Few days back I was at home taking care of my second son, Joe. In my conversation with him, I used words in my vernacular language, which is generally used by elders in our culture - “You have no shame.” He is just three years and eight months old. When he heard, he repeated back those words to me, “You have no shame.” I told him, “You shouldn’t speak like that to elders.” He replied without hesitation, “Such words should not be spoken by anyone, whether younger ones or elders.” Those words came to me like a slap on my face. I apologized to him for using those words. He then gave back his usual cute and mesmerizing smile.
My son taught me that day that every person, whether young or old, deserves respect.
Often times, I have observed, we elders do things which we don’t expect our younger ones to follow. We think we have the right to speak and do anything and the children are forbidden to do such, even no right to question us. But should not we set a good example to them about how they need to perceive human dignity and treat one another with respect? It is unfortunate that many children are treated with disrespect. Remember, the way we respect them is the way they are going to respect themselves and even others, especially those that are younger than them. Of course, there is room for rebuking and disciplining our children, but we shouldn’t forget that we owe respect to them as much as we expect from them.
Besides, what do they learn from us about how to speak to servants, drivers, waiters, vendors, watchmen and strangers on the street? Do they learn from our communication and conduct that every person is valuable, bearing the image of God and deserving respect? Do they understand from our treatment of fellow human beings that everybody has the right to be respected irrespective of color, class and background?
It is said, “The best way to teach respect is to show respect.” May we treat our children and other younger ones with respect and let them emulate our lifestyle.
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