Increased Self-Esteem Can Decrease Respectful Behaviors
You hear it from older generations all of the time – these young kids just don’t have respect for their elders. I’m one of those people who agrees with that sentiment. I expect my own teens to test their independence with me and their father, and I expect their teenage friends to test their own parents. What boggles my brain are those kids who disrespect adults in general. It turns out that all of those wonderful lessons on self-esteem we’ve been pushing on our kids can backfire if we’re not careful.
A study reported on by Heidi Bright Parales in Why Do Adults Hold Teenagers and Children in Such Low Esteem? reveals that there is a “stunning level” of antagonism toward teens and tweens. The national study, Kids These Days: What Americans Really Think about the Next Generation, reports some interesting figures.
- 90% of people responding feel that youngsters have not learned important values.
- Just 12% of respondents feel that children commonly treat people with respect.
- Adults strongly feel that children need to learn integrity, ethical and respectful behaviors, and basic civility.
How Does Helping Kids Develop Self-Esteem Reduce Respectful Behaviors?
Children are being taught to be self-assured, confident, and resilient, but aren’t sure how to reconcile those teachings with respecting others. Researchers from the University of Kentucky see this and other underlying causes to the increased levels of adult antagonism toward children and the beliefs that children today display disrespectful behaviors more often than not.
Children, even teenagers, haven’t yet developed the social sophistication required to understand the subtle differences that most adults possess, especially between the differences of self-determination and respecting the ideas of others. When kids are taught to stand up for themselves and be true to themselves, they aren’t necessarily taught how to meld that with respecting others.
Children also get away with disrespectful attitudes. They have parents who often either model the behavior or accept the behavior (sometimes both). Just like any habits our kids learn, they learn so quickly from us – even when we aren’t trying to teach them.
Other Reasons Why Kids are More Disrespectful
Children today do not have the same boundaries that generations passed might have experienced. The researchers from the University of Kentucky point to these changing roles and the influence these changes have on respectful behaviors.
- Children are more present in daily life. They travel more, are involved with their communities, and spend more time away from their own parents. Normally we might think this is all good – but it can give children a skewed reality and confuse their relationships roles with adults. There are just some things that kids don’t understand until they have lived long enough to experience them.
- Children are taking on roles once reserved for adults. They are in the job market, in clubs and organizations, and the social lines are blurred between childhood and adulthood.
The comments from the researchers at the University of Kentucky really struck a chord with me. I know a young man who was teased as a young child, and whose parents have worked very hard to encourage him to be strong, self-assured, confident, and have high self-esteem. He now really holds himself in very high esteem. However, he is one of the most disrespectful teens I know – to other children and adults. His parents let him get away with it for the most part, wanting him to assert himself, but not being able to help him distinguish between self-awareness and respect.
Kids need to know how to act respectfully toward others – or they will never survive one month at a job, in a college classroom, or in future relationships. Respect doesn’t mean giving up your own ideas and values. We need to strive to teach our children how to balance the sometimes battling issues of self-respect and respect – they don’t have to just choose one.
In my day, we didn’t have self-esteem, we had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned. ~Jane Haddam
Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners. ~Laurence Sterne