Sunday, January 11, 2009
We often preach the importance of "showing respect" to our children, but I'm not always convinced that many of us have really considered what the implications of respect really are. We tend to identify professions, status, and age as reasons why we should respect someone and we teach our children accordingly.

I call this type of instruction "blind faith education". If we teach our children to respect based on the principle of blind faith we are potentially subjecting them to danger, pain, diminished self-esteem and trust. We are asking them to give away something that should be earned and we are also asking them to ignore their intuition about who to trust in the world.

It is simply not possible to know if someone is worthy of our respect and that of our children simply because of their status in the community, such as politician, teacher, police officer, priest, or senior citizen, or other similar criteria. We see the consequences of this lesson in the news all the time, teachers taking advantage of students, priests acting against their vows, and politicians acting without honor. While these people may, in fact, be worthy of respect, many are not and herein lies the danger.

To solve this problem, I believe we should be teaching our children (and our peers, etc) that:
  • Respect is not a right; it is a privilege.
  • Respect is not a gift; it is earned. (Yes, even for parents!)
Manners are critically important when viewing the issue of respect from this point of view. We can teach children to apply manners fairly without teaching them to give away their precious respect. Pleases and thankyous can go along way to maintaining dignified and pleasant relationships without requiring the connection built through respect.

Teach children that they should pay attention to their instincts. Ask them if they like someone or not. Then ask them why. Reinforce what they tell you and teach them some red flags. Discuss repect as a precious thing that they can offer to someone who deserves it. Above all, trust their judgement. Never make a child "trust" someone he/she has reservations about.

Free giving of respect means that people have no need to actually be respectful or worthy of respect. Make them work for the honor of your respect.


Anna said...

I could not agree with you more. Nothing annoys me more than an adult who expects my child to respond to him/her 'with respect' simply because he/she is an adult, and gets insulted when he doesn't.

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