Us: Respect

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

Our family is from the south. Both Hope and I have deep roots to this area of the United States and a lot of things we do and say reflect that. One of the requirements in our house was that everyone had to use the terms “ma’am” and “sir” as well as “please” and “thank you,” especially when addressing an adult. In our minds, this was strictly a show of respect to whomever you were talking to and, since it didn’t cause Hope and I any irreparable damage growing up, we assumed it would not hurt our children either. And it didn’t. There was some push back, even within our circle of friends—not everyone agreed it was necessary—but we felt it was important and insisted the kids comply. Besides, “yes, ma’am” trumps “yeah” in every situation I can imagine.

Speaking of respect, like all good Christian parents in the 90’s, we read Growing Kids God’s Way and even led discussion groups at our church with other parents about the book. Regardless of the fallout of the author’s methods in other books (namely Babywise) that practically cratered their ministry, we gleaned several procedures that we installed into our parenting arsenal that worked wonderfully. One was the concept of “the preciousness of others,” which is a fancy way of saying it is a good idea to try to think about other people occasionally and how what you are doing may affect those around you. Their favorite example in the book involves shopping carts and parking lots. According to them, the act of leaving your shopping cart in the middle of a parking spot and not returning it to either the store or a designated holding area is a highly visible act of selfishness. It tells the world that your time is more valuable than anyone else and you don’t care about any inconvenience you may have caused. Talking about this with the kids made it easy to transition to picking up after themselves at home and was our early attempt at providing logic to a request before resorting to the classic, “Because I said so!” To this day I still park near one of the buggy corrals in the grocery store parking lot, a habit formed when all the kids were in car seats and returning the empty cart was a potential parenting liability.

The other practical tip we gleaned from the book was the “interrupt rule.” The steps were simple: If mom or dad is speaking to someone and you, the child, want to ask us something, gently place your hand on my arm and quietly wait. This gave Hope and I a signal that we were needed and it gave us a chance to finish the sentence or thought we were engaged in before politely asking for a moment to tend to our child. This beat the option of one of the kids running up to us, repeatedly saying our name until we look at them, ignoring the fact that we may be involved in our own conversation with another adult. Of course, this put pressure on Hope and I to actually find a break in our conversation and tend to their need and not leave them hanging for ten minutes. When their palm got sweaty it was a sure signal that we may have waited too long.

The bottom line to all of this was we wanted to instill in our children some respect for other people. To help them realize that their actions affect others and sometimes in a negative way. And it is an attitude we have to work on to this day, with them and especially with ourselves. Let’s admit, being selfish is an unconquerable issue that will be in our way until we die. All we wanted to do was get them started thinking about it early and understand it is not a pretty character trait.

No comments: