Dads Helping Dads Figure Out Being a Dad

RESPECT – What does it mean?

Find out what it means to me …

Aretha had all the answers! But how do we go about teaching our kids a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Since I am past the child-rearing years, I have some observations, and some questions.

As I have shared before, I am pretty happy with how our kids turned out. But neither of them were always as respectful as we wished they would be. They were not the worst, either. I think, for the most part, they were more respectful to others than they were to us, and if a parent has to choose, I expect that it would be preferrable to having kids who speak their minds at home and behave when away, to having kids who are polite at home and mouth off to others.

There are cultural issues too. I observed when I was in Texas that many of the children there routinely addressed adults as “sir” and “ma’am” – frankly, it was pretty nice. In contrast, so many of the children here in Southern California are just “lippy” as a matter of course. To quote Tony Hillerman, “They behave as if they have no family.”

But the kids in Texas grow up to be just like the adults here. Some are great and some are scum. But they are polite! They even call the arresting officer “sir”.

We worked to make our kids independent and strong, and I think we did that well. How do you balance that goal with that of instilling a polite humility and respect for others? I do not know. It is a “gray area” anyway, as success or failure seems to change moment by moment and there is a wide range of “normal”.  Any suggestions?

We need to avoid unhealthy guilt or shame if we are not going to quench their spirits or cause other future problems. Reinforcing and encouraging the positive and ignoring or when possible discouraging the negative was what we embraced as an overall philosophy – but there were many bumps along the way. The only REAL consistency in life is inconsistency.

And what part of this is “caught” and not “taught”?  Are we adults respectful to others in front of our kids?  At times I was not – and I regret that now.  Language, tone of voice, attitude are all communicated even before the kids understand what they mean.  Yelling at drivers, criticizing the pastor or teachers, even our political opinions can easily teach our children about our own disrespect for others.  Our kids catch it from us if we are not careful!

I think that we perhaps overlook the idea that we owe respect to others – some because of their position, and some just because we have no reason (yet) to disrespect them. But how can we teach that? Or do we even have consensus that we should?

I look forward to your reflections and suggestions. I will soon have another go-round with my grandkids — I want to get it right!

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