I heard Dr. Laura recently talking about how our kids are spoiled, entitled and have no respect. It made me think; where, as a culture, did we cross the line, folks? I would never have behaved that way as a kid—most of us wouldn’t have dared. Plain and simple, my father was scary and I respected him. He was the boss of the house and that was that. That’s just the way I was raised. Now we have the other extreme; the parents who are so permissive and indulgent that our kids have gone wild and are out of control.
Once I was in a parking lot and a whole pack of kids practically jumped in front of my car, leaving me no choice but to slam on my brakes. At first I thought, They’re kids, they’re not paying attention, but then one of them flipped me off while the others silently glared, no less culpable in my book. I immediately felt outraged on top of feeling so blatantly disrespected, never mind that if I hadn’t seen them in time I could have hurt or even killed one or more of them. My son ducked down, because he knew I was upset and begged me not to say or do anything, but I felt like I couldn’t help myself. I snapped. I had for the last time taken it from some punk kid. I just had to do something.
So we parked and headed into the Subway sandwich joint, my son reluctantly following me (he was 10 at the time), and walked right up to the kid who was standing in line with his little entourage. And said, “Excuse me,” No response. “Excuse me?” He finally turned around and stared at me. By the way, there was a line out the door. My heart was pounding, I was so incensed. I said, “Did your parents teach you to behave so disrespectfully?” He tried to blow me off and turn around. I said, “I would love to meet the parents who raised a kid to not only walk in front of a 6,000-pound moving vehicle, but one that’s so rude as to flip me off as if I had done something to deserve such disrespect.” He rolled his eyes.
I said, “What you do when a car takes care to stop to let you go ~ which apparently you didn’t know, which I am going to now teach you? When someone lets you go across in front of them, particularly when you are not in a crosswalk, you give a courtesy nod or a wave, like thanks. You don’t flip someone off.” He rolled his eyes. “And just so you know, I am not leaving until you apologize.” Folded my arms and stood there waiting. My son looked like he wanted to evaporate. Oh, and I was loud! All the other people in line got really quiet, even the helpers behind the counter. We were all waiting by then. He muttered something sarcastic under his breath; his friends were muffling their laughs. I stood there and said it again; “I am not leaving until you apologize. Your behavior is unacceptable and I am not leaving.” By then, I was more upset that this kid was going to go on in life thinking that that was any way to treat people, and I would take a stand for him becoming a better version of himself.
He gave in and gave me a weak apology, and then the most surprising thing happened. Everyone who was witnessing this started clapping and whistling! I got chills all over as I looked at the kid, certain he wouldn’t soon forget this, even if he did think I was some crazy lady. Believing that my taking a stand might actually make a difference.
One of my longtime heroes, Alice Miller, says a child needs three basic things growing up; to feel safe, to be witnessed, and to be respected. Yet there seems to be some confusion around the term “respect,” some real disconnect when it comes to making the critical distinction between respect and being overindulgent, overly permissive and downright spoiling our kids.
I am certain part of this confusion is a backlash to the corporal punishment so many of us grew up with. We were raised in an environment where it was “My way or the highway,” “If you want something to cry about, I’ll give you something,” or even stoic looks and glares that we understood meant we were to be seen and not heard. So what do we do? We give our kids a voice. We secretly declare we will never subject our children to such cold, dismissive, or even abusive behavior; we will use our words and let our little one feel all the way out loud. Looky what happened! We are seeing the pendulum has swung so far to the left that many of us have raised a culture of kids who have voices, all right, but have no idea what it is to respect that voice or others. By trying to give our children what we wanted or needed, we have overlooked helping them develop into healthy, thriving, members of society. We have raised a growing number of self-centered, rude, entitled, spoiled little brats who feel like life owes them the same air-time we gave them.
Here’s the good news: it’s not too late. We can stop this madness. The first thing we can do is take responsibility for creating the beast BY RELAXING AND SEEING that we indeed tried to give our children what we needed, neglecting to check in and see what they actually needed. Yes, we want them to have a voice, but first to understand the dynamics of responsible communication, which are always built on respect. And then to see clearly what our kids really need in order for them to thrive out in the world. Because, here is the thing: while you may think it’s okay to indulge them or defend their snotty, entitled behavior, I can tell you that most will not. This will not be tolerated at school, when applying for a job, or in a healthy relationship. And, it’s just not part of the recipe for happy, joyous living. Encouraging them to be so self-centered (and not in a good way) is setting our kids up to fail.
In this time in our history, being part of a community has never been more important. Even though I used to think my father was so harsh and didn’t care about me when he set such intense consequences if I was disrespectful or out of line, both my parents took care to teach me about respect, and that manners are one of the ways we show each other that respect! In the light of what’s happening with or own kids, I think it’s high time we step up and get that we are doing more harm than good here. Our kids, in the long run, will not benefit from our extreme submission. They will be better off, I believe, if we are a little less friendly and indulgent, knowing it will serve them in the long run. We need to set an example and teach them how important it is to treat people with respect.