Guest Author - Kelli Deister
First, let me say that if an adult expects a child to respect them, then the adult must teach that child what respect is, by respecting the child. Children do not automatically come with the knowledge of respect. It is something that is learned, much like everything else in life. Some people do not believe that a child deserves respect. I disagree. Respect is something that all human beings deserve.
Many children are abused daily. Respect is not taken into consideration, because they are a mere child. Oftentimes, those that are abused are told to be quiet because they are children. They are told that the adult does not have to respect them because they are children. They are treated as though their opinions, thoughts, and feeling are of little significance. Many children are disrespected daily by adults who sexually molest them, telling them to keep it a secret. They are disrespected by parents who tell them that they beat them because they love them. They are disrespected by adults who tell them that they have deserved the punishment given to them.
Many children are not taken seriously in their thoughts and opinions. How can we, as a society, even begin to assume that our children will grow up to learn respect if we cannot even give them respect in return. Do we just spit out that children are not deserving of respect because they are children? Some may think that children will learn respect and then when they are older, they can get respect. Children deserve respect just as much as the next person.
They deserve the respect of adults in their life. They are not punching bags, pounding boards, objects, possessions, targets of our anger etc. They are human beings, with real hearts, minds, spirits, and souls. Time and again, I have witnessed adults that cut in front of a child standing in line at the store, including my own children. But, you see, I am different. I will not stand idly by and watch an adult do this to my child. I will politely go to the adult, point out that their is a child waiting in line behind them, and they need to go to the back of the line. Just because they are a child, does not mean they are not worthy of respect.
Children deserve the respect of their elders, through listening to their feelings, thoughts, opinions, and concern for their own well being. They deserve the respect of their elders in that they are human beings and they are worthy of the same respect that adults oftentimes demand from them. How will a child learn what is right or wrong in this world? Are they simply supposed to accept what we say is right or wrong and not think for themselves? Adults need to take the time to listen to their child's fear. They need to take the time to tell that child the reasoning behind their dangerous behavior.
I'm not saying that parents are not to discipline their children. I discipline mine in a healthy way. I do not spank, because to me that is disrespectful of their personal space and their body. Spanking now means an entirely different thing than I believe it did years ago. Currently, many parents use spanking as a quick fix to a problem. The child does not learn respect for the parent, but fear.
I don't believe that respecting another means to be a doormat. Nor do I believe that respect is to be demanded. On the contrary, respect for ourselves dictates that we not be a doormat for the whims and demands of others. When someone demands our respect, it is no longer respect, but fear, power, and control. Many children will do all that is asked of them, simply because they fear that person. The child would never think of saying anything that might irritate or anger them. However, the fact that the child remains silent and does what the adult demands of them proves that it is not out of respect, but fear that they might possibly disappoint their parent, or recieve the harshness of their wrath that is shown through abusive words and actions.
However, respect that is earned comes very gently and silently. It does not come with a fanfare of noise and praise. It is, quite honestly, the opposite. When a child respects someone, it comes from an inner admiration for them. It comes because of their link to the child's heart. If a person takes the time to teach the child, through examples and not orders, then they will find that the child respects them. It is not to say that if a person doesn't do these things, then they do not deserve respect. That is not what I am saying. I am, however, saying that if the person teaches a child in compassion and gentleness, or listens to them and gives the adult their undivided attention, then there is a respect that gradually becomes strengthened between the two individuals. It is my belief that respect can never be demanded. It is earned. There are some parents that demand respect. They say things like, "Do not cry or I will give you something to cry about!" Other parents will tell their children, "If you do not do this NOW, then I am going to whack you!" The list goes on, but the main point here is that this is not a true respect. It is fear and fear does not breed respect.
The bottom line is that we should take the time, whether we are a parent, a teacher, a friend, an aunty, an uncle, a counselor etc., to teach the child involved. If you feel disrespected by a child, perhaps try talking individually with them. However, in the process of talking with them, treat them like the individual that they are. My suggestion is to give them the same respect that you want from them. Listen to what they have to say and how they are feeling. Listen to their concerns. Once you have heard their feelings and concerns, then inform them of yours. Howver, try not to yell or demand. If you choose to yell or demand respect from them, you will indeed be respected, but not on a professional or truthful level. It will instead, be on a level governed and controlled by fear.