More than Happy by Serena B. Miller & Paul Stutzman

More than Happy by Serena B. Miller & Paul Stutzman

Author:Serena B. Miller & Paul Stutzman
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Howard Books

Teaching Respect

“Children don’t become respectful by accident.”


Self-discipline is not the only reason Amish children behave so reliably well, though. It took a while for me to pin down what it is, but eventually, as I spent more time with my Amish friends, I began to notice something. Respect for others is also deliberately built into the fabric of their lives and stands as an example to the children.

For example, when an extended Amish family has a potluck, the grandfather and grandmother are always given precedence in the food line. A mother might, while setting out the meal, give a young child a small snack to tide the child over, but for the most part, children are taught to hold back from getting in line until the older people have been served.

I find this in direct contradiction to most Englisch potluck situations—even in church settings—where the children race and push ahead to be first in line, almost as though it is a game they must win. There have been times when I’ve worried that the more fragile, older people in our church might get knocked over because of the children’s single-minded determination to get there first.

Older people’s appetites are not usually as aggressive as small children’s, and I see the older people holding back and allowing the children to go first—but there is a cost to pay. It is a subtle way of telling the children that the older people don’t matter. It can give children the impression that their own needs and appetites come first and foremost.

Amish women tend to hold back and allow the men to go first in a food line as well. I had noticed this and mentioned it to Leah. Was this an example of sexist, subservient behavior?

Leah laughed at my concern and explained the reasoning behind it.

“My mother always taught us girls that the reason we should allow the men to eat first is because if there wasn’t enough food prepared, it was our own fault!”

Naomi explained it to me in a different light. “My husband works hard outdoors and gets so very hungry. I have time to sample a bit of food while I’m cooking but he doesn’t have that opportunity. My appetite simply isn’t as great.”

Holding back. Allowing men to go first. Allowing the older people to go first. These things are not questioned, except by Englisch guests. It is simply the way things are and always have been. It is also an example of the quiet thoughtfulness I have seen exhibited over and over in the Amish culture.

On the other hand, “men first” doesn’t always apply. I’ve had Amish male hosts step back and motion for me to go in line before them. This, too, is a matter of traditional respect that has nothing to do with gender. I’m a guest, and guests are invited to go first. That’s just how it is done.

Respect is also quietly shown in the way the Amish file into a residence or building where they are holding church services.


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