A while ago I wrote a post in which I stated that I don’t believe people should be respected solely because they are older and that true respect is mutual.
Beka from “Climb A Tree With Me” created this meme from that blog post.
Some people had a hard time with this, so let me see if I can explain. I know not everyone will agree with me because we still live in an age where “respect your elders” is shoved down our throats from birth and if children dare assert themselves in a way that is deemed “disrespectful” to their elders, they are punished.
If you spend time reading my blog and book and other social media outlets, you know that I am a huge advocate for respecting everyone from conception to death. I don’t see age as a requirement for automatic respect. Everyone deserves basic respect, kindness, and courtesy.
The problem is that some people abuse their position as an authority figure or as an older adult to demand respect. As I pointed out in my blog post to which I linked at the beginning of this post, this often occurs in the parent-child relationship. The parent demands respect from the child, but doesn’t treat the child with the same respect.
A child who is not raised with respect will not respect the parent. He/she fears the parent and then becomes rebellious and/or resentful. How can we expect children to respect us when we treat them as second-class citizens?
Childism is alive and well in our society. Here’s the definition of childism:
“Childism is defined as ‘a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs'” (Gold, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-in-mind/201201/understanding-childism-are-we-prejudiced-against-children).
This comes in the form of abortion, cry-it-out, demanding things from children that they are incapable of doing, yelling at them, saying harsh things to them, shaming them, spanking/hitting, grounding them, not listening to them, not taking them seriously, and just acting as if they are far below us.
The worst thing is that children have no voice! Every other minority group has formed groups to give them a voice and change the way they are perceived and treated, albeit we have a long way to go in how minorities are perceived and treated in this world, but at least they have a voice.
Since children don’t have a voice, it’s up to people who see them as the beautiful human beings that they are to speak up for them. As someone who wasn’t always treated with respect by my elders, I am even more passionate about this. And due to my severe cerebral palsy, I still often get patronized and disrespected by adults of every age.
And, as I pointed out in my original post about this, sometimes disrespect continues in family relationships as the stronger one tries to bully, shame, and manipulate the “weaker” one. When this happens, the most respectful thing to do is to set boundaries and/or walk away. I have had to do this many times throughout my adulthood.
Unfortunately, children cannot “just walk away” or set boundaries. Children are stuck in that relationship until they are adults. This is not fair.
Children are born social beings who love unconditionally! They are just learning about everything and we are their teachers. We teach respect by being respectful to them. This does not mean we don’t set limits and boundaries or don’t discipline them. It means we discipline them without punishing them and without being harsh.
Yes, everyone deserves respect. The elderly deserve respect. But just because we are a certain age doesn’t give us the right to demand and force respect. Respect is earned by being respectful and apologizing when we mess up.
This world is becoming less and less respectful. It’s not because we’re not “disciplining aka punishing” children, it’s because we are treating them with less respect.
Respectful children have been raised with true respect, and thus, offer true respect to their elders.