“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV).
My pulse races faster than an Indy 500 driver when I see a child act disrespectfully in public. I confess I desire to meddle in the situation, knowing it would likely become messier than a toddler eating Spaghetti-O’s. I hear people grumble, “Kids these days…” and I know I’m not alone.
No child is perfect, yet respectful children, teens, and young adults do still exist. When children do act disrespectfully, parents can often feel helpless as to how to redirect behavior. Understanding what respect is and sharing some respect teaching tools can guide us to healthier relationships. Lets look at respect through the lens of faith and see how we can improve our relationships.
We know respect when we see it, but it's hard to define. Webster’s defines respect as: “to regard as worthy of special consideration; to consider worthy of esteem; or, to regard with honor.” Respect sends a message that someone is valuable; he or she has worth.
Most people consider respect something given and something earned. This is Biblical. Paul reminds us, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7, NIV).
Most would agree that we should treat family and friends respectfully because of our personal relationship with them. However, if we believe that Jesus valued all of humanity enough to die on the cross for them, we should also value other people as well. In fact, God commands us by saying, “Show proper respect to everyone...” (1 Peter 2:17a, NIV).
Philippians 2:3-4 describes it this way: “Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT). This is the attitude that God calls us to cultivate, motivating our choices and priorities.
Everyone needs these respect teaching tools:
Sometimes we try and it feels like nothing gets through, but we can’t give up. The world fights for our children’s hearts and attitudes. Study God’s word for ways to improve. Get on the same page with your spouse and show them what respect looks like. Be real and accountable about weaknesses. Apologize when needed. Teach about the consequences of disrespect and rewards of respect. And someday, when our children are old, they will not depart from it.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster