By L. Wayne Smalls
We parents have a lot of work to do. I am worried about the way things are going right now in our communities. As a whole, we need to correct the wrongs that were done during our generation. Our children are going awry and if we don’t make some changes, the generation after them will be even worse.
Not very long ago, I was at the basketball game of one of my sons. Understand that my son was playing in the 8-9 age group. It was a good game. The score had been close most of the way through. I would say that the two teams were very evenly matched. Towards the end of the game, the score was tied and things had become very competitive. There is nothing wrong with that, right? Well, at one point, the fans (parents and other family members) from each team began to heckle the boys as they played. The heckling began to get a little bit out of control. As time went on, things become so bad that the athletic director had to stop the game and make an announcement for the parents to tone down their behavior. That wasn’t the worst of it. A few minutes later, a boy in the stands who must have been 11 or 12 years old, shouted something at one of the players on the court. A father of one of the players on the opposing team turned around in the bleachers and politely chastised the young boy for his blatant disregard for the players, as well as the announcement from the athletic director that was made a few minutes earlier. The man was not mean, but he was stern in his comments. When he finished, he turned back around to finish watching the game.
To my surprise, a little girl who was sitting next to the young boy began to shout back at the parent who had chastised her friend. She was very disrespectful and clearly had no respect or reverence for any of the adults that were present. It was very shameful. What’s worse is that I later discovered that the girl’s parents were sitting right there in the bleachers and watched the whole thing. They never said a word. They just sat there!
There are a few things wrong in this scenario, but I would like to highlight one major theme. Discipline in the home is clearly not as prevalent as it used to be when I was growing up. When I was a boy, it never even crossed my mind to talk back to any adult; stranger or not. Respect for elders was something that was instilled in me at a very young age. I think that level of respect is no longer being taught to our children today. Of course there are parents that raise children to respect their elders, but as a society, you are much more likely to see a young teenager disrespect an adult than you would have 20 or 30 years ago.
One of the problems is that parents today establish the relationships with their children as friends. It can be a challenge to resist the urge to do that with our children. We want to have good relationships with them, but it is so imperative that we get back to being authoritative parents to our children. They don’t need us to be their friends. They need parents. If we start training them the right way when they are young, we are setting them up for success for the rest of their lives. We have to lead by example. Teaching respect must start with the parents displaying respect. When the children see us do it, they are more likely to follow our lead.
I teach my children to respect their elders. I don’t have to talk about it too much. I make it a point to let them see me in action when interact with people who are elders to me. I say yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir when I’m speaking to people. I am very polite to people. I don’t do it to be superficial. I’m that way all the time. But I want my kids to see me doing that. When they watch me, they inherently start doing it too. It doesn’t always work like that, but it helps when we practice what we preach to our children. It breaks my heart to see young people be so disrespectful to adults. It’s our responsibility as parents to take a stand. Parents please stand up!