By: Mia L. Hazlett
How many of us heard this saying growing up, “Respect your elders?” I can’t exactly remember how old I was the first time I heard this, but I remember by whom and the exact situation. I was lucky enough to have gone to work with my grandmother at the floral shop. A customer came into the store and we were making arrangements in the back. My grandmother went out front and greeted the customer. From their conversation, she either frequented the shop or was my grandmother’s friend. My grandmother called me out front and introduced me. I politely said hello and then the woman asked me a question. I don’t remember the question, but I looked down at my shoes, didn’t respond, and just wanted to go back to making my flower arrangement.
The woman left and there was an expression on my grandmother’s face that told me I was in trouble. “When someone asks you a question, you answer. And when you answer you look them in the face. Standing there twisting around looking at your shoes is not acceptable young lady. You need to respect your elders.” That was the first time that I can recall, but there were other lessons learned in respecting my elders from that point on.
Now I believe there is a very fine line in children respecting their elders and just being respectful period. Such as when you enter a room, you say hello no matter the ages of the people in the room. But on top of that, I was taught if there was a large crowd, you always introduce yourself or say hello to the host and the eldest in the room. Figuring out who was the oldest wasn’t always my strong suite, but I remember at a family gathering I didn’t greet my mother’s aunt when she came into the house. Everyone else gave her hugs and kisses and I continued to eat the appetizers in front of me. My mother gave me “The Look” and mouthed something that I don’t think was friendly, a possible death threat. I was stupid and didn’t move. I was dealt with later.
So as I raise my daughters, I realize their upbringing has become generational. I have said, “Respect your elders,” as my grandmother told me. I give them “The Look,” as my mother gave me. Besides greeting people and speak when spoken to, the one boundary I’ve never crossed because of the death threat lady, was “no back talk.” I can’t remember how I learned that lesson. Maybe I’ve blocked out that experience, I don’t know. But even today I am cautious when I disagree and respond to my mother.
But what happens when that seed was never planted in the parent. What happens when the parent wasn’t raised to respect their elders or better yet, have self-respect? I spent close to ten years in education and I’ve witnessed some of the rudest, brattiest, and most disrespectful kids you could ever imagine. Unfortunately the kids, who came to my office, had not been taught the respect lesson. I truly believe the reason many of these kids had no respect for their elders or themselves, is because (point of my blog) they had been raised by their friends rather than a parent. Or maybe it was passed on from their grandmother and mother.
I don’t believe there was a child that came into my office with disrespect that ever encountered me again with a disrespectful tone. What they did at home or with other adults, I don’t know. But I do know, I took the adult approach with them and corrected their behavior. Whether or not it was life changing, I don’t know. Whether or not they had the lessons reinforced down the line, I don’t know. But I do know the kids that passed through my office, left being told to respect themselves, their peers, and their elders.
Copyright © 2012 Mia L. Hazlett
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