Respect In Theory Vs Respect In Practice: The Challenge That Young People Face

Recently, I was taken aback as I overheard a group of young people commenting on a popular TV show that they had been watching. In their conversation, they were celebrating behaviours and attributes that, in so many ways, went against the values that I knew this particular school had worked extensively to teach and prioritise within their school community. One of the values that I noticed was void from this conversation was respect.

The value of respect can be a tricky one to teach and implement. When it comes to the practicality and outworking of respect, there are often many challenges that young people can face.

There has been a lot of effort and emphasis over the past few years towards opening up this important conversation about respect in regard to people’s differences. It has been encouraging to see in so many ways, young people collectively growing in their respect and empathy around other people’s beliefs, faith, sexuality, background and gender.

However, despite the progress we’ve seen, we’re still finding many young people struggling with the concept of respect when it comes to all of their relationships, both online and off.

When it comes to the struggle young people are facing around respect, we’ve noticed two key things contributing to the problem.

1. The first is the impact that powerful and damaging pop culture messages are having on young hearts and minds.

Our hyper-sexualised society saturated with pornography promotes a message to our teenagers that self-gratification should be their primary focus. When we look a little deeper at hook-up culture and the normalcy of one-night-stands, it’s no surprise that our young people are misled when it comes to understanding the gravity and depth of real, authentic and respectful relationships.

Hollywood, sitcoms and reality TV shows portray cheating, disloyalty, dysfunction and drama. Many young people can be mindlessly viewing these shows, failing to recognise the problematic values that are being promoted and the way that they can be shaping and impacting their relationships.

Here lies a challenge for educators and parents: How can we intercept these messages with lessons of love, trust, commitment and respect?

2. The second challenge we face is that for so long there has been a void of conversation around respectful relationships.

Historically, sex education has been limited to a purely biological, heterosexual and procreational framework that has failed to embody the necessary value of respect and what that looks like within every relationship.

This generation, due to the sexualised climate they are in, is in desperate need of ongoing conversations as well as a broader and deeper understanding of these topics.

Beyond sex, beyond biology, beyond the physical, young people deserve to be thoroughly equipped with conversations that have at the heart of them, the important values necessary for healthy relationships.

In light of the society we are living in and the powerful messages that young people are receiving, we can’t presume they are learning values like respect by proxy. Education is required; intentional lessons that have embedded within them the values that will equip young people for both their now and their future.

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