Aretha Franklin made sure that RESPECT would be one word everyone in America would know how to spell. Back in 1991 I had the...uh...privilege to be a back-up "singer" for a white "Aretha" in a talent show at summer camp. I can't remember why I was wearing tie-die, but I do remember brushing my hair into a huge afro that would have given Diana Ross a run for her money.
I am smack dab in the middle of the tween years with my oldest son. If he ever becomes a lawyer the world needs to watch out because he will be very good at what he does! But as a 12 year old those instincts to argue and defend and persuade (and accuse) are not serving him as well as he'd like. He is of the false opinion that he DESERVES respect no matter what he does. In the quiet moments it makes for a fun quirky little story, but in real time it is quite a challenge! It would be one thing if it were just his personality, but it seems entitlement is written on many of the young, and not so young, hearts I encounter today.
My wonderfully brilliant son is of the opinion that my job as a mom is to answer his every question, which is usually a "gimme" question, and meet his every demand. When I suggested that sometimes he is difficult to please he responded, "You don't try hard enough to please me." At that moment I found myself cleaning one spot on the counter very hard and keeping my mouth firmly shut.
Even when I was little, which was just a very few years ago :), I would never have thought to treat my elders with disrespect! Partly because the one or two (or 20) times I tried I was met with "great resistance" in the form of a spanking or removal of privileges. I knew that trust and respect were things I had to earn. I know that when he is an adult, if he chooses to be disrespectful in the work place he will not last long. But he doesn't have this life experience and when I "enlighten" him his response is a snarky, "I'll just get another job."
So what are we as parents to do when we discover that our children have contracted this disease of entitlement? My first thought would be to cancel everything fun for the next 5 years and see how the kids like it...and maybe a Velcro wall to stick my children to allowing them undisturbed time to think about their life choices. Instead I am trying to stay the course, become more consistent and stay calm because the labor pains are just beginning.
Each child comes into the world through child birth. It may be natural, at home, managed with pain meds or a through a C-section. Each teenager, or pre-teen in my case, begins the process of being born into adulthood. As a mama I am experiencing lots of contractions and I know I'm not even to "transition" yet! But those contractions are necessary for the birth. Some births are VERY hard with many "complications". Some are very calm until you get to the "ring of fire" where you think you're going to split in two. But at the end it's always worth it! So I am telling myself, "hang in there. The work is hard, but keep just keep breathing and stay calm. Work with the contractions and let your body do its work." How does this translate into my present situation? Well, hanging in there is very important. Sometimes this requires support people to help through the contractions. Breathing and staying calm are extremely difficult at times but necessary so I will have enough strength when it comes time to "push". And working with the contractions allows me enjoy the experience regardless of the pain.
Do I do this all the time? NO! Do mama's always stay calm when they are in labor? Ask Bill Cosby. He's made quite a bit of money over the years answering this question! It is in those moments during labor when we are fed up and done and ready to go home and refuse to have the baby that we realize that whether we fight it or not that child will be born so we hunker down and get back to the work of hanging in there some more, slowing our breathing an working with the contractions once again.
I have come up with an acronym for respect (just right this moment, to help me in my "time of need) as I begin to go through my labor!
R: Repent - how can I expect my child to be repentant if I am not?
E: Encourage - remember to be encouraging when your child does right
S: Serve - whether it is through serving at a shelter or helping a family/person in need (or in your
own home) service often gives great perspective without you having to say a word.
P: Patience - oh how I hate that word, but it's true. Patient endurance as your child is figuring out
the world around him is important for all involved so "growth" doesn't get stunted through
E: Expectations - Setting clear boundaries is important for your child so she knows what is expected
and what the consequences will be (every single time) if the boundaries are ignored.
C: Consistency - I am SO not good at this because I always have the next great parenting idea
waiting off stage to be announced. Finding something and sticking with it is important, especially
in helping our children to trust us!
T: Talk - respectful communication is very important in building meaningful relationships. Having
children with attachment issues makes it hard for this kind of communication to take place
sometimes, but it's important to keep trying!
Now, there are a few who might read this who have heard my woes, quite recently, and know how inconsistent, unrepentant, controlling and impatient I can be...don't laugh...this is part of working out my salvation with fear and trembling.
Now if I can only figure out how to work successfully with my mood disorder/ ADHD etc. etc. etc. son, I may win the Nobel Prize for Mama Awesomeness! We'll work on that in another post ;)
Lord Have Mercy!