By Marnita Coleman
Special to AFRO

Looking back over my childhood, I can remember things that my parents taught my siblings and I, and certain behaviors that they expected from us.  At the time, it didn’t seem super important to practice the things we were taught like not walking on the neighbor’s grass, not playing too close to the parked cars, or not dropping trash on the ground.  But now, as an adult, I can clearly see that those behaviors taught us to have respect for ourselves and others.

Our parents taught us to respect other adults, too. It did not matter if 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, and don’t get it twisted, they required the utmost respect.  As kids, our duty was to honor and obey.

In our home, we were trained to respond to our parents with a ‘yes sir,’ or ‘yes ma’am.’ That teaching was conveyed and carried outside the home and to the neighborhoods, schools, marketplaces, and wherever else there were adults. There was no exception to that rule. Adults were revered because they had reached a level that qualified them to receive respect from those underage, younger, smaller, less experienced and may be even less important at that time. 

(Photo courtesy Aleteia)

During those times, children were seen and not heard. When adults were present,  the unwritten rule was that they ruled. This was how we were governed. You didn’t ‘smart talk’ an adult. You spoke when you were spoken to, and kept the bulk of your opinions to yourself, or at least if you were daring, you would mutter them under your breath so as to get it out but not actually be heard. I suppose it was a silent victory, but as kids, we didn’t like it, nor did we think that it was fair.  

When our family gathered for fellowship, activities would be segmented. The adults did their thing: playing cards, listening to music, sipping on wine and having adult conversation. The kids were separated in another room with activities and snacks that were specifically for them. The only time the kids left their area was to use the bathroom, check with their moms to see if it was time to go, or when someone got too rowdy or injured, someone had to snitch to an adult.

At home, my parents allowed us the freedom to speak our minds, but, even in that, there were rules.  You were free to express yourself, however, no profanity was allowed, unless you were directly quoting someone. Even then, you had to forewarn my parents and get permission to continue with the quote. Above all else, we were to cause no disrespect to our parents, which was doable. On occasion, you’d want to express yourself to an adult and tell them what was really on your mind, but the consequences were too grave. It could cost you a whooping, your allowance, or a privilege that was in the near future, so you simply buttoned your lip and played the game out without any challenges. 

Happy parents, happy life.

Today, people don’t follow that path. I guess they consider it old school. Now, everyone has an opinion and it seems pertinent that their opinion is heard. Instead of respecting adults, youth tend to place value on protecting their personal rights and their equality. The level of honor that was mandatory in my day, is  a vanishing line, not required of many kids. Today, young people are unfiltered in the presence of adults. They are unconcerned if their language or behavior is acceptable or not. They clearly demonstrate that the training to respect others outside of themselves was not instilled, taught or mandated in their home environment. They go to school and curse at teachers. In the marketplace, they come against merchants in their own businesses. They stand on corners and defy the authorities. They go home and rebel against those that feed and shelter them.

From an observer’s perspective, the youth are out of control, but, 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,” “please,” and in some situations, just keeping their mouths closed. The children have gone wild because the parents relaxed their rules and didn’t continue the practices of their youth.  As we evolve and conditions improve, we tend to put away certain parameters that were in place to support us and relax our grip and enjoy the fruits of our labor. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t forget what got us to that stage of comfort.

Clearly when I was growing up, I encountered adults that needed someone to tell them a thing or two.  But, that was not my place. My parents’ old fashioned ways were a yoke around my neck. At the time, I despised many of their rules, however, today, my attitude is different. I can see the purpose behind their discipline. It shaped and molded us into people of character.

Nowadays, some parents are no more mature than their children. I watched a lady at the grocery store scream and curse at her children while people stood around and looked. How humiliating that must have been for those kids with all eyes on them as they were belittled in public. Those moments cause seeds of resentment to be planted in the heart.

I urge parents to do a remix, remember the simple things and teach them to your children. It is similar to what club Djs do. They take a hot song, mix in some new beats, fresh lyrics, change the tempo, scratch it a bit and vola’ a new song emerges. My advice: take the old school parenting, mix in current vernacular, drop some humor, express relevancy, and put a demand on its application by practicing what you preach.  Let’s go back to the basics, showing our kids how to live by being different and remembering the simple things.

Marnita Coleman is an author and host of The Marnita Show, a parenting show heard daily across the globe. For more parenting, log onto TheMarnitaShow.com.