Respect seems to be missing a lot in our everyday lives.  I am amazed at the constant lack of respect that I see among children and adults as well as the lack of respect for authority figures.  Perhaps all this disrespect had its start with the song of the sixties, “We don’t need no education….”  I just know that I’ve lived long enough to see what that kind of attitude has brought about in our country.  I, for one, do not like the apparent results! (Ha! Even this computer is doing all it can to remind me that the song title is not proper grammar!)

                Each day I watch interactions between parents and children as they deliver and pick up from school.  Many times I see deflated looks upon the parents’ faces as they are strongly reprimanded by their child for letting the child forget “this or that” thing.  These manipulative children seem to have no sense of personal responsibility for remembering their own belongings.  However, there are also the “helicopter” parents who have brought this upon themselves by taking charge of every facet of the child’s life except his/her rate of breathing!

                Yes, I grew up in the school of hard knocks.  For this, I am truly happy and thankful.  It has made me responsible and creative at the same time.  I refuse to “give in” on most problems in life.  My mother expected much from me since my father was always on the road in another state, and she worked in a factory much of her life.  I was the oldest child and she depended upon me for help.  I am not warped or handicapped because of that.  Instead, I learned to respect parents who have to go the extra mile to provide for their families.  I certainly respect the hardship that single parent homes have.

                I learned at a young age that we were to respect the belongings and property of our neighbors in the city where I lived.  My schools taught me to respect the flag and the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.  I was taught to respect and help senior citizens and those who suffered with physical handicaps.  None of this etiquette training hurt me a bit.  In fact, I have enjoyed the millions of interactions I’ve had with people over the years…regardless of race, creed, economic status, educational levels, etc.

                I remind my students that I was told by people who live in other nations that overseas we citizens of the U.S. are often referred to as the “ugly Americans.”  That is such a shame!  It is usually us who goes to the aid of people world-wide when tragedy happens.  Yet, people prefer to look upon our lack of respect for others as our defining moments.  I believe the book of Proverbs notes people always remember the bad things about a person after he dies.

                Just watch the interactions of any two-year-old, and you will see that we are not inborn with a sense of respect.  No, defiance is more our nature.  Therefore, I contend that respect must be taught if it is to be caught by this and future generations.  Since the brain loves patterns, I teach very catchy songs to my first graders about manners and respect for others.  I hope these songs remind them over and over what the right thing to do is…and that their young hearts will follow the message.

                 I once had a parent who served in the military who told me, “My child will not be made to say yes, mam or no sir, etc. I have to do it, but she sure doesn’t have to.”  However, his case was the exception.  Over my career, the children of military families usually always show good manners.  The respect they show for traditions, patriotism, and veterans is inspiring.  Hats off to all parents who do continue to teach today’s children those qualities that made America great in the first place!  

-          Kay