As I look back over my childhood, I can remember things my parents taught my siblings and me, and certain behaviour they expected from us. At the time, it didn’t seem super important to retain things like “Don’t walk on the neighbour’s grass”, “Don’t play too close to their cars” or “Don’t drop rubbish on the ground.” But now, as an adult, I can clearly see those behaviours taught us to respect our neighbours and their property. We were being trained in the way we should go (Proverbs 22:6).
My parents taught us to honour adults, too. It did not matter whether you knew them or not; adults were to be respected, and that was that. Of course, the first adults to be respected were our parents. Don’t get it twisted, Dad and Mum required the utmost respect as we honoured and obeyed them, which is the first commandment with a promise: “Honour your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3, NKJV).
In our home, we were permitted to respond to our parents by saying “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am.” A simple “Yes” was not sufficient. That teaching was conveyed and carried outside the home, into the neighbourhood, school, marketplace, wherever there were adults, and there was no exception to the rule. Adults reached a level that qualified them to receive respect from those underage, younger, smaller, less experienced and perhaps even less important.
During that era, children were seen and not heard. When adults were present, the unwritten law was they ruled. This was how we were governed. You only spoke when you were spoken to, and kept the bulk of your opinions to yourself. No backchat. Ever!
When our families gathered for fellowship, activities would be segmented. The adults did their thing: played cards, listened to music, sipped on wine and conversed. The kids were separated into another room with activities and snacks. The only time we left the designated area was to use the toilet; check with our mums, to see if it was time to go, or when one of the kids was out of control and someone had to snitch so as not to get all of us in trouble.
In private quarters, my parents allowed us the freedom to speak our minds. But, even in that, there were guidelines. You were free to express yourself, however it was tempered with awareness to whom you were speaking. Once, I was telling my mum about an incident that happened in our community. One of our neighbours was cursing and carrying on outside. I had to forewarn her that profanity was involved, get permission to continue with what was being said, and assure her it was a direct quote and not my interpretation.
Today’s people don’t follow a straight path. This is true in the UK, but perhaps more so in the USA. I guess they consider that ‘old school’. Instead of respecting others, value is placed on self-righteousness and protecting one’s personal feelings. The level of honour that was mandatory in my day, is a vanishing line, not seen in many kids.
Young people are unfiltered in the presence of adults. They are unconcerned whether their language or behaviour is acceptable or not. I was at the bus stop when a 17-year-old came along and fired up a joint. I was shocked and offended. So, I asked him whether his mother knew he smoked. He responded, “Yes” and said he was stressed and weed relaxed him. What?
Nowadays, kids go to school and curse out teachers. They are rude to merchants in their establishment. They stand on corners and defy the authorities. Then, they go home and rebel against the parents who feed and shelter them.
How did this happen? How could such well-mannered parents beget such ill-mannered children? Simply put, parents forgot to teach the simple things, like saying “Thank you”, “May I?” and “Please” and, in some situations, how to keep your mouths closed. Hebrews 2:1 warns us to give the more earnest heed to the things, which we have heard [and learned], lest at any time we should let them slip. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (NIVUK).
I urge parents to do a remix, to remember the simple things, and emphasise their importance to your children. It is similar to what club DJs do. They take an old hot song, mix in new beats, fresh lyrics, change the tempo, scratch it a bit and bam, house music.
My advice is to take old-school parenting principles, mix in current vernacular, drop some humour, express relevancy, and put a demand on its application.
Let’s show our kids the beauty of loving our neighbours as ourselves by remembering the simple things. It is never too late to teach love. It might seem simplistic, but it is true.