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Initially after my son asked what respect meant, I was stumped but for the next two days, I tried to explain to him the various forms of respect!
The other day, my younger child out of the blue asked me “What does respect mean?” and I was baffled. I knew the answer but putting it into words for a six year old was a whole different ball game.
So I hummed and hawed and tried to collect my thoughts. Then, I started with the most obvious ones. I told him that when we admire people for being very good at something or knowing more than us about something, we respect them.
We spoke about how we treat our parents and grandparents. I told him that we love them, are kind to them, listen to them and learn from them because they know more than us and that is ‘respect.’ We also show respect by the way we address and greet them and with our actions like offering our chair and, helping them and standing up when they come home.
Probably in the same league are our gurus or teachers. So, we discussed how we respect our teachers because they know more than us and we show respect by listening to them. Also by greeting them when we see them, by addressing them the correct manner, and by behaving well at class and doing our school work.
But then the next day I realised that just age or being in a position of authority alone doesn’t determine whether you respect someone or not. I told him that it was just as important to respect those younger than us as well.
So when his older brother listens to his suggestions on what game to play and takes them seriously, he is being respectful. And when he answers his questions politely and doesn’t interrupt him when he is speaking, he is being respectful.
What about our house help I thought And so I told him that when we pay them their salary on time, don’t keep them working late and away from their family, we respect them. That when we ask them about their families and offer the tea and speak politely to them, we are being respectful.
Then my older one quipped, “What about friends?” So I told him that when we are with our friends, waiting for our turn, letting our friends speak without interrupting is respecting them. And that not bullying someone weaker or smaller, listening to them if they don’t want to play a certain game and not forcing them is also respect. That not making fun of anyone that is different was being respectful.
I told him that respecting someone means not pointing out things that may make other people uncomfortable. Like if someone wears their hair long or short or chooses to wear unconventional clothes or even if someone speaks with a different accent. Being welcome and inclusive and kind and fair too is a form of being respectful. Not calling people names because it would hurt their feelings and make them sad was showing respect to their feelings.
Isn’t it just as important to be respectful to people we don’t know? And so we spoke about saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the cashier at the store, to the waiters at the restaurant. To the man at the car wash and to the person who waits for us to get out of the elevator before we get in as being examples of being respectful to strangers.
But what about people we don’t like? Those that aren’t respectful to us or others asked my older one. Like the boy who had said something unkind to his little brother during play time at school. The only choice I said was to continue to be respectful irrespective of how they behave, I answered. Even if we have to tell someone off, the right way to do so is respectfully I emphasised.
Nature, I told him, was something that had to be respected. Not by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but by not wasting water, not using more paper than we need. You can do it by being careful about what waste we generate and how we dispose of our waste. The little funeral they gave to a little dead bird in the garden was a perfect example of showing respect to the bird I said.
I am sure my son hadn’t bargained for this long a ‘lecture’ spanning over two days when he asked me what respect meant. However,
I couldn’t stop without telling him that it was also important for him to respect himself and his body by eating well, exercising regularly and sleeping on time. And his own abilities and personality and if at any time he felt he was not being treated with respect that he should step away.
I am sure he was so bored he was ready to fall asleep at the end of this but at least he listened to me… respectfully.
Picture credits: Facebook
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A former finance professional who now writes.
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