Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Otis Knows Respect

I'll admit it: I did not know that Otis Redding sang Respect. An anonymous commenter did, though.

Anonymous had a couple other interesting thoughts about boys and respect. Listen:

Among boys, respect is earned by testing each other by irritating, teasing, hitting, competing, etc. These interactions between boys (of all ages) determine the amount of respect earned. This masculine pecking order is constantly being challenged, sometimes in an effort to change positions, other times to confirm your slot, always to define identity.

So what earns the respect of young boys?
  • Physical Build
  • Confidence
  • Power
  • Defiance
  • Bravery
  • Athleticism
  • Success
Hopefully (not always) maturity eventually has an effect and things like intelligence and treating others with dignity and kindness make their ways onto and up the list.

As a mother -- and sister -- of four boys, I sense the truth in his words. And yet, as a Mom, I'm confused. How do I help my young sons earn respect, while also teaching them to show respect? Defiance may be very important in the world of young boys, but I don't exactly want to encourage it in my sons. Same thing with teasing and irritating.

Even things like physical build and athleticism, while important in the world of boys, are to some extent of out boys' hands. As a parent, I can work with my son and encourage his athletic ability and interest, but only if he's interested. I can serve healthy foods and model an active lifestyle, but that's about it.

So my question is this: How do we, as parents, help our boys navigate the boy code, while teaching them to behave respectfully in the wider world? Are there behaviors we should ignore because that's just "part of being a boy?"

Let's see what Otis had to say.


  1. I am not sure I can help my sons navigate the boy code any better than my father helped me navigate the girl world (I have 2 younger sisters, no boys in our growing up world). My father was an alien, and it was painful to us, and him, when he did try and navigate it (think menstration here). What does respect mean to a 7,8,9 year old boy? Certainly not the same thing as to a 40 year old mom. I am not saying it is easy to watch my older one swoop in on the younger ones playdate and whisk the friend off to ride bikes, but there is something going on there that I can't control, even though part of me wants to. So I guess what I do is sit back as much as I can and let go of my need to control many situations. Maybe because we are home with them, we are inclined to see more of their interactions than other moms, so we interfere more. Good stuff to think about! I have been making more of an attempt to contact my boys to older boys in order to help them with many aspects of growing up.

  2. This post gave me an idea of writing about defiance with teenagers, which led us to Belize, as your guest blogger. Be patient though please. Perhaps an excerpt from my book.

  3. Andrea -- You bring up some really good points. Perhaps a lot of it is that as moms and females, we're really not expected to guide our boys through the world of men. For millenia, that's been the job of other men. That's not to say our role isn't important; it clearly is, and I think that mothers play an important role in teaching their sons respect. But we will never, ever be able to teach our boys how to become men.

    GutsyWriter -- Great idea for a post! I can't wait to read it. (Except, of course, that I will. Send it when you can.)