Respect and Today's Children

Respect and Today's Children
While this is really not a single parenting topic, per se, it is a parenting topic and one that should inspire some thought.

I was talking with my 71-year old neighbor last night about “today’s children.” He had a very interesting perspective on the subject that boiled down to the sentiment that he simply “cannot relate to today’s children.” Before you start to mumble – “they aren’t so different than we were” – let me give you an example of his lack of understanding.

He told me that when he was seven, his older brother hit him and ran. He could not catch up to his brother to hit him back, so he cussed at him. His grandmother heard him cussing and made him go down to the orchard and cut a switch off one of the trees. He brought it back to her and she spanked him soundly. He was so mad, that he then threw a rock through the kitchen window. He received a second spanking for breaking the window.

Now, his point was not whether or not he deserved a spanking or whether spanking is “right.” His point was that spankings were discipline at that time and that never once did he consider harming his mother, father or grandmother for spanking him. Yet “today’s children” believe that if anyone lays a hand on them, they have the right to call the police and file a complaint or, in some cases, hurt or kill their parents/guardians.

Now, I am not talking about extreme cases of child abuse where children are literally suffering from Battered Child Syndrome. There are exceptions to every case scenario.

But how many of you have heard of a child retaliating against his or her parents for being grounded, refusing permission for an event, or for a spanking? I read stories like this all the time. Children feel that they should be allowed to do what they want – and in many cases they are! How can we expect them to learn self-discipline if we don’t teach them how to follow rules and respect boundaries?

How many of you popped your toddler’s hand when they reached for a hot stove or an electrical outlet or something equally dangerous? Go ahead; admit the truth – no one is going to think less of you for it. It wasn’t a hard pop, didn’t leave a bruise – just got their attention long enough for them to understand that their actions were heading towards danger. Do you really think that is child abuse? Do you think that popping the hand of a fourteen-year old who has just dared to stand in your kitchen and flip you off is any worse?

Kids think nothing of walking out the house when they are told they are grounded, right in front of their parents’ faces. They have no qualm about telling a teacher, “No.” when they are asked to change seats in a class because they talk too much. They refuse to go to their room until you give them back their cell phone, standing in front of you, feet firmly planted, hand out, as if you are the one that did something wrong. What happened to the respect?

Why do “today’s children” have so little respect for their parents, teachers and other authority figures? The answers to that question, while many, are not as difficult as they may seem.

Over the next couple of weeks we will explore some of the answers to this question and I hope that you will share some of your thoughts, too, through email (see the link on the right) or in the Forums. I look forward to hearing from you.

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