“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa

One weekday afternoon after school I’m sat in a shoe shop with the kids for like the millionth time because whenever we visit they don’t have their size or they don’t have the right style or we’re returning them because they’ve not been fitted correctly.
I do so love children’s school shoe shopping.
And they’re tired and grumpy and sighing a lot because we’ve come straight from school and all they want to do is GO HOME AND EAT SOMETHING MUMMY!

They so don’t want to be there but they sit quietly nonetheless, chatting to each other, we get the job done and they thank the shop assistant for managing to not tickle their very ticklish feet when she measured them.

Just as we’re paying a boy comes into the shop with his mother.
He must be about 12 and he has the look of ‘I own this place’ about him. He almost swaggers in.
I instantly dislike him.
Then he turns to his mother and says: “Come on, let’s get this over with”. He slumps down on the chair, scowls at anyone and everyone within a 5 metre radius of him then spits “come on!” to the woman, nay girl, heading his way to measure his feet.

He is everything I do not want my son to become.
Why why why did his mother not say anything either? Sure she’s probably resigned to it by now, but to ignore it in public is almost to condone it?

Respect is a big issue in this house. Respect for others, respect for family, respect for yourself, good honest respect.
But how do you instill that in an 8 year old rambunctious boy?
It’s a well known fact that children imitate their parents. But also family members, teachers, friends, friends’ parents. They aren’t always listening, but they are always, always immitating.
So even if you do your best to ensure they see respect at home, what about when they’re not with you, when they’re out there in the wide world, witnessing people like that unpleasant boy in the shoe shop?

My son has learnt respect through sport.
His coaches teach them that they must earn respect in the way they behave; to respect match officials and all times and accept their decisions; to respect the opposition’s players and supporters; and to value the people who give their time up to run the clubs they are part of.

On Saturday night the young players from my son’s tag rugby team were at an award ceremony as they were shortlisted for a Young Team of the Year.
It was a pretty big deal, with council dignitaries, local sporting bigwigs and lots of grown up onlookers.
It was also pretty boring as they had to sit quietly on their table while the awards were dished out.
They didn’t win, but as we’re getting a very tired Dan ready for bed hubby says: “I was so proud of Dan tonight. All of the boys behaved brilliantly and one of the council officials even came over and commented on how wonderfully behaved a group of 10 eight year olds had been.”
Dan smiles a little weak smile because he’s on his last legs, and my heart bursts at the thought that actually, we might just be getting there.

So, I can’t shield my children from people like the shoe shop boy, but I can hope that the people around him, who he loves and respects himself, will help shape him and make him into a man to be proud of.

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