Is it old-fashioned to insist on respect?

Posted by Samantha on April 18, 2013 in Boundaries, Respect |
Cooperation flourishes in an atmosphere of respect...if children do not treat their parents with respect, parents will struggle to truly cooperate with their children

Cooperation flourishes in an atmosphere of respect…if children do not treat their parents with respect, parents will struggle to truly cooperate with their children

Yesterday at a parenting workshop, two parents were discussing their discomfort around insisting their children treat them with respect.

This was an uncomfortable idea for them.  It seemed old-fashioned and not quite right somehow.  Exploring the theme further, they discovered that both been raised with the idea “Respect has to be earned”.

It reminded me of a story I heard a while back featuring some teenagers, a Mum pushing a buggy and the headmaster of a school.  Approaching a gate on school grounds, a small group of teenagers arrived at the gate at the same time as the parent with a child in a buggy.  The teenagers pressed through the gate, forcing the parent to wait while they filed through the narrow space.

This Mom went straight to the headmasters’ office.  She told the story and said that she did not feel the teenage pupils had shown her the kind of respect that a parent on school grounds ought to receive: her opinion was that they ought to have hung back and allowed her to pass first, rather than the other way around.

The headmaster (allegedly) said something to the effect of “Respect has to be earned.”

But surely respect ought to be given freely to all people – regardless of race, gender, age, marital status, sexuality, educational attainment and so forth?

Surely people are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect simply because they are human beings?  I believe that any time we treat a person less than respectfully we are not living up to the promise of our own humanity.

I think I understand where the seemingly liberal and progressive idea that respect must be earned is coming from.  I suspect it’s to do with the reality that some people will not behave well enough towards us or others to make it easy for us to treat them with respect.

I believe in those instances it is more beneficial to simply withdraw from communication rather than to wander into being disrespectful ourselves.

Responding to everyone with love must surely be our highest calling.  And failing that, as we so often will, we must still at least aim for tolerance and respect.

We all deserve to be treated with respect, children and adults alike.


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