Respect your elders.
Many of us grew up with this as a principal family motto. As with most Asian countries, respect is a virtue deeply ingrained in our Malaysian culture. In the past, respect towards our elders may have been a dutiful obligation (often accompanied by a less-than-healthy dose of fear!). In today’s day and age however, let us encourage our kids to respect, love and connect with their elderly loved ones- because they want to!
Here are some healthy ways we can raise our kids to love and respect their grandparents:
1. Role model
So, start walking the talk. Speak gently to grandma (even when the nagging starts) and always consider grandpa’s perspectives. Respect cannot be dictated, so inspire your kids by demonstrating consideration and compassion in your interactions with the elders. Buy them their favourite noodles from the local stall, help them fix their broken sink, resolve disagreements amicably, and treat your loved ones with the kindness and respect they deserve. And remember: those little eyes are watching our every move!
2. Provide opportunities
It’s lovely to hear our kids saying their ‘I love yous’ to their grandparents. Take it a step further and create opportunities for them to put these words into action. Actions do, after all, often speak louder than words!
Simple gestures go a long way. Get your child to hold open the door for their elders, even when you can easily do so. The more they engage in such respectful behaviours, the more natural it will become.
For the lucky ones who have grandparents able and willing to take on the caregiving role, do remember to also allow for some fun activity time. Get gramps and the kids to bond over a gardening project, or organise a visit for them to volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s often easier to foster a culture of love and respect with someone with whom you’ve shared positive experiences.
3. Traditions and stories
Keep those grandfather stories coming! We know you’ve heard them countless times, but what’s the harm in listening to the 101th rendition of a beloved tale (especially when family storytelling brings so many benefits?). Family stories have a way of building a sense of identity through time and creating a sense of unity. And what better way than to hear these stories straight from the horse’s mouth? Hearing grandpa tell the exciting story of how he survived the war is sure to evoke a sense of awe and respect from the kiddos.
Keep family traditions alive too. Many Malaysian traditions are steeped in respect. Remind kids to serve food to their grandparents during meal times and address them properly and respectfully. Get grandma to teach the kids her traditional recipes with her secret ingredients. Sit down as a family to enjoy that plate of asam laksa cooked with love (and sprinkled with heartwarming stories).
4. Be Flexible
It’s inevitable that disagreements in parenting styles will arise. Instead of overriding the grandparents and undermining their authority, resolve conflicts with these suggestions. Try to keep an open mind too. Grandparents can offer a wealth of support, wisdom, and guidance. They have done it before, successfully- so try to give their alternative approach a chance! When our kids see us resolving conflicts with our parents respectfully, they get the message that everyone, including grandparents, are to be treated with respect.
5. Keeping Them Close
In the past, extended families often lived together under one roof. Close ties between family members were a natural consequence. Today, many families often live miles (or oceans) apart from their elders. Make a conscious effort to build and maintain the relationship between your kids and their grandparents. Close relationships naturally build respect. If possible, make physical visits a regular part of your routine. If not, turn to technology. The pandemic has certainly given us lots of practice in staying connected virtually!
Our kids (especially the older ones) might feel that their grandparents are from a completely different planet. Don’t worry though; there are many ways to bridge the generation gap to help our kids feel closer to their grandparents. Build that sense of connection by reminding your children that their grandparents were also once kids, just like them. Encourage the sharing of funny childhood stories and pull out those old photo albums. Love is built on positive connected relationships – and respect is best built on love!