Let’s be honest, kids have less respect for adults today than in the past.
We see it every day in schools.
Growing up, the kids who were the “troublemakers” would sometimes be rude to the authority figures, but it wasn’t considered “cool” and it certainly wasn’t common. Yet, today, fights break out on a regular basis (even between parents and teachers or among parents). Crazy!
But what’s caused this shift?
Are people just, in general, less respectful? Are kids today lacking empathy for their fellow human beings? Are kids taking cues from parents who are so protective of their kids that they blame adults for their kids’ own behavioral issues?
While I would argue that there is a basis for saying yes to all of the above, Mark Gregston has another suggestion for what’s happened in our culture, causing kids to be less respectful, and has three solutions for how parents can teach kids to have greater respect for adults.
The Negativity of Social Media
Social media, today, provides constant, unending streams of information, telling them everything they could want to know (and stuff they never wanted to know) about everything and everyone.
And, unfortunately, the news and content coming through media is often negative.
The result is that it’s shifted the way we see authority.
For example, when kids think of a pastor, it’s not their own pastor they think of, but the one bad egg that’s been plastered all over the news after falling from grace. When they think of the police, they don’t think of the way police officers are saving lives every day across the country, they think of the shooting where a young person was killed and a police officer was found to blame. (Again, a single bad egg).
So for any position of authority, kids are primarily hearing the negative aspects of that role (or the bad egg who abused their position of authority) in the media.
So how CAN you teach your kids to respect adults?
3 Ways to Teach Respect For Adults
Let Kids Know They Don’t Have to Be Perfect
This may sound like an odd way to teach kids to respect adults, but the reality is that parents are sending kids a lot of messages, these days, about the accomplishments that are expected.
They’re expected to perform at a certain level in school (All A’s, for example). They’re expected to excel in sports. They’re expected to look a certain way or behave a certain way.
And even if you don’t actually FEEL this way, this could still be the message that your kids are getting from you (however wrong it might be).
Kids are also getting that message from social media. They only see the highlight reels of their friends’ lives on Instagram, as opposed to the messy stuff. So they think that they have to try to measure up.
Parents need to counter all of these messages with messaging that says their kids don’t have to be perfect, but that maybe there are some areas that could be improved upon. The message, though, needs to focus on the EFFORT and not the end result.
Let Go of the Authoritarian Parenting Style
Growing up, many of our parents had expectations for us to behave in a certain way “because they said so.” (We actually wrote a post about why “because I said so” is bad parenting, that you can check out.)
And, as kids, most of us listened because that’s what we were supposed to do (or because we were afraid of the repercussions if we didn’t).
But kids don’t respond to that type of authority, today. If you take an authoritarian role, kids will just shut down.
Kids, today, won’t accept authoritarian parenting.
As Dr. Jess Shatkin explains, the best approach is authoritative parenting.
“This style of parenting is loving, warm and connected and still has rules and regulations and consequences. As opposed to permissive parenting, which is so open and easy, the kids kind of lose their regard for the parents in terms of their authority. Or authoritarian, ‘Why? Because I said!’ You know that’s not good parenting either, but these things shake out…
“That authoritative style leads to kids who are better students. Less likely to get pregnant. Less likely use drugs. More likely to go to college. Less likely to be obese. Community. Just so many gains come from parents who are directive, kind and supportive of their kids.”
Be Careful to Not Judge
Without realizing it, we’re often teaching our kids that we are judgmental, and we have to be incredibly careful of the things we say in front of them about other people. (After all, if we’re judging others in front of them, what could we be saying when they aren’t around?)
If a child feels judged (or that we’re judging their friends) they’ll shut down. They’ll go elsewhere for relationships and we won’t be able to have as much influence and impact over their lives.
Final Thoughts on How to Teach Kids Respect for Adults
The media has had a major impact on the way that both kids AND adults view authority today. The news and social media are inundating us with a constant stream of negativity that’s completely coloring our view of the world.
Fortunately, there are things parents can do to improve the view kids have of adults:
- Let kids know they don’t have to be perfect
- Use an authoritative parenting style
- Avoid being judgmental
What do YOU think is the major cause of the shift in the way that kids (and adults even) view authority.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!