Last week I wrote about my run in with our neighbour, you can read about it here but in summary she was really nasty to my smallest 2 for making too much noise in the garden whilst playing and then when I went to apologise and ask (respectfully – I’m British) that she speaks to me directly in future, I was met with a barrage of insults about how I wasn’t fit and couldn’t control my horrible, nasty children.
Anyway, this isn’t a rehash of that post – but rather off the back of that post there was something else I wanted to talk about: I don’t teach my kids to respect their elders. Now before you all pull out the shocked emoji and start thinking I have no manners – hear me out. I was raised on the principal of “respect your elders” and it’s something I’ve actively chosen not to pass on to my kids. In this instance, an old lady – a mean, unkind old lady at that – shouted at my 2 and 4 year old for making noise. Was there any respect for them, from person to person? No there wasn’t, there was rudeness and aggression when a simple “Excuse me little ones, could you make a bit less noise please, it’s very difficult to relax over here when you keep screaming” or “Excuse me, can you get your mummy for me?” would have sufficed.
So, why is that relevant to not teaching my kids about respecting their elders? Simple: “Respect your elders” has become a get out of jail free card for people who are older to use and forget that they have manners, especially when speaking to younger people and that just isn’t cool. Here’s the thing, we get it, you’re 82 and you’ve lived a full and rich life – you know more than me AND my kids put together about living… but that doesn’t mean you get to be an arsehole and my kids or I just have to take it.
The fundamental issue here is that being old seems to equate to being allowed to say and do what you like – and everyone just has to put up with it, but the “youth of today are so rude and don’t respect their elders!”
I teach my children to be respectful of everyone – from their class mates to elderly strangers. Be kind, be respectful – but do not take shit just because someone is older than you. If someone is rude to you, walk away but you don’t have to take as gospel something that someone says. You CAN challenge poor behaviour from someone who is your elder and there is nothing wrong with that provided you do it respectfully. This is why I went to see our next door neighbour and tell her that her behaviour was unacceptable and that in future I would prefer she came to speak to me and I would speak to my children about being too loud in the garden. I felt that this underlines to my children that it doesn’t matter whether someone is older than you, you have to be respectful and treat others with kindness – and when she didn’t do that, I called her on it because you have to stand up for injustice in life. The same as I would stand up for her if they had responded rudely – two wrongs don’t (always – another blog post there) make a right.
I don’t teach my kids to respect their elders because that isn’t what life is about. I teach my kids to respect everyone and question the shit out of the world until they make it a better place.