Senior citizens have lost respect in the Austin Community. Once thought of as a force to reckon with, African-American elders have been deprived of the esteemed status they once held. Today’s youth trash their lawns, curse in their presence, and talk back. These acts of disrespect devalue our elders as well as our heritage. And all this is done despite what they do for us.
In Chicago alone, 41,328 grandparents raise their grandchildren, and African-American grandparents make up 41 percent of that total. Seniors are also working hard outside the home. There are currently 1.4 million grandparents in the labor force according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and AARP reports almost 20 percent of workers will be 55 and over by the year 2050.
Nevertheless, with all their accomplishments (past and present), older citizens are defamed by lax vulgarity on the street and talking back to them when they give us words of advice. Even more embarrassing, we allow our children to do the same.
We use the term “respect your elders” as if it were an outdated colloquialism-not giving it any real power or adhering to its message-when actually we should embrace the expression even more because of what elders did, and continue to do, for our children and ourselves. Children should be taught to respect those who have paved the way, not just because they sound cute saying, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir,” but because our elders deserve it. It is up to parents to teach them that. So how do you do it? Below are just some of the ways to help your child appreciate and respect their elders:
Let trusting elders help discipline your child
Take advantage of those retired neighbors who get up early every morning to mend their garden and sit on their porch until the sun goes down. Unfortunately, many of us have failed to maintain the notion, “It takes a village …” We often refer to our elder neighbors as the “old and nosy.” However, we are living in a time when our children need to be watched as closely as ever. Therefore, don’t get offended if the gray-haired gentleman down the street tells your son to keep off his lawn, and hold your tongue when the seasoned woman in your apartment complex tells your daughter she seems a little too young for lipstick. Instead advise your child to listen to their older neighbors and always be respectful. Then, encourage these neighbors to keep a close eye on your children. You may find that the more receptive you are towards their help, the better protected your child will be against the gangs, drugs, and violence.
Back up their authority
Uphold all promises you make to elders. If you openly agree with the consequences that an elder gives your child (whether it is a teacher, grandparent, or neighbor) make sure you uphold those consequences. Many parents undermine a senior’s authority by not following through with punishments given. This causes the child to disregard the elder’s authority as well. So the next time your grandfather places your daughter on punishment for hitting her younger brother, take away her privileges. Then, she will realize that grandpa has just as much right to discipline her as you do.
Have your child spend quality time with a senior
You can’t expect children to appreciate their elders if they don’t know just how much seniors have shaped our world today. Let them find out by having them spend more time with their elders. Encourage your child to visit his grandparents on a regular basis. If your parents are not available, have your child spend time helping an older neighbor. Even better, make them volunteer at a nursing home. Most seniors love sharing stories of way back when. A job serving refreshments at Jackson Square Nursing Home may allow your daughter to journey back in time through the civil rights movement.
Celebrate Grandparents Day
Grandparents Day is Sept. 10. On this day, consider the elders who have been especially beneficial to you and your family. Whether it’s your grandparents or someone else’s, take the time to talk with them and show them how much they are appreciated. Make sure your child is active in this celebration as well. Have them create a card for their granny or help bake brownies for their grandpa.
Grandparents need to be glamorized. Kids should view elders as the old, wise ones of their community. That separation leaves room for admiration and reverence. In Nigeria, people bow before elders as a sign of respect, and the older the elder, the lower the bow. There are many things we can learn from this. So let us bow to those who came before us by respecting their space, valuing their contributions, and heeding their counsel. And let us continue to bow until we teach our children to do the same.