In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jill Rigby Gardner about raising respectful children in a disrespectful world. We discussed the importance of cultivating gratitude in children, the impact of the self-esteem movement on kids’ behavior, and practical tips for instilling a grateful attitude. From redefining treats to teaching manners, we learned how to shift the focus from self-centeredness to valuing and respecting others. Join us as we explore ways to nurture grateful hearts and foster a culture of respect in our children.
Well, we’re here, right before Thanksgiving and the big question is always how can we make our kids more thankful? But in actuality, we need to have our kids be polite year-round. And just being thankful all year round, that’s always a good thing. My guest today is Jill Rigby Gardner, and she has written a book called Raising Respect, Children in a Disrespectful World. We’re going to talk a little bit about why kids are so disrespectful and how we can help them get there, but also how we can help them be thankful. So welcome, Jill.
Hi. Cynthia. Glad to be here with you.
So, Jill, why are kids so disrespectful these days? What’s the big deal?
I’ll give you a couple of answers. The major answer I’ll give you is that in the late 60s, and early 70s, we bought into the ridiculous notion of self-esteem, and I call it the Great Lie. And it’s no different than the sin of pride in the Garden of Eden. But we understood that was bad, right? Go back to 16 or 17 hundreds. And there was a lot of discussion about vain, glory, vanity of self. We still understood bad. Then we come along to the early 70’s it’s all reframed and it’s now called self-esteem.
But it is no different. It is all the same, the esteeming of self. And we all fell for it hook, line, and sinker. And this time we decided it was a very good thing. We decided it was an essential part of our existence. It has not been a surprise to me, although it’s been heartbreaking to watch since I started meaner to the heart 25 years ago. In the last 25 years, what’s happened in our society and as we have become more and more disrespectful, and I take it all back, most of the issues we’re having today, I’m going to take it back to that evolution of self-esteem. Finally.
It was called something that we all fell for and decided it was a good thing. And the clearest definition of self-esteem is esteeming of self, which we should have understood is the same thing and not good. But we didn’t. And so, what’s happened is rather than esteeming others, children esteem themselves. And all this talk today about love yourself, love yourself, love yourself and the world will love you. If we just thought about that for a half minute, we would recognize the truth is the more deeply we fall in love with ourselves, the harder it is for us to love others. Right? Because we get lost in ourselves. And of course, out of all of that comes this disrespectfulness.
Because if you’re lost in yourself and if your goal in life is the esteeming of yourself and it’s all about me, there’s not going to be any level of respect left in our society. And that’s what’s happened.
Yeah. And we love ourselves. Even for people who are depressed, we love ourselves. That’s our problem is that we’re not thinking about the other person. It’s very hard to do. But you have an entire chapter in here in your book on being grateful and so on. So, I just want you to share a little bit about how you can change that mindset to other-centered and be grateful for what we do have.
Absolutely. It begins with helping children to get outside themselves. I’ll give you just a silly little example. One way to start this is if you’ve been going to the grocery or on your shopping trips and your child has become accustomed to a treat. Okay, number one, you know, you’ve crossed the line when they have become accustomed and now it has become an expectation, it is now no longer a treat, right? So, if your child is looking for what they’re going to get, right? Of course, there’s no gratitude because there’s an expectation. And so, you’ve kind of programmed them to expect something, a treat. So, it’s no longer a treat because that’s an unexpected pleasure, is a treat.
You created the problem. So how do you undo that? And this is one of the first steps toward leading children toward a heart of gratitude. So, the next time you go to the store, you say, “No, not today.” And you’re going to have to be willing to deal with whatever your child is going to give you. But you’re the parent. You have the God-given authority to stand in your place of authority. There’s no need to get upset. There’s no need to raise your voice.
And the more your children get upset, the more you can be calm because you’re standing in your place of authority. And you know, what you’re doing is what’s best for your child. So dependent on how long it’s going to take to undo it depends on how long you’ve been doing it. So, I’m not going to promise the first time, repeatedly, every time you go, no, not today. No, not today. No, not today. If you stand in it and remain calm, you will break that cycle and they’ll stop asking because you’ve removed that expectation. Now, here’s the cool thing about this.
