Tougher to instil respect now

WHEN it comes to public displays of civility, we have a lot to learn from the Japanese ("'Law of respect' not necessary here" by Mr Lin Weizhong (Tuesday).

For example, my family was on holiday in Tokyo when we, unable to decipher the train schedules that were mostly in Japanese, got hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine system. On noticing our distress, a woman offered to guide us in her halting English, even drawing an elaborate map when we did not understand her verbal directions.

Respect for others, like many other character traits, must be cultivated from a young age.

Many youngsters today are less respectful than their counterparts in the past.

For example, students in the past were generally more respectful to their teachers. I still remember my classmates and I being as quiet as church mice when the teacher was in class.

In contrast, I have witnessed rowdy classrooms, with students spouting vulgarities and condescending remarks right in the teacher's face in a secondary school I taught in, and getting away with it most of the time.

Could it be that the students' behaviour is a reflection of their parents' over-protectiveness?

In the past, parents left it to the teachers to dole out punishment for misdemeanours as they saw fit. Today, parents are more likely to side with their children and question the teachers' disciplinary actions.

Another possible reason for the lack of respect may be our children's familiarity with foreign maids.

If they see their parents treating their helpers disrespectfully, they will likely follow their actions. This may translate to a general disrespect for people, especially towards those whom they deem beneath them in social status.

In the past, big families and communal living allowed us to learn to get along with members of different generations. I still remember having to address my grandparents, aunts and uncles before each meal to show respect.

Now, in our mostly nuclear, double-income families, children may not even have the benefit of sitting down regularly with their parents for dinner, which is an occasion ripe for imparting values.

Instilling a culture of respect is so much more difficult now.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms), Reader

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