If I had spoken to my parents the way some children do now, I wouldn’t be here to share this status. Some children need to learn the meaning of respect.”—Dave’s Words of Wisdom
I recently shared this post on Facebook, and many people weighed in. The problem is obviously very real, but one that many parents choose to sweep under the rug.
I look back on my childhood and I see busy parents. Much like in today’s families, my father was away a lot, and my mother spent long hours teaching young colegiala how to sing.
But when there was a problem with discipline, I remember Papa talking to us gently but seriously and in no uncertain terms firmly laying down the law. There were no arguments. My mother delivered sermons, announced her verdict, and said: “Tapos.” Finished. No questions. No appeal.
I was not a model child, far from it. But I have searched my memory hard and long to bring back instances when I may have “had words” with my parents. I find none. I was not your best-behaved teenager, but I can’t think of a single time when I sassed or verbally disrespected them. My sister can’t, either.
Not an option
I remember endless lectures, sometimes being blamed for things I didn’t do. It was not always fair. But I never “gave them lip.” It was just something we did not do. It was not ever an option. I find this hard to explain in today’s “freedom of expression” society.
Our respect for Papa and Mama had deep roots. No, it was not fear. They were never the enemy. They didn’t try to be our best friends. They were simply mother and father. They never disguised nor confused their roles. They did not pretend to be anything else but our parents. We were in awe of them, but never doubted that they loved us completely and unconditionally.
During our growing-up years, Papa spent more time at the helm of his ship than with us. He could not work during the war unless he flew the enemy flag. So it was up to Mama. She sang her heart out so she could support us and her sister’s family until the war was over. We were never rich. But they sent us to good schools. We wore nice clothes and our cupboard was never bare.
Their rules were strict and clear. If we strayed there were penalties. If they scolded we listened. When they punished we complied. There were curfews we sometimes stretched and once in a while, they actually looked the other way.
As unbending as this may all sound, our home was always peaceful, harmonious, full of love and laughter.
There was no “corporal punishment.” Not from Papa anyway. When we were little, Mama had her trusty tsinelas for her gentle palizas, which must have hurt her more than it did our behinds.
How different it is today. What happened? Why have parents become so tentative?
“We have become unsure of the rules and unsure of our roles. Parenting, like brain surgery, is now all-consuming, fraught with anxiety, worry and self-doubt. We have allowed what used to be simple and natural to become bewildering and intimidating.” (American author Fred G. Gosman)
I have heard young people mock their parents, seen them roll their eyes at them, making them look like morons or incompetents. It is disturbing. What I can’t comprehend is why the parents take it.
Getting away with it
Let us backtrack a bit. Surely this disrespect did not just happen overnight. Do the parents remember what they allowed their children to get away with when they were little and cute and clever?
Gosman writes a warning: “Ignoring a child’s disrespect is the surest guarantee that it will continue.”
My daughter, who today is a single mom and has raised her two girls in America, believes in nipping it in the bud. “I tell them immediately that I don’t like their tone. They have grown up knowing there are boundaries. No matter how old they are, I remind them, ‘I am still your mother.’”
It is a mystery to me how parents allow their children to talk down to them. Have they decided that it’s better to keep a “respectful silence” (read that safe distance) rather than have a confrontation?
Some explain their silence with a shrug of the shoulders, mumbling something like “I’m too tired. Besides they need to express themselves” or “They are just joking.”
Where does one draw the line?
What will rouse parents from their stupor of denial and make them take a stand? What kind of disrespect will it take to get their attention?
Is it too late for parents to reclaim lost ground? I often wonder about that. These children are no longer kids. They are adults with mindsets that are difficult to alter. But maybe it is worth a try.
One word to the parents: Proceed with caution. You have to set aside your anger. They need to see the error of their ways, the reality of your pain. This is not a question of pride or position. Whatever you do, remember to have all your love flags unfurled.
If you are one of the children here described, I strongly urge you to start thinking about making some major adjustments in your lifestyle, not tomorrow, but right now. It is time to change the way you see your parents and how you love them.
Here is a fact of life to remember. When our parents leave us, at whatever age, suddenly there’s an absence in our lives, an enormous void that refuses to be filled. For the rest of our lives we will ask ourselves if we could have done better by them, loved them more. Could we have been kinder perhaps, and maybe hurt them a little less? Sadly, we will never know.