Respect: Earned or Expected - blog from the Head of SLC

Senior Learning Community Monday 29 October 2018

Respect is the current generational debate in relation to young people, and we often hear the catchcry “they just don’t respect anyone anymore.” So why are a growing number of young people struggling to respect people, property and other peoples’ points of view?

Respecting elders is not part of their culture
Visit China or other Asian cultures, and you notice people are conditioned to respect their elders, while today’s western culture seems to instead idolise youthfulness in our media, outward appearance, words and actions. The messages we are bombarded with are that aging is not something to embrace, cherish or respect, but is something to avoid.

Young people feel empowered by the knowledge at their fingertips
Today’s youth are part of the first generation that has as much access to information as their parents and teachers. They can easily assume they know as much as adults do, and can feel less need for adults to inform them or teach them. The notion that 'knowledge is power' rings true, and can shift the balance of power.

Respect is no longer modelled or earned by their parents and older people
Perhaps the most glaring reason for students’ disrespect is that some parents and older people no longer model it for them. Both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were generations that rebelled against the establishment as youth. As adults, they now advocate for their kids (and even adult children) and can model disrespect toward teachers, coaches, employers and other authorities.

So how can this paradigm be changed?

1. Lead a life that’s worthy of respect
Even though I believe respect should always be shown, many students think adults must earn it. So, before demanding respect, conduct yourself in such a way that adds value to others, and thereby deserves respect.

2. Ask questions and be kind
Show your children you are interested in them, and that they have dignity in your eyes. Even when you make demands, try to ask rather than tell. It’s hard for another person—even teenagers—to “dis” someone who genuinely shows them they love them.

3. Don’t raise your voice unnecessarily
Unless there is a safety issue, adults would never raise their voice or yell at another adult. So why do we do it with our young people? Yelling or shouting is often the first step to creating a culture of disrespect.

4. Take initiative in meeting with them
I’ve discovered that when I observe a disrespectful student, my best approach is to initiate a meeting with them, one on one. Relationship can dissolve distrust or dislike. The very person I am prone to avoid, I need to invest time into cultivating a relationship of mutual respect.


This is not an easy task but one that can bring rewards in the long term.



Dirk van Bruggen

Head of Senior Learning Community

Old And Young Hand