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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Teaching Children Respect In an Age Of Equality

Written by  Wendy Mogel, PhD

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Remember those "Question Authority" buttons that were popular in the 1960's? Some baby boomer parents take an ideological stand against any role distinctions that are "given" rather than earned. After fighting against oppressive power structures in their young adulthood, they are reluctant to demand honor and respect from their children simply because of their status as parents.

For other parents, their own childhood experience of "not having been heard" leads them to be cautious about being less than perfectly attuned and deeply respectful of their children's feelings and needs. Yet, paradoxically, parents who listen terribly hard all the time and strive for equality and fairness in everything SOMETIMES find themselves with demanding, greedy, anxious children.

The fifth commandment tells us to "honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land." It's the only one of the Ten Commandments in which God strikes a deal with us, perhaps because the Bible recognizes that children are not naturally inclined to treat their parents with respect. In fact, although the Bible tells to love God and to love our neighbors, we are not required to love our parents. Instead we are required to treat them with dignity and to care for them in old age.

Our thoughts and feelings belong to us; it is our behavior towards others that counts in the world. By requiring respect from our children, we are not feeding our parental ego but are helping them build good character traits that will serve them throughout their lives.

How does one do this? In many traditional homes, the children are taught to wait until mother has taken her first bite before they begin eating. In school, students used to rise when a teacher entered a classroom. This is all for the sake of honor: of parents, of teachers - something that we might be missing in society today.

We can set some new standards for our families by teaching children not to sit in a parent's place at the table, not to enter the parents' bedroom without permission, to greet and make requests using a person's name or title and to say "yes, please" and "no, thank you" when offered something.

The key to doing this: Practice what you preach. If you require honor, you must also demonstrate it. If you tell your child you're going to do something (positive or negative,) do it.

Bend down and look at children at their eye level when talking to them. Remember, if we teach our children to honor their elders, they'll have a good reason to want to grow up.

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 13:29
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Wendy Mogel, PhD

Wendy Mogel, PhD

Wendy Mogel, PhD, is a Los Angeles clinical psychologist and popular public speaker who lectures widely to parents, teachers and mental health professionals on overprotection, over-scheduling and overindulgence of children. She is the author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Wisdom to Solve Your Everyday Parenting Problems.

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