I feel like as a society we are constantly asking why children “these days” have such little respect for authority or peers. I believe it stems from a lack of respect that they themselves receive: in terms of their ability, their wants, desires, but most importantly their needs. Instead of being granted the respect and opportunity to explore their environment based on their own terms, children are instead being put into activities full of structure and teacher guided activities. Adults do not allow children to learn solely baed on intrinsic motivation any longer because how could children possibly learn anything if we don’t give them a sticker(…). We kill children’s curiosity from an early (depressingly early) age.
“No, you cannot go play in the dirt because I don’t have time to scrub your grass stains out.”
“Don’t worry about throwing away your food and rinsing your plate off because its easier if I do it.”
“Wear tennis shoes with velcro instead of shoe laces because I don’t have time to help you learn to tie them yourself.”
We have started treating children and their needs as a chore on our “to-do” list, another thing to take care during our daily regiment. What we (and by we I mean parents, teachers, everyone in our child-filled society) are forgetting is that this living, breathing, thinking soul on our bullshit daily checklist is actually a tiny being that is somehow shaping the world with each breath he or she takes and when we treat this living, breathing, thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing being as a check box, we (again, everyone on planet earth) are not providing he or she with respect. So how can we possibly expect any form of respect in return? We (operationally defined previously) constantly discuss discipline strategies, parent un-involvement, women/mothers working more so but in my opinion, respect is a two-lane road. And for me, respect is automatically given and revoked when it is no longer deserved. Children are born dependent on adults for just about everything and in every domain of development. This is a form of respect and trust in itself. It is as they age and ask to see/explore the world and are denied the opportunity to do so, that the trust and respect they have for adults is lost and is represented through what some may call “unacceptable social behavior” or just basic courtesy.
Children are active, engaged, and curious from the very beginning of their lives and they similarly offer a level of respect for everyone they encounter from the start. It is when they ask to learn and seek to test their naive knowledge about the world and receive demeaning, sarcastic responses from the adults they trust in return that their behavior begins to change.
SO how do we start changing nearly two decades of disrespectful behavior? Start providing a positive model of what respectful behavior is. Pull your two year old out of summer math courses and let your seven year old pick one sport instead putting him in four different clubs to keep him busy. Not every little girl wants to do ballet and young boys should have the opportunity to play dress up. Provide a variety of exposure. Don’t choose a child’s destiny before they are even conscious of the immensity of their options. Respect children by respecting their curiosity and their naive thoughts about people, love, and pain. Respect children by letting them play without structure, whistles, wins or losses. Let little boys make guns out of legos and let the marker scribbles hang on your fridge. Respect children by respecting their individuality and unique desires and needs. Discipline, figures of authority, right and wrong are things children need to understand and acknowledge but I honestly believe that if children feel respected, discipline becomes easier, authority is granted and right and wrong are learned through experience. Respect is mutual and little people deserve so much more than what they are being given