Saturday, April 28, 2007


"Teaching kids to respect their elders or everyone on the planet automatically, is what leads to molestation and other abuses. Kids need to trust their own instincts."

This was left in my comments the other day, and I think it's important enough to blog about by itself, since it's something I've given much thought to. The writer was indicating her discomfort with my statement that "I certainly expect [my children] to respect not only their elders, but all other people, simply by virtue of the fact that we all share the same planet."

It's funny, because I really did pause over that sentence before deciding to leave it as is; I wanted to make sure that I really do mean it. And I do stand by it now. The difference is one of semantics; my reader's definition of the word is different than the one I usually assign it. I looked up the word on and think she may have understood my meaning to be "To feel or show deferential regard for" whereas when it comes to this usage, I intended it to mean "courteous regard for people's feelings". So when I expect my children to have respect for everyone, that doesn't mean I expect them to always show deference.

I agree that expecting children to ignore their own instincts by demanding they show deference to everyone would be a monumental mistake. My reader is absolutely correct in her statement that this "is what leads to molestation and other abuses." Having grown up in New York City, I am very proud of my instincts about people, and in my hopes of making sure my own children's instincts are not corrupted, I devoured the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker:

Mr. De Becker has appeared on numerous TV shows, and does an amazing job of helping parents trust their children's instincts.

So when the word respect is defined as "courteous regard for people's feelings", yes, I expect my children to show respect for all people, same as I do. Even to "the lady that grills my child about what he/she knows". A blunt response might be where I end up, but hopefully never where I start.