For Students: Why We Must Respect Grown-Ups

When I was a little boy, I often felt confused about respect.  Why do we have to respect adults?  They don’t always respect me.  Why should grown-ups get to boss me around.

My mother and father told me that the answer was simple: Older people know better; they are the ones in charge; children must do as they are told.

That was not enough for me.  When I was six, I knew how to do a lot of things for myself.  When I was nine, I knew how to take care of myself. When I was twelve, there were things I could do that some adults could not do.

But my parents told me that grown-ups are my elders, and I must do as they say.

To be clear, we are not just talking about just any grown-up.  Parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, teacher’s aides, and coaches are the people that my parents told me to respect.  My mom and dad expected me to do whatever these adults told me to do.

Strangers are different.  If someone does not work for a school or is not part of the family then I should not even be near the person.

It is the job of the grown-ups in our lives to take care of us and to teach us how to behave.  Without this, would could be in danger, or we would not grow up in the right way.  This is why we must listen. This is why we must show respect.

But is not only elders who deserve respect.  All people–children and adults all deserve respect.  Everyone should speak to everyone else in a polite fashion.

You can be unhappy–even angry–and still be polite…still show respect.We should all practice these sentences when we are unhappy with what a grown-up asks us to do:

  • “I am unhappy with what you ask me to do, but it is my job to respect you.  I will do it.”
  • “It hurts me when you raise your voice.  I do not mean to upset you. I will do as you ask.”
  • “I am sorry I didn’t do what you asked the first time.  Please be patient with me. I will do it now.”
  • “I am angry because I don’t want to do what you say.  I will do it, though. When I have done it, would you help me understand?”

And here are some good sentences we can use with other children:

  • “Please stop that.  I do not like it.”
  • “I like you, and you are my friend.  But sometimes you upset me.”
  • “I am going to go do something else.  You are bothering me.”
  • “Did I do something to upset you?  I do not understand why you are acting this way.”

And, since we all make mistakes from time to time, we all need to know how to say this:  “I am sorry.  I made a mistake, and I am disappointed in myself.”

Remember, these things are hard to say–especially when we are upset.  That is why we need to practice.  Ask your parents and teachers for help.

One last thing: grown-ups are human, too.  They make mistakes.  Do not be surprised if an adult apologizes to you.  And remember to accept all people’s apologies in a nice way.

7 thoughts on “For Students: Why We Must Respect Grown-Ups

  1. “But is not only elders who deserve respect. All people–children and adults all deserve respect. Everyone should speak to everyone else in a polite fashion” – Yes! I think respect is like kindness – the more we give it, the more it will grow, the more it will be returned to us. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love how you’re teaching kids to practice these things at such a young age. I don’t think anyone likes the response, “respect elders because they are older” as the end all – be all. This is why I also always apologize when I screw up with kids, and why I try and lead to my middle school kids with, “If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t nag you,” when I need to talk to them about certain behaviors. But yes, definitely a skill to practice!

  3. Paul – I love this! I have had this conversation with my daughter on more than one occasion, and not always under the calmest of circumstances. I appreciate your suggested responses as they seem fair to both parties and artfully oriented toward de-escalation. I might add one in noting that I used to remind my daughter that the adults are the ones with the resources (cash!) and until one is in a position to assume the responsibility of providing for oneself, it is in their best interest (and appropriate) to garner respect for those who hold the purse strings!

  4. One thing I’ve been deliberate about with my kids is to respect anyone who is talking. I don’t say “A grown-up is talking.” Instead I ask them to wait their turn because “Someone is talking.” I feel they should respect each other just as much as their elders.

    I appreciate all of the language you shared here!

  5. Paul, I think these words are so important for everyone. Respect is sorely lacking in our world today. Sometimes we disrespect those we love too–out of anger or frustration. I love that you took time to post this. Glad to see you back.

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