It just seems like yesterday when my husband and I were going to be new parents. With each birth, I experienced excitement and anxiety combined with the physical discomforts of pregnancy. Welcoming our little babies into this world has been one of the greatest joys in our life.
Nobody teaches you how to become a parent. We learn from our parents, friends, and relatives, from watching TV or the media, from reading books, and from trial and error. We go to school for everything else, but for one of the most important jobs, there is no school. I guess parenting is supposed to be intuitive. But, intuition was probably the simple answer back in the days when we were hunters and gathers, just searching for a way to survive in nature. When I was growing up, intuition combined with common sense and family values seemed to ground us. But in today’s world, parenting has new and different challenges that our generation has never experienced. It’s just so much more complex. It helps to be informed, understanding, adaptable, empathetic, technologically savvy, and educated. Are more skills needed to raise kids today?
I wonder how young parents cope with these new technological advances that changes how we raise our children. I have heard true stories about children as young as one, who are capable of using an iPad to entertain themselves. My hairdresser’s two year old grandson teaches her how to use her own TV … and there are many similar stories like these. Nowadays, it’s not unusual that these children are teaching us adults how to use technology.
With such a reversal and change of teacher/parent/grandparent roles, I wonder how it affects attitudes and the mind set of these children. Is there a loss of respect for elders?
Growing up in an Asian home, respect for elders was expected. This was learned from simply observing our parents take care of their parents. My mother cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for my grandfather and took good care of him until his last days. Although unspoken, us grandchildren knew that whatever grandpa said, we had to listen. That’s just the way it was, as it was expected of us. And somehow we all understood that. But, we were fortunate. Grandpa was not a difficult man, and there was harmony in the house.
There is something to be said about multi-generational living. Under ordinary everyday circumstances, learning how to get along with one another is like osmosis. We didn’t realize that just through watching, listening, eating, fighting, playing, and simply living, we were actually learning life lessons. When you live with many generations, we didn’t imagine what it was like living with others, we just did and experienced life as it happened. That was the norm.
It’s also still the norm that many Asian families expect their children will take care of them when they are older. Some Westerners find this hard to understand. But, many Asian children want to take care of their parents. There is a mutual understanding. The reasoning is simple. If your parents did so much for you, you simply want to do the same for them.
So, with all these technological advances, role reversals, and less multi-generational living, how do we teach respect to children today?
My only suggestion would be to open your home and invite family, friends, and relatives. Also visit others too. Show respect to all people, and your children will eventually copy and do the same. I also believe that you must show respect to your children. Listen to what they have to say. Respect their thoughts and opinions. Praise them when they deserve praise but give them constructive criticism when needed. And don’t let them push you around. And don’t push them around either.
Call me old school, but I still believe there needs to be a level of respect toward our elders, regardless of what they have accomplished in life. They have lived longer and have seen more life than you and me. And that simply deserves respect. Don’t you agree?