Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Where Is the Respect for Elders?

Video of Bus Monitor Karen Klein Being Bullied Is Wake-Up Call for Parents

Respect for elders – it might sound like an old fashioned expectation, but the recent video of the 64-year-old but monitor who was bullied and harassed by 7th and 8th grade students is a signal that we need to go back to those lessons with our kids. It was stomach-turning to hear Karen Klein belittled, teased, bullied, and demeaned by these young “men”, and it made me, along with many of you, wonder how we could have gotten to such a place with our children where this would ever happen.

Why are kids losing respect for elders?

There do seem to be prevailing opinions of Americans that children and teens are becoming less respectful of their elders, but the reasons are multi-faceted as to why this might be happening in our culture.

  • The social lines between children and adults has been blurring in the past few decades. Children used to be isolated in their own social circles, but shifts in education, neighborhoods, and family and community dynamics means that children are participating in some of the same circles as older Americans, sometimes even in peer-to-peer relationships.
  • Family structures are changing. It used to be typical in American homes that a stay-at-home parent (usually the mom) would be active in caregiving for older parents. I remember as a child having my grandmother live with us for a time when she could no longer live alone. This type of care is not possible in dual-income homes like it used to be.
  • People are living longer and working longer – senior citizens are in our stores and businesses, sometimes even competing for the same jobs as the youngest working generation in America. This again puts them in that peer-to-peer relationship.
  • It is not a focus of teaching. Sadly, I do feel this is one of the strongest reasons why there is a loss of respect for elders. It is why a group of tweens and teens would find it funny to taunt and tease a bus aid to tears, and then post the video for all the world to see her pain. Parents have to teach respect for elders – and it takes an active approach, especially when most households don’t have that older generation living with them or even living near them.

How can we teach our children to respect elders?

Parents are the number one influencers in lessons like these, and we need to start teaching elder respect from the earliest of ages with our children. Parents need to take a more active approach to teaching their children elder respect – and in the busy lives of families it just doesn’t take on a priority. Here are a few ways you can integrate life-giving lessons for your kids.

  • From the time they are talking, children want to know Why?. Children will be more likely to respect elders when they understand why you value them so much. Talk about the generations before you – their accomplishments, their struggles, and their contributions (from raising you to inventing the microwave oven).
  • Take your young kids to story time at a nursing home or assisted care facility – or ask the nursing home coordinator if you can begin one. Sometimes the residents read to the kids, sometimes the kids read to the residents. My kids go and sing and play piano at nursing homes, take holiday cards and treats, and my daughter visits with her therapy dog.
  • Volunteer with your kids in community events that are elder-focused. In our city we have Rake the Town, where volunteers travel the city in the fall, raking the leaves of the yards of elderly people who need a little help on fall home maintenance.
  • Take your kids to activities directed by an older population. Senior groups often put on plays, productions, and lead classes in communities – show your kids that this generation has so much to share.
  • Talk with your kids about your family history – or if possible – have them talk with older family members to get a true sense of family history. My ten-year-old recently completed a family genealogy project where he learned from his great-grandmother and grandmother about the businesses his family owned, the homes they built, and the lives they lived. It connected my son to his living senior relatives, as well as with his own personal past.
  • Involve your kids in things you do with the elderly. I regularly take meals to my 92-year-old grandmother who still lives in her own home. One of the best things I can do is to take my kids along – they get to visit with her but they also get to see how I respect my elders.
  • Do it. Open the doors for the elderly. Ask them if they need help when you see them trying to reach something on a shelf. Engage in conversations with them when you are out and about. And do all of this with your children around you.
  • Tell your children this is what you expect from them. If you see your child not do these things, call them on it – tell them to get the door, offer help, or smile and say hello. Hold them accountable.

Someday it might be you or me who feels invisible, you who feels forgotten, or you who is taunted. This younger generation is the one we hope will care for us, love us, honor us, and need us. What we do today will not only determine how our children treat their elders now, but how they treat all generations to come.

Related posts:

  1. Does Self-Esteem Reduce Respect?
  2. The Repercussions of Redshirting
  3. Treat Kids Like Adults

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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