R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It means everything to me.

Actually, "mutual respect" was my old high school's moto or credo or something, and as high schoolers, we laughed at it - a lot. It seemed to be some half-assed attempt at getting teenagers to be nicer to each other, which is a pretty tall order. It was a phrase teachers shouted down hallways when they saw students start to push each other. I'm not sure how effective the administration thought it was, but from the ground level - barely effective.

I think the problem was that this concept of mutual respect is a bit ambiguous. Ask people whether respect should be earned or freely given, and you'll get different answers, and I wholly believe that it's because we are dealing with different definitions of respect.

User stimmyabby wrote this in a tumblr post that went viral:

http://stimmyabby.tumblr.com/post/115216522824/sometimes-people-use-respect-to-mean-treating

http://stimmyabby.tumblr.com/post/115216522824/sometimes-people-use-respect-to-mean-treating

This sums up, pretty succinctly, the differences in how people view respect, right?

Here's the thing - and you can fight me on this - everyone deserved to be treated like a person, everyone deserves respect. To me, this means that everyone has the right to their bodies, they have the right to their thoughts and opinions, they have the right to have their feelings, and they have the right to their privacy.

Everyone. Including kids.

Sometimes, it's hard to view these tiny people with their complete dependence on us as people. Actual people. It's entirely too easy to view them as "less than people" - because they're kids. They aren't fully formed. They aren't independent. They are fickle. They don't know what's good for them, don't do what's good for them; and sometimes, they are straight up crazy! I get it. But they are people who feel sad, disappointment, joy, and excitement - sometimes more vividly - than we do.

Does this sound familiar?

Parent: Here, eat your mac and cheese.

Kid: No, I don't like mac and cheese.

Parent: Yes, you do. It's your favorite food. You literally just asked for it. Eat it!

Oh, we are all too familiar with the fickle kid who suddenly "hates" their favorite food. But then I started thinking, I hate it when people tell me what I like and what I don't like. I hate it when people make these choices for me and take away my agency. I hate it when people disregard my opinion and tell me how I feel, so why are we doing it to our kids?

It seems like such a small thing. I know when my kid suddenly changes his mind about his favorite food it's because he wants something else that he can't have (dessert first or something) or because he's stalling. But the way we parents choose to consistently handle it can shape their self-esteem. From this, they will either learn that their opinions and thoughts are worthy of respect (like a person) or they are to be dismissed (because they're less than).

Parent: Here, eat your mac and cheese.

Kid: No, I don't like mac and cheese.

Parent: You don't? It use to be your favorite, and you specifically asked for it a few minutes ago. What changed?

Kid: I don't know. I just don't like it.

Parent: I understand. You can take a few bites and see if you like it again, but this is what I made for dinner. Sometimes we have to eat food that isn't our favorite because it keeps our bodies healthy and strong.

This exchange validates the fact that they changed their mind. It allows them to have their thoughts and feelings.

Because we insist on respect from our child, and we respect him in turn, we have created an environment of mutual respect. We hope that this environment can help to create, for our son, a healthier sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-respect. I believe that when you grow up not only hearing that you're worthy, but feeling that from those raising you; you grow to be a more empowered and capable person.