Editorials by Robert Kirwan

“I Just Wish They’d Go Home”

      “What is wrong with the younger generation today?”

    Ask any adult that question and inevitably the answer will boil down to the fact that, in general, kids just seem to have a serious lack of respect today. Not all kids display this character flaw, but a large number of them certainly do. And the ones who demonstrate a lack of respect for people, property and themselves tend to be the most vocal and the most visible.

    The biggest problem is that lack of respect is contagious. If someone shows disdain for property, others around him gradually lose their sense of respect as well and you get a group mentality at work.
   Unfortunately, I don’t think anything can be done to correct this problem. We may just have to accept that many young people today are going to continue to be disrespectful of just about everything and everyone.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not saying that we should give up on children, but if we really want to see any improvement in our youth, we are going to have to change the way that adults live. And that is going to be a lot harder than dealing with the younger generation.

  That reality was driven home to me the other day when I received a letter from a hockey referee in Barrie . I publish a hockey web site at Referees often send in stories about their “defining moments” in the sport. The following letter reminded me that adults often forget that children are watching everything they do. Let me share the letter with you.

   “My defining moment came from a game that really didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Two minor bantam teams were playing each other in a regular season game, however, the two teams were mismatched in size and talent. The superior club was bigger and faster, throwing clean body checks throughout the game building up a 5 – 1 lead. The weaker team players never gave up. They got up after every hit and skated their hearts out to get back into the play. Late in the 3rd period a group of “mothers” from the weak team’s side of the rink decided that I (the referee) was the big reason for the lop-sided game and began to hurl insults my way. They were very vulgar and very, very loud. As usual I ignored them and stayed focused on the game at hand. A face-off was about to take place near this group of unhappy campers in an end zone location. Now these kids are 13 years old and not too much would get them razzled. The center iceman from the weak team lifts up his face and looks at me with tears streaming down the side of his cheeks and says, “I just wish they’d go home.” For a quick second, I couldn’t breathe. I held on to that puck probably too long and found myself misting up. I wanted to eject all of those responsible for creating that memory for that child. Unfortunately, some adults don’t understand the repercussions of their actions.”

   That last sentence says it all and is worth repeating. “Unfortunately, some adults don’t understand the repercussions of their actions.”

    Here is another example of a parent who did understand the lesson he was teaching his son.  

   “On the day before bass season opened, Tommy and his father were fishing early in the evening on a Northern Ontario lake . Suddenly, Tommy’s rod almost bent in half and he knew he had hooked something huge. By the time the fight was over and he had reeled in the monster, both Tommy and his father discovered that they were staring at the biggest bass they had ever seen. By now darkness had engulfed the fishermen. Bass season officially opened in less than three hours. Tommy’s father looked at him and said quietly, "You’ll have to put it back, son."

Tommy protested, "I will never catch another fish this size."

As they looked around, there were no other fishermen in sight. They were completely alone, yet Tommy knew that his father’s decision was final and he let the fish back into the water.

To this day, Tommy still recalls that story whenever he is faced with a question of ethics in his own life. The respect he gained for his father that day has never died.

    My own brothers will recall an incident many, many years ago when our mother took us shopping for lumber supplies for my father. For whatever reason we went to Wahnapitae Lumber and somehow were given an extra box of nails that we weren’t charged for. My brothers and I realized what had happened, but we didn’t tell our mother until we had arrived at camp on Lake Wahnapitae near Skead. We were all proud of the fact that we had gotten something for free. My mother, however, made us come with her as we drove all the way back to that lumber store to pay for the nails. We will never forget that day and still talk about it from time to time.

As long as our children see adults themselves acting disrespectful to others, whether it is on television or in real life; as long as they see disrespect for authority by adults; as long as adults show that they do not respect themselves, we can not expect the level of respect in our children to improve.
    Just look at television. Look at how adults behave at sporting events. Look at how adults behave when they have had a couple of drinks. You better look, because your children are looking.

    Remember, respect is ‘caught’ not ‘taught’. What kind of signals are you throwing to your children and grandchildren? Don’t ever forget – they are watching everything you do.  


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