Wednesday, April 18, 2012

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. - What It Means To Me

I picked up Galya from school today for an appointment. This is not unusual; with her adoption history (read the afore-linked blog for history) and medical issues, she's pulled from school for short appointments more than your average student. Between this and my wife's involvement in the local PTO, we know the office staff of the school well enough. They are great people. We're blessed to have our girls in this school.

Which is probably why, for the first time at this particular school, I felt a momentary temptation to discipline another parent's child. It fled, primarily as the word "liability" followed the temptation.

There was a student there who had been sent to the office. I don't know (or, frankly care) why. I suspect I wouldn't have to stray far into my imagination to figure it out though. For one thing, in front of me, this student told the wonderful (and abundantly patient) secretary to, "shut up!" He wandered the office & halls, making the secretary get up and follow. Later, when I signed Galya back into school, I heard more of the story. Apparently the "shut up" was followed later by an, "I hate you!"

My parents are not violent people in the least, but I suspect had I said this to any adult whatsoever when I was growing up, those would have been the last words spoken by me until the wires came out of my broken jaw.

I am not advocating violence as a discipline. Not at all.

I am observing, though, that we live in much different times from the ones in which I grew up. We were taught to address adults through honorifics & last names (e.g., "Mrs. Smith") instead of by their first names. We were told, no, we were fully expected to respect adults before we knew anything about them. Authority wasn't necessarily to be feared, but it was to be respected. The phrase, "you will act better around them than you even do at home" rings familiar to my ears.

This is not so nearly as much today. I don't know when it happened, and I'm not a social scientist with studies to back up my opinions on the matter.

But I miss respect being more ubiquitous in our culture. It's not just with kids who lack respect for teachers (a problem I blame squarely on the child's parents). I have to fight it with friends who want my children to call them by their first names. We see it in the Tea Party and Occupy movement and their lack of respect & trust in the culture's elites. There is evidence of it aplenty in the dishonest bickering & (nearly) slanderous discourse of politics. Athletes equate their earnings with respect, and we hear "respect is something that is earned, not just given."

Hogwash. Respect is something that should be given as a matter of civility, as a matter of common decency. Adults have "earned" the respect of children by living a life that has gained them experience and (hopefully) wisdom. Children should respect that. What is the appeal of raising kids who think respect is money & fear instead of, well, just being treated honorably? What is the appeal of lowering one's status of adulthood to be on equal footing to children yet to learn to drive let alone live on their own? Why must we assume that those with whom we disagree are evil, stupid, corrupt or hateful?

Respect should be given, honorable treatment extended, automatically. It should take an nearly abhorrent act to pull it. I may lose respect for your accomplishments were I to find out you lied on your resume, but I ought still treat you with respect as a person.

The less we respect, the more we fight, the more we divide. The less we use common courtesy & the more we dimish honor, the faster we decline as people.

And teach your kids proper respect. I can't teach your kids, or the kid who used foul language to address our awesome school secretary. Respect, all due of it to our education system, is not, can not, and will not be learned at school if the parents decline to instruct in its importance. It shouldn't take a wallop upside the head, but parents please - PLEASE - respect your kids enough to teach them what respect truly, rightly is.