When you think of respect, what comes to mind? What does respect mean to you? How would you define respect?
According to the merriam dictionary, respect is defined as having a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something for their abilities. With that definition, how does respect fit into parenting?
When I was growing up, respect meant I better do what my mother says or else, it meant saying yes mam/yes sir, it meant looking at my elders when they were talking to me, it meant staying in a child’s place (which I am still not exactly sure where that place was), it meant doing things simply because my mother said so. I remember thinking when I become a parent, I am not going to make my kids do all these things and I am not going to act like this. What I found was, although I may not parent exactly like I was raised, I still had a definition of respect in my head that didn’t fit the definition of what respect really meant. I still had the same ideologies about respect as my parents and the world. I felt like my kids should respect me simply because I was their mother. I mean, I could argue that being their mother is a pretty admirable thing, right! Aside from the fact I am admirable, if I take the definition of respect literal, the reality is my kids are not obligated to respect me. Gasp…..
Ok, have you closed your mouth and regained oxygen to your brain? Great, let’s keep going!
I have learned two things that have moved me beyond the walls when it comes to parenting and respect, 1. my kids are not obligated to respect me and 2. the things I deemed as respectful were simply things that helped my ego and pride. I know that is heavy stuff. Let’s look at the terms yes mam and yes sir. At one point in my parenting career, I required my oldest child to say yes mam/yes sir to all adults. I felt this was respectful, because my parents made me say it and taught me this was respectful. But, hold on a minute, didn’t you say earlier you vowed you wouldn’t do things your parents did? Yep, I sure did, but again I got trapped behind the walls of life and society and I found myself doing things I didn’t really want to do nor did I understand why I was doing it. But I have digressed, back to topic.
So, I was requiring my child to say yes mam/yes sir, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. I tried to convince myself it made him have manners, and he got a lot of attention and I got a lot of praise for his “manners.”Yet and still, Who said that these two words were the be all to respect and the cause of his manners. I mean honestly, I met a lot of other parents who didn’t require their children to say yes mam/yes sir and they were very respectful children with excellent manners may I add. I began to really research and I realized this term was geographical and mostly used in the south. I also realized the brutal history of the term yes mam/yes sir and the reality that the terminology was used to show authority, belittle, and control. It really was a prideful thing. I am your boss you need to say yes mam and no mam to me simply because I am bigger and better than you, that’s it no other reason. I quickly released this idea of requiring my children to say yes mam/yes sir a simple yes and no would be just as efficient. It became as simple as use your words, don’t shake your head at me, open up your moth and speak. Well, this is all fine and dandy if your child has the language and cognitive development to say yes and no. For some children, a nod or the shake of their head may be all they can give and they can still be just as respectful.
This new ideal of thought blew up my thought pattern and required me to question all my ideals surrounding respect. Is respect set or fluid? Is it individualized or universal? Is it earned or given? I believe society likes to tell us respect is set, it looks like this and anything different is disrespect. It’s universal, it doesn’t matter the person or situation respect is respect. And respect is simply given to people in authority, they don’t have to earn it you respect them simply because of who they are. Society doesn’t feel there are levels to respect it is what is and it certainly isn’t a feeling you feel it is a requirement you do. I, however, believe there are two types of respect there is earned respect or the big R and there is given respect or the little r. Given respect is set and universal. Earned Respect, however, is fluid and individualized. Given respect you do, earned respect you feel. Just for fun, let’s call the little r respect SURG (set universal respect given) and the big R Respect FIRE(fluid individualized respect earned). Come on humor me!
SURG respect is the kind of respect we give to people with titles or who hold certain positions. Examples would be police officers, teachers, government officials, parents, and so on. Some of them may not deserve our Respect and some surely haven’t earned it; however we will show them a set and universal amount of respect simply because of their title. What is set and universal respect? Why I am so glad you asked. Let us turn to the big book of the bible. Although the bible doesn’t use the exact word respect, it does have some pretty good advice on giving and showing respect. Matthew 7:12 treat others the way you want to be treated. Well, Tanyell how is that set and universal? We all may want to be treated differently. Nope, every single person wants to be loved and honored. (Universal) So universal respect shows love and honor for a person. How that is done may look different, but the end result will always be the same (set) the person receiving the respect will feel good after being in your presence. You know how to make a person feel good, because you know what will make you feel good. FIRE Respect is different, you may have Respect for your mailman because of the admiration you have for them, therefore, you may do something different or extra for them to show your respect. You may give them a card, you may address them by mam or sir because you know that pleases them and out of admiration you want or have the desire to please them. You may greet them at the mailbox every evening and say hello and ask them how their day is going. Your level of respect and how you choose to show it may change day to day (Fluid) and the way you respect them may be different from the way you respect your neighbor (individualized), whom you admire and adore just as much.
So, how does this work with parenting? First, my kids must know there are some people who they must have a certain amount of SURG for. So, as their mother they may not feel I deserve respect or have an admiration for me, but I did give birth to them and therefore they will show me respect. This means when I am in their presence I want to walk away feeling good. I don’t want to walk away feeling degraded and bad. You can speak to me in a respectful way, you can look me in the eyes, you can acknowledge me when I am in your presence, you can answer me when I speak to you. Don’t talk to me a way you wouldn’t want me to talk to you. You want me to give you my attention when you are speaking so show me the same courtesy. It’s teaching your child to value other people the same way they want to feel valued no matter how they may feel about that other person. The other side to this is every day I am working toward earned respect from my kids. I want them to admire me and adore me and have a desire to show me FIRE. The type of Respect that goes deep. For me, what many people deem as disrespectful as a parent I do not. My child expressing to me that they are unhappy about their chore and they don’t like doing it, isn’t disrespectful they have the right to express themselves; however, because I hold the title of parent and I provide a roof over their head and food on their table they will do the chore. Why? Because, that is how they would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. At the same time, when my children enter into a room I greet them and say hello or good morning. I don’t wait for them to acknowledge me first. Many would deem this as them being disrespectful because I am the authority, therefore they greet me first. However, because I am trying to earn their Respect I treat them with SURG. I want them to greet me when I walk into a room; therefore, I will greet them when they walk into a room. Treat others how you want to be treated. For me, respect is a two way street. You can’t demand a person gives you big R Respect, child or not. You can’t demand a child says yes mam/yes sir and expect them to continue this behavior out of love as an adult if they don’t truly Respect you.
What does this mean? Are you saying that I should just dismiss my ideas of respect and let my children run wild? Not at all, I take you back to my original questions when you think of respect, what comes to mind and what does respect mean to you?I challenge you to break down your walls around respect and redefine what respect means to you without the world defining it for you. Are you giving your children the same type of respect you are requiring of them? Are your definitions of respect prideful and egotistical or are they unpretentious and humble? Should you be respected out of authority or admiration? Ask yourself am I a parent worth respecting rather than fearing. Does your child obey out of fear or respect? I have a saying, when children are young they follow the rules out of fear, but when they become older they follow rules out of respect.
Be careful not to confuse control as respect, one is earned through admiration the other demanded through fear.
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