Parents Who Fail to Teach Respect, Fail Us All

Dear Readers,

Today’s blog is completely different from my normal blogging style.  Usually I try to bring you the witty day-to-day goings on of my family and, specifically, with my children.  But I saw a story on The Today Show this morning that has me so angry that I can’t seem to think past it.  I’m so angry I’m literally in tears, and I’m having trouble finding any humor to share.  Instead, I bring you an editorial.  If you prefer to read a  humorous story, please come back tomorrow…I’m sure I can accommodate by then.  But for today, I can only bring you what’s weighing heavily in my heart and mind.

Karen Klein

In Rochester, New York, 68 year old grandmother and school bus monitor, Karen Klein, was subjected to the most horrible bullying and bad behavior by “children” I think I’ve ever seen.

Mrs. Klein is employed by a New York school district to monitor children on the bus and, presumably, provide a level of safety to the children on that bus.  And, in the midst of offering an adult presence and protection, she becomes the focus of unrelenting taunting that leaves this poor woman completely humiliated.

“Your reflexes are so slow, you freakin fat (expletive),” taunted one child.

To that statement, another child interjected, “You have reflexes like an elephant.”

“Oh my god.  Your’e such a (expletive) troll,” taunted a third child.

After several moments of nasty comments, Mrs. Klein finally dissolves into silent tears.  Her humiliation is compounded when one child taunts by asking “Are you sweating?”

“I’m crying,” Mrs. Klein responded.

“Yeah, she probably misses her box of Twinkies,” responds the voice of yet another child.

Altogether, there were three videos with a combined 14 minutes of taunting directed at Mrs. Klein by middle-school children.  Besides the nasty comments, there are children seen poking her in the back of the head as she sits quickly on the bus, doing her best to ignore the taunts directed at her.

As a parent, I’m appalled.  Bullying has become an increasing problem in our school systems, but the actions of these children have reach an all-time low.  Whatever happened to RESPECT or COMMON COURTESY?

Because they’re minors, the identities of these children are protected and kept anonymous.  I can’t help but wonder what type of discipline – if any – is being invoked at home.  Do their parents even care?  How does a child reach the point where he feels JUSTIFIED in taunting ANYONE, but – most especially – an elderly woman whose presence on their bus is for the explicit purpose of providing protection?

Since seeing this story this morning, I’ve given a great deal of thought to how I would handle this situation if – god forbid – one of my children were involved.  First, I’d like to hope that neither of my children would be involved. I’d like to hope that I’ve pounded home the importance of respect for their elders and authority, not to mention the importance of kindness to all people.  But if my children were involved, these are some of the actions I’d be taking at home:

  1. To hell with keeping their identities anonymous.  I would demand of my children both a private and public apology.  I would expect a face-to-face  and heart-felt apology to Mrs. Klein for their atrocious behavior.  If I didn’t feel it was with enough feeling – and sincerity! – they’d keep trying until they got it right.  The second part of this would be a public apology.  Mrs. Klein has been humiliated.  It’s only right that her bullies receive a public face through a public apology.
  2. I would be signing my children up for some type of community service, working with “special needs” individuals…the elderly, the mentally challenged, the homeless…whatever I could find to give my children a better understanding of the world around them.
  3. Any and all sense of “entitlement” would end.  As a parent, I’m required to provide food, shelter and adequate clothing.  Nothing else.  And you can be sure there would be nothing else.  We would turn to hand-me-down, gently used, or whatever other in inexpensive sources for clothing I could find.  No expensive “name brand” or designer clothing that the “in crowd” wears.  There would be no extracurriculars unless those extracurriculars had a focus on philanthropy. No iPods, cell phones, stereos, televisions, vehicles at 16, etc.  It’s time to appreciate the basics.

How long would this discipline last?  I don’t know.  The community service would be indefinite, perhaps continuing through high school.  The one thing these children need more than anything is an understanding for the differences in people, and to learn empathy and respect.

I think Matt Lauer said it best when he called these children, “Narrow-minded monsters” and that their parents should be ashamed of them.

For me, I think this is a vital lesson in the importance of parenting.  We have one chance to instill in our children the importance of being a valuable and contributing member of society.  We have one chance to teach our children that they are not “entitled” to anything, and that respect and compassion for others should be a priority in life.  If we miss that chance, then we’ve failed.  We’ve failed ourselves, we’ve failed our children, and we’ve failed society in general.  I sincerely hope that these parents will take this opportunity to fix whatever is broken so that their children can move past this to become the kind and caring adults that we all want our children to become.

To see The Today Show story and interview that inspired this morning’s rant, follow this link:  Today Show Story about Karen Klein

19 responses to “Parents Who Fail to Teach Respect, Fail Us All”

  1. Ma’am I agree with you 100%!! I am a 40 something and I know what those children did was/is WRONG!!! Sorry to yell but goodness where are the manners anymore??? Hello from Alabama


    1. Thank you! Don’t apologize for yelling…I feel exactly the same way. I’m 40-something as well, and I have to tell you that my father would whip my butt TODAY for behaving like that! I am so completely appalled…and deeply saddened!


