Monday, February 25, 2013

10 Before 10 - Respect

In my last 10 before 10 post I spoke about universal morality and ethics. It's interesting that the list of 7 teachable points I made began with respect - respecting oneself and respecting others. Love and respect go hand in hand; when you truly love someone it's natural to act respectfully toward them, that is if you've learned how to treat others respectfully.

The idea of respect has gotten a bad reputation in the past 1/2 century. Many have rebelled against respect for authority, respect for elders and so forth because of experiencing injustice coming from those places. I think this rebellion happened because respect was taught more as a slogan "you must respect ...", rather than as an example and an integrated lifestyle.

If we want our children to respect us, we have to respect them first. That means honoring who they are and what stage of life they are experiencing. The more we understand about child development, personality differences, their needs and how to guide them toward maturity, the more we will be acting respectfully toward them. This does not mean we allow them to walk all over us, no, that would not be respecting yourself, which is also a very important part of teaching respect.

The point I'm making is that respect can not be demanded, it has to be learned and earned. As we practice respecting ourselves, our children, our elders, authorities, our place of origin and our environment, our children naturally learn these attitudes from us. However, because there's a lot of disrespect going around in society it is easy to become jaded, frustrated and disrespectful.

I saw this happen with my teenage son and an office worker at his school. The woman is in charge of attendance and my son misunderstood the attendance policy because there were new rules this year. The woman became very angry at him for not knowing the rules, and treated him in a disrespectful way. He apologized but she made him go through a lengthy appeal process in order to avoid failing for the semester, although it was well known that he had all A's and B's. None of his teachers had held his grades back due to one too many absences because they knew he was not skipping classes or being irresponsible.

All of his teachers knew the circumstances of his absences were legitimate and were vouching for him, and technically they had also broken the rules by not holding back his grades. The attendance lady became angry and disrespectful toward the teachers as well. It was a difficult situation for me because I could understand my son's frustration with her bureaucratic enforcement of the rules, however I felt it was very important for him to continue to respect authority and the necessity of rules. A tricky situation.

I listened understandingly to his complaints about the situation, sometimes even laughing with him about the ridiculousness of bureaucracy. However, I continued to encourage him to respect the rules and the appeal process, and to understand that she was just trying to do her job. I made the point that although he is a good student and was absent for legitimate reasons, she has to deal with many students who are irresponsible and don't care about their education, that's what the rules are for.

It's always good to try to understand the other person's point of view even if you don't agree with it. Sometimes I feel this biggest problem in this society is that there are too many people rushing around trying to fulfill their own wants and needs and not considering the circumstances others. For this reason it's helpful to slow down a bit and think about other points of views before we jump to conclusions. That is a process that our kids will need our help with.

Just to recap, here are the first 3 points of the  "Universal Guidelines for Morality & Ethics" list:

Respect Yourself
  • Take care of yourself
  • Educate Yourself
  • Become your best self through discipline & practice
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Be patient with your self
Respect Others

  • Practice Kindness
  • Practice Compassion
  • Don't gossip or speak falsly about others
  • Don't violate the rights, property or privacy of others
  • Respect the family values & religious beliefs of others
Honor your family and background
  • Take pride in your family heritage & beliefs
  • Be respectful of your race, ethnicity, culture or nationality
  • Act as a representative of the people you come from

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