By Trish Propson
Originally published in the Times Villager, April 2016
“I wish I could tell my dad I have no respect for him. He is such a hypocrite. He says one thing and does another.”
“I wish my son would tell me why he is so disrespectful and ungrateful. I try to do my best for him.”
“I wish I could tell my daughter to respect herself and others. It matters.”
“I wish my mom would tell me she is a different person at home. She is nice to everyone else and at home she is a raging monster.”
These quotes from the rekenekt graffiti wall may shed light on the disrespect many of us experience in our own homes. We live in a culture that breeds disrespect. Disrespectful attitudes assault us in the media, at school, at work, and in our own families. Jumping on the proverbial bandwagon of disrespect is easy when an environment of respect is not taught or experienced at home.
If you want to witness disrespect, you don’t have to look farther than the local ballpark. I have witnessed a little league coach use a string of expletives to enunciate the point that his player was worthless. At a local basketball tournament, a parent threw trash in the coach’s direction because his son did not get enough playing time.
The antics of campaigning politicians are respect deficient by blatantly disregarding laws, property, and other human beings. Have you listened to any rap music lately?
Tombstones of veterans and flags were defiled in a military cemetery. Although the perpetrators of this heinous respect crime were never found, the response by local teens was chilling. They could not understand why people were upset. It was just kids having fun, they argued.
I saw a disrespectful monster being groomed in a grocery store. The angry toddler wanted candy. Mom said no. She hit her mother and screamed, “I hate you. Give me candy.” The mother apologized to horrified onlookers while unwrapping the candy her disrespectful toddler demanded. She asked the smug little girl if that made it better.
As violence and a nonchalant disregard for self and life rise among our youth, disrespect is the root of issues like self-mutilation, suicide, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, and bullying. Statistics show nearly 30% of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying. Experts say bullying is a result of feeling disrespected and wanting to have others share that same feeling. Studies estimate that 40% of bullies are bullied themselves in their own homes.
At a seminar I was teaching for middle school girls, they were asked to assess respect in their home by asking a parent to define respect. One girl looked up briefly from texting, rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.”
Maybe we live in a culture of disrespect because our kids are not learning it at home. Parents are fighting the rising tide of American culture that says they are irrelevant and children don’t need to respect them as authorities in their lives. Tired, distracted parents have bought into the lie that their influence doesn’t matter. They give in to the temptation to take their hands off the proverbial wheel as they resign the teaching of values to peers and pop culture. As parents, we can’t believe the lie. Our kids need us to teach them core values more than ever before. Respect should top the list.
A story about a lemonade stand a few years ago restored my hope that parents can victoriously teach respect. Local law enforcement closed a lemonade stand run by two young sisters. It was controversial and could have been an ugly mess. But, the mother of these girls intervened, creating an environment of respect. Not only did she teach her children a healthy respect for laws and local government, she stood up to an entire community requesting that respect be shown to all involved. This mother understood that respect begins at home.
Studies show that children who respect their parents and feel respected by them are more likely to reject smoking, drugs, and cheating. Children taught to respect others more often respect themselves. They are less likely to self-harm, attempt suicide, or bully.
Children need parents to teach respect. Children who have respectful parents learn how to be respectful. So what can we do to battle the raging monster of disrespect? We can start with ourselves.
How can we reestablish respect as a core value in our society, communities, and neighborhoods? We can begin at home.
Take Five Action Steps
To build a healthy environment of respect in your home, start by infusing respect into your own actions. Use polite words to others. Don’t gossip or slander others with your words. Avoid sarcasm; teasing is just bullying in disguise. Obey the rules. Don’t lie or cheat. Recognize others needs and feelings. If your behavior affects someone else negatively, own up to it. Admit when you are wrong and don’t laugh at or defend disrespectful behavior. Apologize.
Use these discussion questions with your children to measure the respect factor in your own home. Be open, honest, and transparent in your discussion with your children. Beginning a new conversation centering around respect may change the atmosphere in your home.
On a scale of 1-10 how do you think we do at respecting one another in our home? Explain your answer.
- Do you feel respected by other family members? Give examples.
- Do you ever feel disrespected by my words, tone, or actions?
- Can you describe a time I you felt disrespected by me? What could I have done differently?
- What is one thing I could do to raise the level of respect in our home as your parent?