There are rarely extinction level events in a lifetime. Changes happen one little event at a time.

As I sit and watch the lack of respect so many kids have for our institutions, the parents and community who raised them, and the older people who’ve paid their dues and sacrificed, I think about how we got here.

It’s not a simple reason. It wasn’t one event. It was a series of small things. It was giving trophies for showing up. It was telling them how unique and special they are without having done the work to earn it. It was a lack of consequences for their actions.

But the one that stands out to me is when we all decided to let our kids and their friends call us by our first names. When we did that, we removed the divide between the kids and the adults. We removed an inherent level of respect. We made them feel like they were friends of ours instead of students (whether in the literal or figurative sense).

When kids started calling us by our first names, they lost an element of fear. They lost an element of respect. And they moved even closer to believing they know more than their elders.

The arrogance of youth has always existed. But that healthy level of fear and respect always kept them in check, to some extent. With that simple move away from title, kids lost a key, daily, reminding differentiator.

Every time children spoke to you and called you “Mister,” or “Mrs,” or “Ms,” they were reminded that being a teacher, parent, or adult is a stratosphere for which they are still preparing. It’s a daily reminder of the goal of youth – to earn the title of adult.