You may not have heard of or remember comedian Rodney Dangerfield. His one-liners were laugh-out-loud funny, and they weren’t laced with vulgarity. He was a great talent, yet as part of his act he facetiously complained, “I don’t get no respect.”
Everybody wants respect — it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. The desire for respect – the need for respect is so compelling that when not given, it can result not just in hurt feelings but also in violence or worse.
We are not born with a “disrespect gene” over which we have no control. Disrespect is learned behavior.
Contemporary parenting that includes coddling kids with “you are wonderful” and “you are the best” may backfire unless kids are reminded that while they may be wonderful and perfect, other kids are just as wonderful and perfect and must be treated with respect. Kids without appropriate guidance can be angry and resentful and act out in bullying behavior.
In the “old days” parents did not tolerate disrespectful behavior and they certainly didn’t tell their kids they were they greatest. Bullying was rare because kids knew such behavior would have rapid and certain consequences. Today, authoritarian parenting can put parents in the pokey and as a result many are afraid to impose even reasonable forms of behavior modification. Even so, It’s time to get back to strict but fair old-fashioned parenting when parents loved their kids enough to set rules, demonstrate civilized behavior, and did not allow their kids to be out of control.
Clearly, disrespectful behavior is not just the result of poor or misguided parenting. There is plenty of blame to go around. Our hedonistic culture that knows no shame, the failure of religious institutions to teach right from wrong, the Internet with all its tentacles (use and misuse of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the derelict influence of the so-called “entertainment”industry that often glorifies violence) all add fuel to the problem. The rampant disrespect flourishes because it’s allowed to, and even encouraged in the name of “it’s your right to express your feelings.”
George Washington’s Solution?
Let’s stop wasting time and money on school programs designed to stop bullying that are not working very well, if at all. Perhaps it’s time to get back to basics of civilized behavior outlined in George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”. The rules are available on the website http://www.foundationsmag.com/civility.html
Here is the opening statement on that site:
“By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. Presumably they were copied out as part of an exercise in penmanship assigned by young Washington’s schoolmaster. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins the twelve-year-old son of a doctor.
Today many, if not all of these rules, sound a little fussy if not downright silly. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests that we find so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together.
These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem.”
Please, go to the site and read George Washington’s rules. There are 110 of them. Indeed, many of them are “fussy”. Nevertheless, consider how you can apply some of the rules in your life and in the lives of those you deal with. They are key to a society that values civility in general and each other in particular.
Give a copy of Washington’s rules to your religious leader, club, or school board and ask if they will promote the rules. Post them on your favorite social sites. Who knows, the rules may go viral and possibly put a dent in our crumbling culture and slow the frightening bullying epidemic.