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Respecting Our Children

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Dear Dr. Yael:

I am a young mother with a large family, including a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son who are very helpful to me – that includes helping me with their younger siblings.

As we live near a main shopping area, I often send them on Erev Shabbos errands to the bakery and other kosher stores. It bothers me that they sometimes come home upset because they had to wait on line longer than necessary when people cut in front of them.

Why is it that some adults feel a child’s time is not as precious as theirs? Even when my respectful and well-behaved children say, “Excuse me” and explain that they were in front of them, the adults tend to ignore them.

A child, and his or her time, should be respected – and never ignored. I can say that because of my children’s experiences, I make sure to never do this to other children.

When adults cut in front of my child, they are stealing from her and me, as her delay in returning home affords me less help. It also makes them feel as if they don’t matter – their time is not as important. So besides the time they force the children to waste by having to stand in lines for no justified reason, these adults are hurting the children emotionally. They should understand that children feel bad when they are taken advantage of.

Although some readers may roll their eyes while reading my letter, the problem I’ve addressed hurts my children and me.

Please alert your readers to this problem. Thank you.

A Reader

Dear Reader:

Thank you for addressing an important issue.

It’s unfortunate that your very special and respectful children, who help you so much, are struggling in a world that is regrettably permeated with too much chutzpah. Hopefully, you will reap the benefits of raising such children.

I suggest that you listen to your children’s expressed feelings and empathize with them. Convey your admiration to them for the help they provide to you and emphasize that you understand how difficult it is for them to be treated in this manner. Teach them to stand up for themselves with derech eretz. While your children attempt to look after themselves, you should role-play with them pertaining to things they might say in a given situation. This will add to their confidence level. For example, teach them to say “Excuse me, while I am sure that you don’t realize it, I am next in line.”

While remaining respectful, they should utter your taught script in a loud and clear voice so they will be heard and taken seriously. Stress that there will always be some people who will try to ignore them and cut before them no matter what. But most individuals will respond positively to a child who stands up for himself or herself in a confident manner. Your support and compassion will help your children feel better about having to deal with this situation.

Another idea to consider is to speak with the store workers where you send your kids to shop and ask them to look out for your children. This will give the workers more awareness that some shoppers are not adhering to your children’s reasonable request. You can also spare your children’s feelings and save them and you precious time by calling in your order the day before they are scheduled to shop for you. Your children can thus mention their last name, pick up the packages, and leave the store. This will preclude them from having to wait on line.

An important lesson for all is that children should always respect their elders – but that children also need to feel respected. In fact, the adults should set the example of teaching respect by practicing it when relating to children. From a very young age, children learn to imitate the older children and adults around them. We need to realize that children tend to look at those around them for cues on how to behave. If the klal learns to treat each other with derech eretz, the next generation will likely learn from its example.

Thank you for alerting Jewish Press readers about this issue. Hatzlachah!

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