Sunday, March 23, 2014

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This blog is in response to – or, more accurately, in support of – Beverly Beckham’s article in today’s Boston Globe, entitled, “A crude, but wildly popular shot at kids.” Her article, in turn, is in response to – and most definitely NOT in support of – a book called “I Heart My Little A-Holes.” Despite the wild popularity of the book, Ms. Beckham and I are, in Ms. Beckham’s words, “dumbfounded” by the author’s attitude. I would even go so far as to say that I am “appalled.” In my husband’s words, “It’s just so ugly.”

I have not read the book (or the corresponding blog), but between the title and the synopsis, I am stunned by the lack of respect this woman shows for her own children. Not her adult children, her children. Her young children, whom she is responsible for bringing up to be responsible, respectful adults.

One of my complaints about many young people today is their lack of respect. Their lack of respect for their parents, their teachers, their neighbors, their employers. But if the attitude of this author is typical of parents, it comes as no surprise that some young people have no respect. If they are not respected, why should they offer respect?

When my husband and I got engaged, we talked a lot about what our relationship would need to survive. We admitted that we would sometimes get angry with each other, that we would sometimes even dislike each other. But we agreed that we would always love each other, and that we would always treat each other with respect. I don’t know how any relationship can survive without mutual respect, be it husband-wife, parent-child, or friends. Respect is crucial in allowing communication, understanding, cooperation, and compromise. Without respect, none of those four things can happen, and without those four things, no healthy relationship can survive.

So I treat my husband with respect. Even when I really want to wring his neck – and there are times when I do. Because there are also plenty of times when he wants to wring mine, and I appreciate that he still treats me with respect at those times. That respect is what allows us each to step back, take a breath, recall that we love each other, and open ourselves to working together to fix the problem.

I consider it critically important that we model that respect to our children. Respect for each other, and respect for them. I demand respect from my children, but I also offer it in return. I do not allow my children to call me (or each other) names, and I never call them names, except in clearly understood jest. My son loves it when I call him a goof, because it is plainly said in love and affection. But I cannot possibly conceive of calling my child an “a-hole” under any circumstances. That is not jesting, it is downright disrespectful. And where there is disrespect, how can there be love?

Children learn what they see and what they are surrounded by as much as, and often more than, what they are taught. A child who is treated with disrespect, who is called names or treated as a burden by his parents, will learn to treat others with disrespect and to consider the needs of others as a burden that takes away from his own needs and his own comfort, regardless of the words he hears telling him to respect and care for others. Perhaps if parents treated their children with respect from the time that they were tiny infants unable to earn it for themselves, they would grow up continually earning it, and striving to earn it, and would never be deserving of disrespectful titles such as “a-hole.” After all, if you call your child an a-hole and treat him like an a-hole, don’t be surprised when that’s exactly what he turns out to be.


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