“Honor your Father and Mother!! Respect your elders!!”
We’ve all grown up hearing these phrases. Yet, the challenge in using these directives on our kids, is that they tend not to work. What does respect really mean and how is it taught? For most of the parents that I work with, they describe how they strive to impart these values upon their children, yet, are met with frustration when the kids don’t seem to get it. Most often, however, where the parents might be going wrong, is that they are simply demanding honor and insisting that their kids show respect. They will say things like,
“When I was a kid I would never dare speak to my father that way, you better watch your mouth and show some respect.”
With such comments, yes, parents acknowledge the notion of respect, however, they are not actually teaching it to their children. To be able to impart the values of respect, means that a child must have the opportunity to understand it by observing what it looks like.
Sadly, many parents fall into the trap of, “Do as I say not as I do.” Yet, educationally, it doesn’t work. Children learn from watching those precious teachable moments unfold before their eyes. It is how their reality is concretized and what they will strive to emulate as adults. Therefore, if we wish to raise a generation who understands and abides by the values of honor and respect, the only way to teach it effectively, is to model it for them.
To raise a young man who will grow up to honor, cherish and respect his wife, means that the boy’s father must go out of his way to constantly demonstrate it for his son. In other words, show him that a real man respects a woman. Just remember, the greatest gift you can ever give to your child, is to show them what a happy and respectful marriage looks like.
This does not mean that spouses should not fight or disagree. To the contrary, they should duke it out from time to time. However, the benefit to the children, is when they show what it looks like to fight with respect, to display deference, and to yield their own desire in light of bringing joy to their beloved spouse. Fighting with grace and respect is perhaps the most thoughtful gift you can ever give your kids (even if they can’t appreciate it for another thirty years).
While it may seem selfish, the full-circle nature of teaching honor to your kids is that you will ultimately become the primary beneficiary of it. Of course, that is not the reason we do it, however, it works. Imagine a child growing up in a home where his or her parents go to the ends of the earth to care for their own aging parents. When children witness with their very eyes, just how caring and loving an adult child is toward an aging parent, it solidifies for them a reality, wherein one day they will do the same for their parents.
So, here is a little formula I came up with to remember how to take advantage of those precious opportunities to impart the values of respect upon our kids. (With much appreciation to Aretha for inspiring the idea!)
Respect is not taught when demanding it or yelling at people. Thus, the first thing to do is (R) relax. Then (E) engage with them and create a feeling of positive interaction. (S) stop the one sided self-righteous perspective that suggests you are right and that you know best. Just be (P) pleasant, poised and polite. With the calmer (E) environment that you have now successfully created, try to (C) capture the moment as being a valuable opportunity which will be recorded forever in time, and appreciate what a mark it will leave on your children when you (T) teach them through your actions how to act with RESPECT toward others around you.
R – Relax, E – Engage, S – Stop, P – Pleasant, E – Environment, C – Capture, T – Teach
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