Friday, February 6, 2009

Teaching Respect and Drawing the Line Between Kids and Adults

I was reminded recently that my job as a parent is not to be my child's friend, but rather to teach them the rules of life so they can be good people as adults.

There are, in my opinion, too many young adults today who jump out of college and into the world expecting that they are owed something, not realizing that there is a place for respect and a time to earn their own. Watch any reality show on tv, deal with young clerks at the local mall, or just walk into a restaurant or bar that twenty-somethings frequent and I think this statement rings true. There is a big contingency of self-important, delusional people who have been taught through their lives that they are all-important and screw everyone else.

I want my kids to be better, for I feel that the young adults who were taught respect, who were taught that the community around them is more important than the individual, are the ones who will ultimately be the most successful in this world.

It is hard, though, when you are around your kids 24/7, to not fall into some sort of complacency once in a while, to the point that you occasionally get snapped back to reality and realize that somewhere along the line, you lost control.

My oldest, M, has periodically been having attention span issues in school. Every so often, she has been sent home with a note indicating that she has failed to follow directions, or is not listening to the teacher.

Pre-children, had I heard of such behavior, I would have adamantly insisted that the kid in question needed to be reminded who was the boss in the situation (the teacher), and deserved a stern reprimand and lecture on respect.

Post-children, I found myself inexplicably trying to figure out all of the reasons M might have been acting up. Was she tired? Bored? Too young to be in kindergarten just yet? Were other kids creating the problem? Was the teacher the problem?

I even had a talk with the teacher to try to determine exactly what was going on (a move I still consider to be a valid one- there is not a lot of communication that goes on between schools and parents and sometimes, this is the only way to get a handle on what really goes on in class).

Well, the bottom line is, perhaps none or all of these things were going on. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that M was not showing respect to the teacher. She was not listening to her. She was not following directions. She had placed herself above an adult, a person in position of authority, and once we woke the hell up and realized this simple fact, we made sure we corrected it. M was sent to her room, had tv privileges removed, and was reminded in no uncertain terms of what was expected of her. She has not come home with a note since.

Still, I hate doing these things, hate being the bad guy. I question myself all the time about whether I overreacted, whether my punishment was knee-jerk and cruel, and how my actions will affect my children down the road. But as my mother (and husband) reminded me recently, her generation did not obsess over these things. They did what they felt was right, they corrected the situation, they moved on. My sister and I are not in therapy these days, she correctly pointed out. It was the splash in the face that I need every once in a while to keep me from becoming an overindulgent, not-my-child kind of mother.

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