Today I picked blueberries at my favorite local organic farm while being serenaded by various songbirds. The berries were enticingly juicy, having been plumped up by the full sun overhead. I was enjoying the summer morning in the blueberry fields, soon becoming aware that I had company.
I was picking 2 rows over from Adrianna and her three young children - two sons and a daughter. I smiled to myself as I overheard the boys' discussions about Darth Vader and the dark side, which blueberries were the best and what the colorful bugs were doing on the ground. Mom was skillfully and politely directing them to pick carefully, encouraging everyone to do their part to help fill the containers. I loved listening to her calm, respectful tone - which got me thinking.
In society today, I hear a lot about the lack of respect kids have for others. I read articles, FaceBook posts, tweets and blogs about how we need to instill in our children a level of respect for adults and those around them. I agree. But unfortunately, many of the comments include the need for "discipline" or "a firm hand" or even "punishment" in order to make children show respect.
Adrianna didn't need to use discipline or punishment today. Adrianna was teaching her children respect by modeling respect. At one point, the boys were running and jumping and yelling to each other. She calmly explained that since there were others around, they needed to use quieter, indoor voices even though they were outside. The boys seemed to understand and responded with lower voices immediately. But it didn’t take long for the noise level to increase a bit again. What Mom did next was perfect.
Calmly setting down her container, Mom walked over to the boys and spoke kindly and respectfully to them, reminding them about using quieter voices. There was no yelling. There was no punishing. There was really no discipline whatsoever. Simply talking. And in that simple talking, Mom MODELED what respect was all about. She didn’t have to belittle them or berate them for not following her request. She simply re-explained in a calm, respectful manner what she expected of them.
We cannot expect our children to act or behave better than we do as adults. If we are constantly nagging at them, that is what they learn. If we yell at them, they learn to yell. If we disrespect them, they learn how to be disrespectful. Imagine if Adrianna had yelled from the blueberry bush, “I said to talk softly boys! Come here right now!” Well, I guarantee most of the people picking blueberries would’ve heard her more than they’d heard the boys. Yes – children can get unruly and noisy and absolutely need to have adult help in calming down. But they also need to be redirected and spoken to with respect. That is how they will learn to give respect.
Soon enough, Mom and her three children had picked enough berries and were heading to the farm stand to pay. As they left, I heard the children say “thank you” to the gentleman who owns the farm. And as they made their way to the parking lot, the oldest son said “that was fun, Mom!”
So, I guess the blueberry fields offer more than just blueberries.