses. They will show us respect. If I have to quit my job, pull them from school, sell our house, throw away our TV, take away every activity, remove them from every friend and move us to the middle of nowhere, THEY WILL DO IT, or I will die trying."
I really don't expect Matt and his wife, Kristen to move to the middle of nowhere, but I applaud their hard work in this area with their children. And it is hard work. I'm not a parent, but even I know it's not easy to discipline consistently. Sometimes your kids get mad at you. Sometimes, they might even say they "hate" you (which they don't, but they will say it anyway...I know, because I used to think sometimes that I "hated" my parents, but I never actually did.) Kids get mad at me at church at times because I have rules and I expect them to follow them. But I learned a long time ago...if they like me all the time, I'm not doing my job right. They will not always get their way with me. They won't always like my rules. But they are my rules and if they want to be apart of the programming I plan, they will follow the rules. End of discussion.
You might read this and think, "She doesn't have children...she doesn't know what she's talking about." But here is the bottom line: In all my years of working with children, this is the constant: The children who show respect for their elders also have more respect for themselves. They have more confidence and they have better outlooks on life. Nine times out of ten, the children who are disrespectful are also more angry and bitter at the world around them. They lash out more often and generally seem more sad. That is what I have seen working with children over 12 years in three states.
But they can't learn this on their own. It has to begin at home.