This next chapter focuses on teaching a child to be respectful towards those older than them. The author takes a very nostalgic view of the past within the chapter and laments on how back in the good ol’ days children would not dare be disrespectful to an elder. His main text used to justify this focus on elder respect is Leviticus 19:32, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” He places importance on this to the level of claiming that reverence for an elder is equal to showing respect to god.
“Training children to honor and respect age is training them to honor God.”p 121 Growing Kids God’s Way
A quick side rant about biblical literalism. The author in this chapter uses a passage from Leviticus, specifically Leviticus 19:32, to make his point that the elderly are to be respected and honored. The verse he pulls comes from a long chapter that includes many other declarations for the people of Israel. I’ll quote several of the other commandments of the same passage bellow.
“‘Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” v19
“‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.” v26
“‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” v27
“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” v33-34
I have seen and heard very few people push a literal view on any of these other commandants. Are we outlawing beefalo or farming techniques that grow two crops together? Very few people are staring at their steak to see that it meets the lord’s standard, or fully growing out their beard and hair to hold their body to this standard. And where are the evangelicals that are calling for immigrants to be treated as well as any other citizen? And I know this isn’t a definitive list, but I feel it’s enough to convey my point
Picking and choosing scripture because it fits your point and is convent to be read literally is hypocritical. The author elevates a particular commandment from god to respect the elderly to be equivalent to how we are to revere god, in his words “To honor age is to honor god.” But within fundamentalist circles large swaths of the very chapter he uses as a “proof text” are ignored because they are inconvenient or viewed as irrelevant.
As the chapter progresses, Gary then touches back on a previous point from earlier in the book. How a child must learn to act in obedience even before they fully understand the why. In his eyes parents must enforce proper behavior upon their child even if the child is incapable of understanding.
Ezzo then moves on to specifics on how a child should show respect to an elder. Some examples he gives are giving up a seat or chair to an elderly person, allowing an elder to go first in a line, and opening doors for an elder. However, after these he goes into further more specific rules he feels need to be followed.
One such specific rule he askes parents to implement is an “interrupt rule.” The author feels that it is disrespectful for a child to interrupt an adult’s conversation with another adult. He states that a child should instead place a hand on the parent’s side to indicate they need to speak with the parent. The child is to then wait silently at the parent’s side until the parent is ready to address the child. Waiting will also teach the child patience, per the author.
The next point or rule the author wishes to lay down is a child’s need to respond when addressed by someone older than them. If an adult speaks to a child the child must respond verbally and with kindness and respect. The author makes no exceptions and explicitly states that a shy child should not be exempt from this rule. “Temperamental strengths and weaknesses do not exempt a child form right moral responses.” p125
As someone with social anxiety who was forced to comply with this rule, just reading this brings sadness to me. As a child no disrespect was ever meant towards those older than me. But it would be perceived if I was unable to compose myself enough to muster a response to a greeting or question. This type of rule and strict adherence to it also fails to take into account any non-neurotypical child. Who many feel great distress when trying to make eye contact and respond quickly when spoken to.
The following rule is something that the author felt so strongly about that the book included a supplement on. It’s formal titles like Mr., Mrs., Sir, Ma’am, or Dr. All adults are to have their last name used with the appropriate title before it. A child is not to be allowed to call their Pastor Joe or Joe even though that may be how he is normally addressed by others. Instead the child would instructed to call them Pastor Smith.
“Most people, including Christians, are not aware that the push to drop such titles from our social vocabulary was the work of existential humanists, who in the late 1960s found a supposed weak spot in the Judeo-Christian family structure. Existential humanists hold a world view on life that is the antithesis of Christianity. In their attempt to introduce humanistic ideals into mainstream America, they pushed hard to eliminate all lines of authority in the family in order to make everyone equal in society, including equating children with their parents, teachers, and elders. They struck down anything linked to non-equality as a social evil.”p 126-127
The rant is completely chaotic and nonsensical. He makes it clear that their are levels of importance and children are clearly and solidly placed at the bottom. In his eyes any attempt to socially bring children and authority figures to a closer position or familiarity with each other weakens society. Not to mention that this supposed attack on Christianity is completely made up.
“Individually, when a child applies the titles of Mr. and Mrs., he acknowledges that time has not allowed them to be equal.”p 127
After arguing for the lack of equality between “the younger generation” and the elderly, Gary goes on to claim that this forced use of titles will not interfere with the child’s relationship with the adult. In his eyes clear lines need to be drawn between children and adults. And a child is not to have a friendship role with an adult, but is instead to look towards an adult as someone that can give them guidance.
I will interject again here with my own thoughts. The titles Gary is so focused on are really not the issue. The main thing I take issue with here is Gary’s focus on a hierarchy. An adult is always placed at a higher level than a child. And is never to let a child approach them as if they were equal in anyway.
Growing up in this environment, this mentality showed me that I as a child I was a subordinate to my parents. The same mentality carried forward in college. The college I attended demanded I refer to all Masters students as Mr., Miss, or Mrs.; all doctoral degree teachers as doctor; and I was NEVER to refer to a teacher by their first name. They held authority and power and enforcement of this type of mentality reinforced that. The culture of the college also dictated that teachers and students did not speak or meet up unless it was for a class. I just see warning signs when this same type of mentality is being applied to a parenting style that strictly enforced Mr. and Mrs. upon their children. Yes, It clearly draws lines in who is in authority or not; but it can also sever a child from feeling they can have an open relationship with someone that is an adult.
I know it’s currently an overused phrase but Gary really “says the quiet part out loud” as he concludes the chapter. He loudly declares that the reason parents must teach their children “respect for age” is because their children will one day be the one making their parents end of life choices. He specifically states “There will come a generation that will vote on your old-age legislation.” Which if you peel back the layers is really just fearmongering. Many right wing conservatives have declared for generations that euthanasia will one day be legalized, and the elderly members of society will all be killed off. This is a completely lie. And I quite realize that’s not how euthanasia has ever been legally used. A patients full consent is needed, and it is not often a simple or easy thing to request (Laws vary per state or country). Elderly members of society are not being forced into these choices.
Gary is bringing this idea and fear to motivate parents to teach moral values to their children to prevent this. He’s appealing to a parent’s need for long term security and safety. And telling parents that teaching these moral laws will help keep them (parents) safe in the future. If you recall he did something similar in the last chapter when he stated children must provide for their parents as they age, even if the parent was abusive towards the child (page 117-118 of Growing Kid God’s Way).
I may not disagree that a child should have some respect for adults in their life that are placed in authority positions, but the way Gary encourages this to be done seems to be highly unhealthy. And while he claims this will not cause any distance between a parent and child, he also clearly lays out that a child is to be treated as a subordinate to any adult. An authoritative relationship does make it difficult for a child to trust and be open with someone that they feel is only viewed as an authority figure. And a parent should not be enforcing these rules purely out of concern for their own future and wellbeing.