Friday, May 11, 2007

teaching kids R-E-S-P-E-C-T

There are a million ways to teach respect, some more effective than others. I was over at "In the Motherhood," the new website that features Leah Remini acting in parenthood-based vignettes written by website members. It's pretty clever (just make sure to opt out of receiving emails from Sprint and Suave!).

Many of the entries I read weren't particularly sophisticated or polished. But one got me thinking. It was about a little girl who, with her neighbor friend, had thrown rocks and sand at a car, damaging it pretty badly. It didn't seem that the girls meant to do harm-- they were throwing for the fun of throwing.

Her mom was very proud of the punishment she came up with-- both girls had to wear pink and white striped shirts (Mom's version of a prison jumpsuit) and sit at an iced tea stand with a sign saying something like "We broke a window and have to raise money to fix it. Iced tea $1.")

For me this raises the question: how do we teach these little innocent people the meaning of personal property (and how to respect it!) before things like this happen? A five year old most likely did not have any ill will or malintentions toward the car or its owner. At five, if I was lobbing rocks it was probably to watch the rocks fly, to see them land-- something innocent like that. Also, it might be hard for them to understand since they don't own things with high monetary value.

But they probably do have things that have high sentimental value to them-- maybe start there? (eg, you wouldn't want anyone to pull the eyes off your favorite teddy bear, right? Well, Mrs. X's car is like your teddy bear...) Personally, I think this punishment was too humiliating for a little kid who probably had no understanding of what she was doing. I'm sure she does now, though. Tough lesson.

And respecting other people (as opposed to property)? That's a post for another day!