Growing up Aretha Franklin belted out Respect every day on the radio. It was a word drummed into my head by my mother, the priest at church, my teachers and any other adult who happened to pass by.
In fact, respect was a concept that many people grew up understanding, incorporating into their character and believing was their responsibility in those days.
And, truth be told, it’s a concept that has been slowly lost in the past several decades. Suddenly, it’s more important that our children understand their self-worth and have self-respect than they have respect for their peers or the adults in their lives. Psychologists have developed a societal norm in which children believe they are the center of the world.
Of course, given the choice between children being treated like a commodity and being the center of the universe – I would probably choose the latter. Neither is healthy for our children. They should be valued and respected, but we should also expect them to have the same respect for us as we have for them.
I just recently finished watching The Gilmore Girls series and the follow up produced by Netflix. What was interesting to me was the group of “30 something” adult-children who wandered the town. The adults in town described them as those who had attended college but couldn’t find consistent gainful employment. They had now landed back in Stars Hollow (the town) and been dubbed “the 30 Something Gang.”
This group hung out at coffee shops, soda shops, candy shops and town meetings – but didn’t work and certainly didn’t act like adults. It was almost like they were a generation of children who grew up, but decided that adulthood was really for their parents and they wanted nothing to do with the bills, jobs, housework, or any type of responsibility.
While the show portrayed the PG version of could happen to children who never grow up, the sad reality of children who live this out is evident all around.
My mother taught me that it was her responsibility to raise me in a way that honored and respected my family and God. To do that I had to take responsibility for my behavior, my actions and respect the people in my life. When it was my turn, I turned away from what I learned in school about raising children the “new way” and went for a moderate approach on the old way.
This is what R.E.S.P.E.C.T. has meant to me:
R: Responsibility – As the parent and ensuring my children took responsibility for actions taken or not taken.
E: Effort – Whether they became garbage men, nurses, doctors, engineers or fry cooks – I expected their best effort in all they did and soon they came to expect it of them self.
S: Service – My eldest son has come to live out service in his life as he fed the people living outside his apartment going to school, stopping on the side of the road to help others or giving his time and talent when needed.
P: Personhood – In their pursuit of what they wanted to do “when they grew up” we tried to help our children also focus on WHO they wanted to become. Who you are is much more important than what you do. Standing at your grave after you die, people will not talk about how well you did your job but will comment on the type of person you are – because that’s where the difference is made.
E: Engaged – Be engaged with the people around you. This is more important for my youngest who has been swept up into a digital world, than for my oldest who started their digital life with flip phones and desktop computers. Look up from the digital devices and engage with the people around you – that’s how you find out who you really are.
C: Communication – It’s a skill that helps you to be respectful to the people around you and to improve your relationships. It’s a skill that is difficult for some and easier for others – but one we all need.
T: Try – Success doesn’t happen each time, but each time you try, give your best effort, communicate well, stay engaged, and take responsibility.
My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. We make mistakes just like everyone else. We hate the mistakes, but forgive the person making them and try to move on. It isn’t always easy – in fact, many times it isn’t easy at all.
But it comes with the territory of respect.
My children don’t get along with everyone – and I wouldn’t expect them to. They aren’t doormats. They have their own opinions and beliefs. But they try to express them in a way that isn’t offensive. They aren’t always successful, but no one is.
That’s the real lesson they learned over the years. They have a goal, they fight to achieve it. They may fall short of the goal, but they give it their best effort and expect the best from themselves. They respect others and they give themselves the same respect.
Respect doesn’t come easy and it isn’t easy to practice. But it is well worth the effort.