Friday, 8 February 2013


Kids, teens, young adults - those of the age of a very little person looking up with wide eyed attention, or the age of body language that says, whatever! right up to the age of self importance, seem to have trouble with respect.

After twenty six years working in a P-12 school the biggest change I've seen, is this progression from girls standing back shyly while boys hold the door open, to being physically pushed out of the way so a young person, or even an adult male, can go through the door first. They push from behind, the side or the front. It can be boys and girls and at school, even ..... teachers!  This has nothing to do with the fact that I am no longer 30 something because I see it happening to younger adults -  who don't notice, because they think it's normal! In the car park, in the supermarket, in a lift, someone will assume they are entitled to go before everyone else.

The last person to do this to me was a man of about 40 who - walked toward me from the outside of an automatic door, while I was inside, closer to the door and on my way out - did not slow his pace at all but pushed through the doorway first, knocking me into the side frame.  He kept walking at the same pace, as did his two teenage children who were following. No sign of good manners, no humility, no grace and no respect for others. What happened?

Sister Mary Benedita would be turning in her grave.  When I was at school we never gave cheeky responses to adults, never answered back, never pushed them aside, we gave up our seat on the crowded bus or train for women of our mother's age and older men and we didn't feel repressed ... we felt respectful.

Yes, I know ... boring story. I had those from my father too - how he rode a horse to school and lived on bread and dripping ....  that was his life BUT if he was here now he'd agree with what I'm saying because he was a gentleman.  When I was young I was aware that men opened doors for women, pulled back and held their chair in a restaurant, helped them on with their coats, all as a sign of respect.  Yes, there were a lot of things wrong in those days and all this attention and respect was not always genuine but it gave us a sense of security, of safety, we felt we knew where we were on the ladder of life and could clearly see where we would be as we got older. 

But the plan changed and now I feel cheated - and I'm not alone - even Clint Eastwood said, 'When I was young there was no respect for the young and now that I am old there is no respect for the old'.

Have we taught them to value power and control more than anything else? Have we let them down so horribly that they don't value us?  It would be nice if kids today had examples to follow .. from sports stars, politicians, celebrities but the daily news is full of disappointing examples.  Just ask someone under the age of 25 who they respect. The answers are interesting. 

Adults are no longer respected for being older, for having lived longer, they are not respected for years of study and experience, for war service, for doing dangerous jobs, for having positions of authority, they are not protected or revered by younger adults and children. We don't get respect from our own children, grandchildren, friends children - their sense of entitlement over rides anything we do. Who gets the respect?  In today's culture respect is not deserved or earned ... it is bestowed AND it is bestowed on people like David Beckham, Madonna or Bear Grylls, or whoever is in fashion at the time.

There is always false respect, don't fall for that. Not actually bowing and scraping, but polite nodding and agreement can mean they want something and they think you can help them get it - favour with their parents, the job they want or maybe to sign you up with a new telephone service or sell you a car.   There can be exceptions - kids who are naturally agreeable, but then you worry about that. Some adults receive a type of respect for being 'one of the group' but usually you get little or no respect from teens - they are too busy complaining that their parents don't respect them!!! What?  Is this a generation XYZ thing?

"You disrespected me" said the thug on TV, holding a knife to the throat of a terrified gang member.  

Do they even know what respect means - or has the meaning of the word changed? They need to understand the words that go with respect - regard, esteem, reverence, deference, consideration, honour, veneration.

Definition of respect -  To admire someone or something deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities or achievements - well yes, that could refer to David Beckham but also to Albert Einstein and also to hard working teachers and parents.  I would add authorities such as policemen and solicitors and doctors but I hesitate. That's interesting.

Speaking of  Albert Einstein (1879-1955), he once said, 'Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolised." Whoops.
This is a huge subject and I'm not attempting to go into it in a broad sense, just offering my personal experience and conclusions - there have been times when I've remembered Kathy Bates in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, rear ending the car of the young girls who had taken her parking spot, "Face it, girls, I'm older and I have more insurance". But that is demanding respect, really disguised fear, and it can't come that way.

Sadly, we can't change the world.  Some things we just have to get used to and until today's kids grow up and discover that something is missing we need to work around their lack of respect.  They will look back one day and discover new feelings for that teacher or friend from their childhood and respect could be reborn.

Choose your battles. It's good advice. The next time you are cut off in a doorway by a 14 year old, or the 18 year old brings friends home and does not introduce them to his parents, or the sweet 16 snaps answers back at her boss, or the kid in the back of the room mutters 'whatever' when the teacher asks him to open his book (or ipad or laptop) - just take a deep breath. Maybe we have to ignore the ignorance, because that's what it is, and find another way to get through to the young people.  Lets be gentle with the little ones and hope they follow the example.

What is it we all crave? Love. We want to be loved and appreciated and listened to. We want successful relationships, we want to be liked, to work together and laugh together and feel respect flowing from us and toward us.  Respect takes time to grow, time and common experience. It's just a little harder than it used to be. When the right situations come along, don't miss out.

1/ A sudden storm, a man and his son rush outside with shovels to dig a drain and divert water rushing toward the house. They come back changed men, a bond formed, respect growing.
2/ Exams in two days, a girl in tears. Big sister puts her work aside to show her how to study and is delighted when little sister passes the exam. The relationship is now stronger than just sisters, it includes respect.
3/ A woman falls when getting off the bus. An acquaintance rushes to her side, calms her, calls for help, rides in the ambulance and sits by the bed until family arrive. She appears the next day with flowers and is greeted  as a friend. A friendship grows from respect.

Back in 1971 someone heard Bruce Willis sing ... (yes, sing!) 
Respect yourself 
Respect yourself 
If you don't respect yourself 
ain't nobody gonna give a good 
Ca-hoot na na na oh oh 
Respect yourself 


Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, 
but always check when you say the paint is wet?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you but there does not seem to be an answer. It will take time and as you say maybe another generation will learn the lesson.


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