What We Do is What We Teach

This is a post that was originally published on this blog back in 2012. I was getting ready to write today’s post when I remembered this post and thought that it said what I wanted to say, so thought I would re-vamp it a little and re-post it for today.

Be respectful. Be responsible. Teach respect. Teach Responsibility.

I have high expectations, both for myself and for everyone else, in many areas of life. Often I am bombarded with just how high my expectations are when it comes to respect and responsibility.

It may come as no surprise to those of you who know me that harmony (I want everyone to just get along!) and responsibility (someone has to take care of everyone else, right?) are two of my top strengths. And since I am almost constantly wanting to keep everyone happy and cared for, I am doing my best to make sure I respect others, particularly those in authority, and making sure that I do my part and follow through with my commitments.

But what has happened to me often is that I am not getting the respect that I am giving and/or other people just don’t do what they say they are going to do (or, let’s be honest, what I think they should be responsible to do). And when that happens, I feel hurt, angry, frustrated, sad, defeated, walked all over, and, well, you get the picture. And then I begin trying to analyze why people are the way they are. I have some theories. Here are the printable ones. 🙂

  • At some point our society as a whole stopped teaching our children the value of respect and obedience. Instead of requiring obedience first, we started explaining every little thing to our children about why they needed to obey before we require them to do so. For example, my dad taught me that my children needed to understand the word “stop” and obey immediately upon hearing that word. When I tell them to stop, they don’t need to know why at that very moment, they just need to stop. If they are running toward the road and a car is coming, they have to stop as soon as I tell them to or risk getting hit by a car. If I have to explain why they need to stop every time I tell them to, there will be a time when it will be too late and they will already have been hit by a car. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any explanation, but it does mean that their first response to a command or request from a person in authority should be immediate obedience. (The exception to this is obviously if they are being asked to do something illegal, harmful, or dangerous.) While it is good to ask questions and understand why we do things, there is an appropriate and respectful way to do so.
  • We are also failing our children in teaching them responsibility. So many parents do EVERYTHING for their kids. They aren’t made to clean their rooms, do their laundry, help with the household chores, keep track of their own homework, etc. The thing is, when we expect our kids to be responsible, they step up and learn responsibility. But when we do everything for them and never let them fail, they learn that someone else will always be taking responsibility for them, so they don’t have to be responsible.
  • Then there’s the entitlement issue. The problem with raising children to be individuals instead of part of a community is everyone is looking out for number one, which means they are only going to be responsible for what they want for themselves and are going to demand respect for themselves without giving it to anyone else. When you live life looking out for your own best interest, and feeling like you are entitled to whatever it is you want, respect and responsibility for others never enters the picture.

I think that these issues play into all areas of our lives: our parenting, our relationships, our friendships, our work, our churches, our politics, and so much more.

When I am leading a group of kids and they won’t stop talking, it’s some lack of respect and some kids being kids. But when I am leading adults and they won’t stop talking (texting, checking their phones, Facebook, etc.), it is lack of respect. Period. And where do kids learn what they learn? From adults.

When kids forget to turn something in or show up to something they said they were going to show up to, it’s some irresponsibility and some kids being kids. When adults don’t do what they have committed to, it is lack of respect AND irresponsibility. Period. And where do kids learn what they learn? From adults.

Yes, there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. But communication about those circumstances shows respect and responsibility. Just not following through doesn’t show either.

At one point I made this post on Facebook, after another incident showing lack of respect and responsibility:

“Two words no parent should ever let their child use: I quit. If you make a commitment, you stick to it and see it through to the end. And kids need to be taught that. And I’m afraid some parents do, too. My dad always taught me to be true to my word, which means finishing even if I don’t want to, if it is hard, or if it is inconvenient. And it means that I can be counted on to be truthful in what I say and do. If you are a parent, please teach this to your children! And whether or not you have children, make this true for yourself as well!”

I had quite a few people “like” this status. And that is great. But my challenge for you today is to do more than “like” this post. It is all well and good to agree. It is better if you make sure that you are treating others with respect and taking responsibility where you need to be. And that starts with our kids. And our relationships. And our friendships. And our work. And our churches. And our politics.

Be respectful. Be responsible.

Teach respect. Teach responsibility.

I think our world will be a better place when we all do this.

What do you think?

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