This morning’s news program showed a video of three men toppling over the rock formation called The Duck Bill on the coast of Oregon. My immediate thought was– What a lack of respect! The report went on to show to other similar acts of vandalism to nature.
Two of my daughters are teachers—one elementary and one college. Their biggest obstacle in teaching is dealing with the disrespect of their students and sometimes parents. What used to be the rarity is now common. From talking while the teacher is talking to not doing assignments and making excuses for not doing so, to talking back and not attending class—all show disrespect. And these issues are mild compared to what many other teachers face.
It is our job, Mom and Dad, to teach our kids respect. When parents don’t teach their children how to respect others and themselves, they are setting them up for harsh consequences (Proverbs 23:13; 1 Samuel 3:1-14; 1 Samuel 4). While these examples are the extreme, but nonetheless true, life provides many less extreme consequences, such as discipline issues at school, inability to hold a job, difficulties in relationships, etc.
Teach your kids respect by:
- Your example. Speak respectfully about others. Treat others with respect, including your kids. Treat strangers, clerks in stores, repairmen in your home, etc. with kindness—look them in the eye, speak to them, shake hands when the situation calls for it. Use “please” and “thank you.”
- Raise the bar of the new normal in your family. After you have modeled the example of the new “respectful you” for a week, have a family meeting. Apologize for your disrespect to your kids and others. Tell them the family will be doing life differently. Explain to them clearly what is expected and what the consequence will be when they are disrespectful.
- What is expected—speak kindly and honestly to others while looking them in the eye–put down the screens. Yes, your child may express that he is angry or upset but no foul language, name calling, or physical violence.
- Respect other’s property. No taking, using, or borrowing anything that is not theirs without permission. That is called stealing. If permission is given, they must take care of the item and return it in the same or better condition. If not, they are responsible to replace it.
- Respect their property. Teach your child to put away their things and use them appropriately. Use discernment in immediately replacing something they lost or broke due to a careless or disrespectful attitude.
- Respect themselves. Explain to your child that they do not have to endure bullying or unkind words or actions from anyone. Often when Jesus was disrespected He walked away from the group (John 8:58-59; John 10:34-39). When He allowed the disrespect, He did so because it was part of God’s mission for Him (John 18-19:24). Give your child permission to say no to adults who are unkind or make them feel unsafe or uneasy. Tell them to get help from another adult. Tell them the trusted adults in their lives that you know are safe and will help them. Teaching your kids to respect themselves at an early age may save them from getting into an abusive or dangerous situation when they are older. They will have learned to trust their gut in knowing a situation or person is not safe and then they will flee. It teaches them to establish healthy boundaries so they are not in the habit of hanging out with those are not safe or good for them (Psalm 1).
- The appropriate consequence. Before the family meeting, decide with your spouse what the consequences will be for disrespect. These consequences may be different for each child. Grounding may not matter to your introvert child, but taking away all screens may get his attention. In a calm manner explain the consequences for the differing acts of disrespect. A chart may be a powerful visual aid. Then consistently and calmly enforce the consequences. Explain to your child that by being disrespectful they are choosing to experience a consequence.
Mom, Dad, yes, this is a lot of work. If you think your child is never disrespectful, think again. The child who quietly ignores your instructions and does her own thing is showing disrespect. I’m not saying look for opportunities to pick on your kid. Disrespect has infiltrated every part of our culture. Our job is to vigilantly model and teach our kids respect. They will experience blessings that others will not (Psalm 1:1) even if the blessing is only peace and calm in their soul.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.