  2. Were I one of those inconsiderate monsters, I can tell you in all honesty, my parents would have had one of their (extremely) rare arguments, as both would have wanted the privilege of tanning my butt to the point it no longer existed. When I see kids like that today, I am SO grateful I am single and no kids . . . and then I see my great-niece Amelia, who has the compassion of an angel, and pray she stays that way as she gets older.

    Cathie, I think a lot of this is in the music, television, and films these kids watch. They’re taught it’s funny. Look at the shows on the tube or on the screen. Everything is crass and crude . . . and we plunk down our money to see it. Or give kids the dough to watch it. Then we get upset at them for acting that way.

    I think when kids act that way, protecting them by hiding their identity is as wrong as wrong could be. Protecting them? WHY?

    Excellent blog, Cathie.


    1. Mickey,
      You and I went to the same schools. You know without a doubt that you’d have been paddled at school and THEN gotten the whipping of your life when you got home…and so would I!

      I don’t understand this new entitlement mindset..entitled to things…entitled to treat people without respect…entitled to whatever they want!


      1. I thank God every day I got the spankings I did, Cathie. I’ve told people had I not, I would have (deservedly) been on Death Row. They scoff at that, as do my parents, but I tell ya, a lot of these so called kids who are being protected are on their way there. When they get out of school and are on their own, they’re going to realize life ain’t easy and things aren’t handed to them.

        I am SOOOOOO ready for the Rapture!


    2. I couldn’t have said this better myself. I agree with you 100%. This is exactly the appropriate follow through for these youth. If these lessons aren’t learned now, then when? This type of thing really disturbs me. Obviously their parents are not modeling or teaching them morals, compassion and human decency. I’m afraid for future generations.


      1. What’s sad how so many parents are afraid to discipline their children today. A beating is one thing, but a good spanking is another. A parent can be taken to court for firm discipline, as a complete stranger will butt in where they don’t belong. (I always joke “Where were these people when *I* needed them?” and Mom says, “Cheering me on!”)


      2. Hahaha! That’s awesome (about cheering her on)!


  3. I can’t even imagine WHY a child would try to hurt someone’s feelings like that. Where is the empathy? Scary that they will become grownups out in society – hopefully, their parents saw the video. I am sitting here shaking my head. So awful.


    1. Melanie, because man, contrary to popular belief, is evil. They enjoy it and think by hurting someone else, it makes them bigger. Some parents would think it’s funny, as they do the same thing at home. I once heard a co-worker shout at his wife, “Woman! Get your a— in here!” His little boy then shouted the same thing to his mother, and the fellow thought it was hilarious. (BTW, that guy was the only person I ever knew my brother-in-law to openly dislike. I didn’t blame him at all.)


      1. Okay…I could see Braden mimicking someone saying that out of humor. 🙂


    2. I’d like to hope that it was one of those thing where there was one really bad egg and the other kids were too scared to but to follow. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but it gives me hope that maybe they can be taught.


  4. Kids are losing the ability to empathize because 1) their parents are failing as role models, 2) the media portrays put-downs as funny and smart, and 3) all the time spent front of electronics and using computers/phones as a primary method of communication–it’s much easier to be mean to someone when you don’t have to witness their pain. These kids have been exposed to such disrespect and ugliness that they’ve become immune to real emotions.

    Nicely said, Cathie. I’d like to think I’d react as a parent just the same way as you’ve described.


    1. I think you’re right, Tara…are kids have become desensitized. 😦


  5. This reminds me of an incident that occurred on the bus when I was in middle school. Some boys started mouthing off to our bus driver, who was an old man. It was shortly after Halloween and all the kids had candy, so a few more of the kids started licking their hard candies and then pressing them into the bus driver’s clothes as he walked through the aisles to find out who was shouting rude things at him. A boy started mouthing off to him to his face, and the bus driver picked him up and told him to be more respectful. When we got to school, some kids reported what happened to the principal, and every single kid on the bus got suspended. The bus driver was fired. It still makes me feel sick when I think of that day… that poor man with lollipops stuck all over his clothes, just trying to do his job, earn a wage, and live his life. Some children can be so horrible.


    1. Wow! I hate that the poor guy got suspended, but I guess maybe the school had no choice since he put his hands on a kid.

      I grew up in Oklahoma, and I actually witnessed a music teacher spin around on her piano bench and slap a kid in the face. It was completely unmeditated and spontaneous, and she felt terrible and apologized immediately. It left us all in shock. Nothing happened to the teacher. I don’t think anyone actually ever told on her.


  6. Your anger is felt here as well. This is crazy. I deal with kids each day, and some are great, but so many think it is ok to be so rude for no reason. And unfortunately, the age is getting younger and younger. When I see parents allowing their 3-6 year olds run around being obnoxious and talking back, I only shudder at the teenagers and preteens they will become.


  7. Oh boy. Well I completely agree with everything you’ve said and articulated so well. I hope it’s not too late for these kids. They are acting like heartless bullies. Are they heartless? Are they already ruined? Is it the style to be cruel? All the advantages they have and how easy they have it and how entertained they are and how important they are groomed to feel has produced these rotten little monsters. Their parents need a whippin’!


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