Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Little Women

     Maybe I missed something somewhere along the way, but when did it become okay for kids to be so downright rude and disrespectful to their parents and other adults?  It seems like every time I go into a store I will see at least one example of this new Parent=Pal trend that seems so fashionable right now.

    Little kids, cute as buttons, calling their parents "Stupid" or responding to questions with "Duh" and "Whatever". One mother was discouraging her daughter's choice in shirts in what seemed like a reasonable manner, only to have the pre-teen answer back with, "Please. Like you know anything." Another time, a little boy was playing a video game in a waiting room. The mother asked him to please turn the video game's volume down. The little boy looked at her and said, "Be quiet. Can't you see I'm working here?"

  When did that become okay?

  I know many times, the parent is equally to blame, modeling the snarky attitude prominently at home. Children are mirrors that reflect some of our most blaring faults.

 Sometimes it's the older siblings who teach the bad habits. And of course every Little wants to be just exactly like the Big in their life.

  We can also point the long finger of blame at schools, and media, and video games, television.

  But I wonder if it really helps to blame anyone or put the burden of fault on anything. Can't we just agree that it's wrong. Is it erroneous to assume that disrespectful children run the very high risk of becoming a very dangerous thing: disrespectful and possibly un-empathetic adults?

  I am the first to admit that my parenting style has flaws. I'm not perfect. But I will absolutely say that I speak to my daughters with respect and expect them to speak respectfully back to me. I expect them to. As in, I have expectations for them. In my opinion, encouraging children to reach expectations is a learning experience. Teaching. (As many of you know, I like teaching). When they hear a new phrase or learn a new behavior and want to try it out on me at home, we will discuss it if it doesn't meet our Expectations. There was a time, not so long ago, when it seemed every request I made of them was answered with a slightly sassy, "Oh, I Don't Think So"...complete with the eye rolling.  I could have let that slide. Sure. But if it bothers me to have that said when they are 8, I really don't want to hear it when they're teenagers,  full of raging hormones and battling every single thing I say. How tiring would that be? So we sat down and talked about it. How it made me feel. How it made them feel. What it meant. We talked about our Family Pact to keep our words respectful towards one another, and considered if that phrase fit into that plan; we decided that it really didn't mesh too well. And you know what? That was the end of it. Case closed. There was no yelling. No aggressive behaviors or stomping of feet. It wasn't needed.

   I consider it my daughters' job to "push the buttons"; that's how they grow and learn. The trial and error is how they become the unique individuals they are destined to be one day. My job, as a parent, is to give them the opportunities to thrive and learn from their mistakes, and to help them find their own voice in whether something fits in with our Family Expectations or not. It's also my job to model the behavior I expect from them to them. They are with me every day, seeing my own trials and triumphs on a daily basis. I'd like to hope my actions cast a glowing reflection. Like I said, I'm not perfect by any means, so it's as much an on-going lesson for me as it is for them.

   Maybe this seeming trend in kids being disrespectful will fade away. There is always that hope, after all. But in the mean time, I am aspiring to rear two respectful daughters who will be (I hope) tomorrow's respectful and empathetic women. It may seem that the  morals and ethics of the world are spiraling out of control, but what I can do is be watchful of my own actions and attitudes, knowing that the two blessings entrusted to me are present, ever watchful, and (hopefully) picking up on them.