24 Family Ways # 3
We honor and obey our parents with a respectful attitude.
From the first days of life, we speak the attitudes of faith into our little babies. When we treat them with gentleness and respond to them with patience and treat them as little infants of great value, we are already training the value of honor and respect into their brain patterns.
Honor is a value that must have precedence in a home, so that a child can understand the importance of people, and to learn to bow their knee before others who deserve respect.
The beginning of learning to value a fetus, an old, frail or infirm adult, or a person of different race or color begins with the heart attitude of learning to honor and learning to submit oneself to others.
Definition: to show high respect or esteem
To regard with great respect
Many years ago, I was taking Sarah, Joel, Nathan and Joy to a children's museum in Ft. Worth. We were standing in line behind what appeared to be grandparents with a little boy about 5 or 6. As we stood waiting our turn to enter, the little boy suddenly laid down on the floor, began screaming and then when his grandpa tried to pick him up, the boy started slapping and hitting and spitting on him.
Immediately all four of my children looked back at my face to see what I was going to do. Joel said, "Mama, don't you know? We always look at your eyes to see what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to behave and react in life."
What do your children see when they look at your eyes?
Children naturally look to their parents for an example and model of what is expected.
One of the reasons, I believe, that God required children to honor and obey their parents was to give them a visual and actual practice of what it would look like to give honor and obey and value and worship to God.
How can our children learn the value of worshipping and honoring God if they have not seen it in the warp and woof of their daily lives?
It is very difficult to behave in belief and in worship to God--to understand that we are below him and are to bow to His holiness--if we have never been required to show respect to others in our lives.
There must be some visible, actual ways of teaching children respect and honor as a heart value so that they can learn the concept.
There are so many practical ways and tips to teach a child honor and obedience.
However, the most important thing to realize is that it starts with the heart.
Respect, giving worth and honor to someone, is not a matter of forcing a child to submit to an authority because the parent is stronger and bigger and can exert his power. Force of authority is the opposite of winning and training a child's heart to honor and obedience.
HOW DO WE TEACH THIS VALUE?
"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" I Peter 3:15
It begins with an attitude of gentleness and reverence from our own obedient and honoring heart. The power is in our own maturity to train in maturity.
A wise mother looks into the heart of her child to understand what is mulling around in the mind and seat of thoughts and motivation. Honor is passed on to a child when we take the time to know their personality, understand their heart attitude and to be able to say or evaluate if a behavior was merely foolishness or if behavior showed a disrespectful and rebellious heart.
I corrected my children so very often because of the attitude I could detect--when they were willful or prideful or selfish in response to a person or situation--much more than I corrected for behavior.
Wise behavior was trained and modeled and corrected over time. However the essence of training our children to honor and obey was an issue of teaching them to submit their wills out of a heart of respect, rather than out of us forcing them to comply.
Understand that all of us are sinful and selfish and that our human way is to "push against" anyone who infringe upon our rights. And so it is natural to be selfish and immature, but it is supernatural to be mature.
To become mature takes a whole lifetime--at least I am still working on it. To grow in maturity and to become wiser, humbler and more discerning and submissive in my behavior has taken me years of input, training, understanding, conviction, reforming my ways and repenting--and it is a process, not a one time act.
And so it is with a child, hundreds of times teaching, correcting, loving, training, and over and over again.
For this reason, a parent should not think the child is intentionally disobedient all the time just to thwart the parent--all children are born with such a nature and all children will grow in strength and ability to obey when consistently trained and guided and corrected.
This is a process.
Ours is to wisely keep them on the path of righteousness and to give them the value and love for righteousness and to correct and train them as they are going.
Just a few practical ideas:
When our children were little, we taught them to address adults with "Miss" or "Mister"--as our children called our adult friends either Mister Brown or Miss Deb to show that there was a distinction between adults and children. Different parts of the US and different countries have ways of imparting this understanding of the distance between adults and children, but it is a necessary distinction which helps children to learn the attitude of respect--to see a difference in themselves and in adults and authorities.
Teaching manners is a wonderful way to teach children to value the worth of other people. Giving up chairs so others have a comfortable seat. Letting other adults or guests go first in line at a buffet, or serving our guests food or beverages before we were served were small ways of building a pattern of giving honor to others more than ourselves, so that our children could understand the whole concept.
Writing thank you notes and noticing the worth of other people through words helped our children have a pattern for respect. Honoring those in position--a pastor, a teacher, the President, leaders--in front of our children instead of always criticizing them in our children's presence helped them to learn that we also honored people.
In a world of cynicism and sarcasm, we must rule over the influences of our children when so often media and the internet feels that any person and any office is something open to being criticized or being made fun of in public.
This creates a culture that has no sense of honor or respect. Guarding our words and behavior is so important if we are to instill a heart value for respect, rather than just trying to force obedience.
Even small babes can learn to honor their parents by teaching them to use self-control. When our babes were very young and they were whining or screaming, but old enough to understand us, we would place them in a crib and say, "I am so sorry, but mommy (or Daddy) cannot listen to you while you scream or whine (or whatever). When you choose to talk to me in a normal voice, I will listen to you."
It was amazing how quickly our children learned to talk in quiet, gentle voices--even as young, crying babes.
But for a child to learn honor, a parent must display honor. The way we speak to each other and to our children should be with pleasant, loving words and voices. When we expect them to learn civility and honor, we have to exhibit it ourselves in the way we treat other people. (generally speaking, of course --we all raise our voices or become angry or frustrated on occasion.) And even if we do become angry or raise our voices, we should always apologize if we expect our children to apologize. We must exhibit the same behavior we are expecting of them.
How can we train our children to act respectfully if we do not behave in a civilized, gentle, respectful way?
But then there is the second part of the way: obeying our parents with a respectful attitude.
Though this is a big area, and I cannot possibly address it all in one small article, the process of teaching a child the pattern of obeying is a long term pathway of learning obedience, little by little.
Teaching children to obey is essential to their character and moral strength, but it is a process. The beginning of learning obedience is to learn a value like this one--We honor and obey our parents with a respectful attitude.
So many parents do not teach basic expectations but merely react to their children in frustration--without having ever laid down the training of expectations of what is to be obeyed.
This merely frustrates parent and child as it is difficult for a child to learn to obey if they have never been told what is expected of them--any more than I could expect to please an employer if I did not clearly understand what was expected.
Training little by little is the key to having long term obedience and honor.
Since Clay and I believe that parenting is an organic process, considering the personalities of children, the sex and age of children and the ways to reach the children's hearts, we do not give specific advice but wisdom principles to follow.
Consequently, the first place to start is in giving our children a pattern of what to expect by being with them all the time when they are little so that we can speak to their little hearts, needs, shaping their values and understanding of behavior by directing it.
The children whose parents are most engaged and involved when their children are little are, generally speaking, the ones whose children are easier to train, as the children have learned to expect attention and love and training.
And so we teach them this way, teach them the memory verse and use this way and verse as a way of correction:
What is our way about obedience? What do you need to do in order to obey mommy now?
And so that I do not write a whole book tonight, I will leave you with this thought:
How are you modeling honor and obedience to God in your home, by your attitudes, actions and obedience--so that your children will have a true picture to follow?