Give and gain respect

Give and gain respect


Give and gain respect

It was time for children to leave for home. A mother, who had come to pick up her daughter, came to me and asked, “What makes you work with children, what makes you ‘tick’ with them?” I was about to give my standard answer, “Because I love children.”
(this usually satisfied most parents). However, suddenly, the child tugged at her mother’s dress and said, “Mamma, let’s go.” The lady turned to her child and in a curt voice reprimanded her, “Can’t you see I am talking to Uncle? How many times have I told you not to interrupt when I am talking to elders? Bad manners”

It was at that very moment that I realised that it was not ‘love’ that made us work with children, but respect. Somehow, we respect them and that seems to work. If I were in the mother’s place, I would have responded with, “Yes, dear, you must be hungry, I will hurry up with Uncle,” or something similar.

If required, I would have told the child that we must be patient when two people are speaking, before interrupting them.

Any which way, I would have respected the child’s needs; Just as I would like others to respect my needs — all the time.

Another incident, which happened after a year of working with kids, created quite a flutter. A mother came to inquire about our programmes and asked, “What is your disciplining policy?” We were zapped, not having thought of this before. We told her we do not have any such policy. Disappointed, she left, never to come back again!

But that left us wondering and we started doing two things — We started reflecting on what it is that we were doing that is working for us — that we do not need any disciplining policy. Second, we started reading books and articles on disciplining.

Both these converged on a simple truth — whatever happened, we always responded from the paradigm of respecting the child. Respecting the child’s needs, intentions, interest, efforts, methods, outcomes (success / failures) and the child’s own mental and emotional responses to all that the child encountered. 

The above comes from a simple realisation — that we all like and want to be respected. But somehow we may not think that a child needs to be respected.

Do you find it irritating when a child  disturbs you when you are doing something, but at the same time do you feel perfectly okay about barging in when the child is doing something? Do you often think that it is important to control children, yet not acceptable when children try to control a situation? Aren’t we all operating from a pedestal? We like to believe that we are ‘above’ the child.

And that is why we tend to control, advice, scold, and punish children. We like to think we are superior, we know more and hence the need to ‘drive them’. But what would happen if we were to treat them as equals? What will happen if we treated them with respect, worked with them as equals? What will we get if we were to give respect? The moment you respect a child, the child is elated. A child who feels respected is more open to listening, understanding, following instructions.  Respect isn’t about intelligence, capability or wisdom. Respect is about considering that we are all at par with one another. No one is smaller or bigger. Ask yourself these questions:

*How often do I seek my child’s opinion?
*How often do I respect my child’s choices?
*How often do I ask for my child’s permission?
*How often do I see it from my child’s point of view?
*How often do I understand my child’s needs?

If we operate from a relationship of ‘equals’, we not only give the child respect and dignity, but we also empower the child with responsibility, capability and resourcefulness.

Obviously, the child will think, feel and act better. If you lead through respect, you will have little to fear.