So, the day comes when you go in and you’ve been on two or three trips and nothing has been asked for, nothing’s been said, and today you’re going to say, “All right, honey, why don’t you get a treat today, and get a second treat to give away.”
Well, your child, you’re going to blow your child’s mind in the first place. Now you’ve confused them because you’ve been telling them no. But guess what? Now they receive the treat as a treat out of your love for them for no other reason but just because. Right? But what they do is they get one treat, they get a second one for someone else, and they turn, and they give it away. If you’re not comfortable doing that right at that moment, wait till you get back in your neighborhood, back around people. You know, there’s so many stories I’ve gotten from people who’ve done this right there in the moment. And what happens to your child’s heart is this. They immediately feel and experience for themselves how much better it feels to give something away than it feels to get it.
And I’ve had so many parents, Cynthia, say, they started doing this, and then I’ll get an email and say, “jill, what do I do now? Every time we go to the store now, they want to buy something to give it away. How do I break that?”
And say, “Why do you want to break that? What a beautiful thing.”
So, if you want to kind of break the greediness that kind of crept into your child’s heart, that’s the best way to break it. And that’s also the first step toward cultivating gratitude. Right. Because now you’ve removed the expectation. And what they get now, they’re appreciative for it, and they’re not going to turn around and ask the next time they go to the store. No, and don’t do it twice in a row.
You have to do it periodically, and then it becomes a treat and it’s appreciated. So that’s one way, to me, that’s kind of the first step toward helping children cultivate gratitude.
Well, here I am getting ready to go out of town and visit my granddaughter, and I was thinking about, I need to take something, and I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. That’s a thought. I never thought of that before.
You know, that’s so hard with grandparents. I have seven grandchildren. It is so incredibly hard. If every time you go to visit, you bring something, then the day does come when they are looking forward to what they’re going to get more than they’re looking forward to seeing you. It’s a hard habit to break. But one way you can do it again. You can bring something for your grandchild and then something to share. I love doing that concept most anytime. Giving them something to share rather than just something for them, but something that they can turn around and share with someone else. Another thought I had for you about kind of cultivating gratitude is a service, of course, and that’s to help your child, to serve others, and to help those who are less fortunate. And the old thing about Thanksgiving is such a great time.
I know some families who, on Thanksgiving afternoon, one of the activities they do is that they clean out their closets. The children go and clean out their closets and gather things that they take, and they donate sometime next week. And you take your children with you, of course, and don’t throw it in the back of the car and go do it. You need to take your children with you and donate things that are toys that they’re no longer playing with and not things that are in bad condition. That’s not the point at all, but to share things that they’ve enjoyed and that have meant something to them. And that’s a fun thing to do on Thanksgiving afternoon. And like I said, I know some families have made that kind of a ritual. We need to be thankful for what we’ve already been given.
I love that concept. That is so beautiful. You want to teach your kids that when you do something for them, they need to thank you and be appreciative. So, do you have any tips on doing that?
Let’s kind of broaden that a little bit, maybe to the courtesies kind of in a broader sense, because it does speak to a heart of gratitude. The whole idea of being courteous to others, that in and of itself is a heart of gratitude being put into action and into words. I’m a big proponent, I know, obviously, I’m from the south, but I’m still a very big proponent of everyone getting on our bandwagon of, yes, sir and no sir and yes ma’am and no, ma’am. And the reason for that, two reasons for that. When you’re thinking of the adult-child relationship, and again, trying to cultivate gratitude, the reason for yes sir and no, sir and yes women, no ma’am is simply because it sets the stage for a child to understand that there are adults and there are children and they are not on the same plane, and that there is to be respect. And it is simply showing respect. And it’s the first, simplest way that a parent can instill respect in a child. For authority is yes or no, sir, and yes ma’am, no ma’am.
