by Jacqueline Hicks

It has long been the desire among the adults in every society that the younger generation learn and exhibit character traits such as respect for their elders, and kindness and consideration for others. “What’s the matter with kids today?” Each generation voices the same lament:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chattering in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Plato attributes this statement to Socrates of ancient Greece. 😉

We want to teach our kids to be kind and considerate, and to show respect for others. How do we do it is the question. Each generation is hard pressed to see its progeny as anything other than lacking the necessary qualities to ensure the successful continuation of our society. Could it be that we adults are so concerned with the thoughts that our children’s and our student’s behavior might reflect so badly on us that we become overly authoritarian and critical, and we can’t see anything but disrespect and poor behavior.

When I have feelings of dissatisfaction, I believe it is best to look at myself to see what causes the feelings rather that blame them on someone or something outside myself. If I find someone is not being respectful towards me, I take a look at how respectful I am feeling toward them. If I think I deserve consideration, I check on how considerate I am being. If I would like to be treated with kindness, I treat others with kindness.

In my experience as a teacher, counselor and school administrator, how I regarded my students, what I expected to see in them, and how I treated them, allowed the qualities of kindness, respect and consideration to emerge in them. There are some great programs, curriculum and tips on teaching character to students. They will only work well if the adults are able to model authentic kindness, respect, and consideration of their children and students. This is really how students, even ones who have difficult family situations, learn to treat others kindly.

One very important thing to remember: Those who are the hardest to love need it the most.