Monday, June 4, 2012


Several months ago, we were inspired by Susan's family to watch The Waltons.  We are now on Season 5, we all look forward to after dinner, when the girls have done the dishes and we can all get in our comfy-cozies (as my friend Amy says) and giggle at John-Boy and admire John and Olivia and crush on the Grandpa and how cute and funny he was.

Recently we cancelled cable (best thing we did in a long time!), bought a Roku and subscribed to Netflix.  We had to check out what all the hype about Downton Abbey was.  Allie, Jason and I are now hooked.

One of things that strikes me as we watch both of these shows is the level of respect people have for each other.  The Waltons are a great example of respect.  All of the children have respect for their parents and the parents have respect for each other.  Even when one of the family members disagrees, they do so respectfully.  They choose words that are respectful, that show consideration for the other person, their ideas, thoughts and feelings.

In Downton Abbey, you have O'Brien and Thomas who are wicked and self-serving, but well, you need a little of that to make some drama.  Someone has to stir the stew.  They can't all "fall on their swords" to preserve the honor and integrity of Lord Grantham and his family, as Bates does.  They can't all be as kind and loving as Anna.  But for the most part, everyone is incredibly respectful not only of the Crowleys, but of the other servants.  The Crowleys' are even very respectful of their servants and kind-hearted in getting involved in their servants' lives.

As I go about my day, make observations and live my life, I realize how far away we have gotten from respecting each other.  I work at the public library.  Part of my job is to oversee the public computers.  Young, physically able people will call to me from the computers and demand that I come to them to collect their library card and money so they can print, go back to my desk and enter the information into the system and then deliver their library card back to them.  Other people will shout, "Hey, you!  You have to help me!"  I don't mind helping them, but there is a much nicer, more polite and respectful way to go about asking for help.

I see it in parents who don't discipline their children.

I hear it on the radio.  Radio personalities, in the name of entertainment, calling anyone who disagrees with them stupid or ignorant; calling people sluts or making fun of Michael J. Fox because he has Parkinson's disease; or being just generally raunchy.

I see it on TV on shows like "Jersey Shore" or "The Real Housewives"...these people have complete disrespect for everyone around them.

I remember my parents being so appalled and turned off by Eddie Murphy's profanity.  "He is funny, if he would just stop saying the f-word," my mom would say.  I swore I would never be that prudent and prissy...but here I am.

You know how they say each generation shocks the generation before?  Maybe with each generation we lose more respect for other people.

Before I had kids, I ran summer camps in Connecticut for several summers.  I was the person kids were sent to when they had been disobedient to camp counselors.  I couldn't believe some of the things these kids would say, not only to their camp counselors (who were 16-20 years old) but to ME!  "I don't have to listen to you!"  "You can ---- my ----!" and other atrocious things.  These were kids from upscale towns!  My class had been labeled "bad" in junior high, but even the worst kid would never have dared to say that to an adult!

I have heard children say distasteful things about the President of the United States, things you know they heard from their parents.  Parents who are definitely NOT allowing their children to form their own opinions about things or telling their kids that you should be respectful and realize not everyone thinks the same way.  We try very hard to respect our childrens' ability to make their own decisions, we had them research candidates from different political parties this Spring.

I have seen kids blatantly misbehave and their parents pretend not to notice.  It's easier NOT to see their kid hitting another kid or throwing books on the floor of the library.  It's easier NOT to have to deal with their kids.

I have seen people leave pushcarts behind other parked cars.  I have seen people drive like maniacs through parking lots and then yell at older folks who are walking slowly.

I have heard people say that we should tell our kids to take what they can get and just look out for number one, because that is how our society is today.  Don't worry about anyone but yourself, push others out of the way, step on them if you have to...that is how our society is.

I have given this a lot of thought.  Indeed I do see where our society is dog eat dog, everyone out for themselves, take advantage where you can.  I have wondered if not being raised that way will be a detriment to my kids.  Should I tell them to screw everyone else and just look out for themselves?  I have decided that I don't like the way our society is leaning these days.  I don't like the lack of respect for our fellow man.  I don't want to raise my children that way.

I want to raise my girls to be caring and kind, sympathetic and empathetic.  I want to raise them to have respect for other people.  Most importantly, I want to raise them to have respect for themselves and quite frankly, I don't know how I can teach them to treat others poorly and still feel good about themselves.  I don't think I can.  Not in good conscience anyway.

So, we are thinking globally and praying for a world that goes back to having respect for others; and we are acting locally and teaching our girls to have respect for people regardless of their gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation.  We are teaching our girls that not everyone thinks the way that we do.  We are giving our girls the facts and allowing them to form their own opinions, but reminding them to treat others that disagree with them or think differently with respect and kindness; not to call others "stupid" or "Moron" or "fag" or whatever bad name just because that person may have a different way of looking at things, seeing things.

We drove home from the lake on Memorial Day.  We stopped twice.  Once at a rest stop and once to eat.  In both places we saw older men wearing Vietnam Veterans hats or civilian uniforms.  We thanked each man for his service.  This is something we can do to show respect.

There are many, many ways to teach children to respect other people.

  •  First of all by showing respect ourselves and not saying bad things about people, hopefully at the very least not in front of our children. 
  •  We can tell our kids what we believe and why, but inform them that other people disagree and why in a way that is honest and accepting of others' differing opinions.  
  • We can discipline our children and follow through on our threats.  
  • We can teach our children to shake hands when they meet someone.  
  • We can teach our children how to introduce themselves; how to introduce people who have never met to each other.  
  • We can teach our children how to include someone new to the group in an activity or conversation.  
  • We can teach our children not to judge others based on appearance.
What are some ways that you have taught your children to be respectful of others?