It just befuddles me that so many people just don’t care for that. They just don’t agree with it. I hear it all the time when I travel and speak, and I always try to come back to help make the point. But it’s such a simple, very direct way to instill an attitude of respect because you don’t have to say yes, sir and no, sir to your peers, but you must say yes, sir and no, sir, yes, ma’am, no ma’am to adults. And it sets in place that first understanding of what respect means. Right. Particularly respect for authority. And out of that, of course, then follows the please.
I like to teach it in sign language to young children. I love to teach those five courtesies in sign language. Kids love it. And it kind of becomes something that exists between you and your child when they can say, thank you and they can say, you’re welcome, and they can say, please and I’m sorry, excuse me. And kids, of course, love to learn that.
And it’s just kind of a fun way of instilling those courtesies and reminding them that thank you and you’re welcome. I even love going through Chick fila because you’re always going to hear, “It’s my pleasure.”
Well, really, what you’re talking about is going all the way back to respecting the individual by saying, I was thrilled to do that for you. You can even be respectful of your peers, even though you wouldn’t be calling them sir and ma’am. That’s kind of the basis of what manners is all about.
Yes, it is. Our definition for manners is that manners is an attitude of the heart. That’s self-giving, not self-serving. It’s not memorizing the set of rules. That’s etiquette. Manners is a kind of an umbrella. Manners is the attitude behind the action. If we’re trying to instill gratitude in the heart of the child, then we must understand that the content of our child’s heart, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, is what determines what they think, what they say, and what they do.
And so, we have to work in their hearts, not an expectation of Behavior. So much out here and a correction of Behavior. If there is Ingratitude out here, if you’re seeing selfishness in your child, then there’s a heart issue. It’s not the Behavior. That behavior is just simply a reflection of what’s going on in the Heart. So, you’ve got to get behind that behavior. We often like to say that respect in the Heart will Formulate Respect in the Mind, which comes out in the Actions. So, a Respectful Attitude toward things, which is where you want to work, is on the Attitude.
That’s where you can really see a change in a transformation. Not so much correction of the behavior, but correction of the Attitude behind the behavior.
I think you hit on something when you talked about the difference in manners and etiquette, because I’ve always thought of etiquette as, oh, goodness gracious, there’s a list of rules, but manners is being. Yes, yes, the difference is big.
So much so, Cynthia, it’s, you know, it truly is. I’ll tell you a sweet story that just happened in my neighborhood. I live in a cul de sac, and I have one neighbor on the right, and I have three neighbors in the circle. This happened just, like, three days ago. A little Ziploc bag was left in our Mailbox, and it had a note on it that had mom embossed on the top. And Walt, in a child’s Handwriting, W-A-L-T. It wasn’t a sentiment, but inside of it, it was a dollar bill and change, and it added up to $2.02. And so, my husband checked the Mail, and he said, oh, Walt must have stuck this in our Mailbox by mistake.
So he walked over to my neighbor, to return it. And Walt just turned three, and it was put in our mailbox intentionally, because Walt, in his precious little, tender heart and his very keen ears, he’s been tuned in to all the talk about the high cost of groceries and all the high cost at the pharmacy and especially the cost of gasoline, is out of control. And he told his mom that he wanted to give his neighbors some of his birthday money to help them buy gas for their cars.
Three years old. Three years old. Is that just the most precious thing?
Precious, that is.
Truly. Other synonyms. I mean, there is a full explanation of what it looks like, right? He saw a need. He recognized he could meet the need, and he. Very unselfishly, he was very grateful, right, for what he had received, and he wanted to share what he had received to help others.
That’s just great. Well, is there anything else you can add before we close?
I’ll close where we started. We started talking about self-esteem. What we try to do through all our programs and our books and everything that we do is help children learn how to esteem others. Right? How to put the needs of others ahead of their wants, how to, just, like little Walt, look for the needs of others and be the one to meet that need in someone else. And what happens is that it’s so beautiful.