batya respect image 88.
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September is a time of new beginnings - school, the High Holy Days, new clothing or fruit, a breeze in the air and the opportunity for introspection. I look around at all that is and all that isn't in families, in relationships, in the country and among ourselves and I've come to the conclusion that one of the most important things lacking nowadays is good old-fashioned respect.
Remember the days when you stood up for a teacher, raised your hand, wouldn't consider interrupting and called adults by "Mr." or "Mrs."? Did you ever think of talking back to an adult or saying "no" to a parent and what happened if you did? Working for the Civil Guard, I was amazed by the lack of respect shown by adults to someone "in authority." As a nation, in a short time we have come a long way. While we've learned to stand in line and even take a number, with everyone in a rush, obsessed with wanting things now and searching for immediate gratification, we still have a long way to go.
We can do it, but it requires changing our priorities and putting into action the values we think are important. We can no longer blame "corrupt politicians" but must look inward to decide what we really want. This requires showing more respect, having greater integrity and taking responsibility for our own behavior and that of our children. Lack of discipline in the school and rudeness on the road must be replaced by an honest, fresh look at ourselves if we really are to become a light unto the nations.
How as parents do you behave toward, or in front of, your children and what values do you choose to impart? You are their most important role model, and your actions will help determine who they are as individuals and what they in turn give back to society. If you show mutual appreciation and respect for your children, whether toddlers or grown adults, and aren't afraid to do the right thing, you'll ultimately guide them to make the right decisions in life.
Take a moment and define the words "courteous, polite and respectful" with your children and see if you can both agree. Here are a few areas to explore together. See how you both score but don't just settle for a "yes" or "no" answer. Really discuss them.
* On an individual basis: What do you do that shows how polite you are? Do you use a quiet voice, make eye contact and have a pleasant tone and manner? Do you say hello and good-bye, please and thank you, listen, act interested, respond to others and not interrupt? Do you wait your turn? Do you turn off television or the radio when someone is trying to speak? Do you talk or send messages on your cellphone only in the right place at the right time? (Answer honestly.)
Do you wait patiently in line at the bank or supermarket or when driving in traffic? Do you honk your horn? Do you call, e-mail or send a thank you note for a gift? Do you return phone calls and e-mails in a relatively quick manner? Do you call and wish someone a Shabbat shalom? Do you go to a funeral, make a shiva call or send a sympathy note? Do you hold the door open for someone behind you? Do you let people exit an elevator or bus before you enter? Are you considerate?
* With respect to family values: In what ways do you show respect within the family? Do you ask permission before sitting in your parent's seat or before borrowing possessions of others? Do you contribute to the meal by making something or serving, wait for everyone to sit at the table before eating and chew with your mouth closed? Do you make time to sit down together as a family to eat and socialize? Do you ask how someone's day was, offer to help with school work or chores such as dishes, garbage and the laundry and see yourself as a full participant in the family? Do you clean up after you use the bathroom, pick up something you drop and take off your shoes if they are dirty? When asked to do something, do you do it right away? Do you look after your property and put things away? Do you show respect for values as well as material possessions? If a married child, do you teach your children respect for their grandparents?
* On a societal level: How is the world a better place by virtue of your presence and your actions? What do you do to improve your environment? Do you pick up litter on the street or dispose of yours at the movie theater? Do you recycle and reuse? Do you clean up after your dog? How do you deal with graffiti? In what ways do you show your teachers and those in authority respect? How do you talk to people in a store, the bank or a restaurant? What is your language like around others? Do you cheat or are you ever dishonest? Think for a moment. Do you copy, lie or steal? What do you take from public places or work: soap, towels, office supplies? Why is this allowed? Do you borrow things and forget to return them promptly, if at all?
In what ways do you show respect to those older or less healthy than you? Do you offer them your seat, help them cross the street, help them with their groceries? What acts of kindness do you do? Do you reach out to strangers and others in need - be it to provide clothing, a meal, teach others how to use a computer, read or volunteer? How do you personally give back to society?
My parents of blessed memory had some sage advice. My dad used to say that a good name was easy to get but hard to keep. My mom would say that if you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person looking back at you, you have accomplished a lot. As we prepare for the High Holy Days this year, perhaps the time has come for each and every one of us to take serious stock of who we are and who we would like to become in the year ahead.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. firstname.lastname@example.org
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