One of the more daunting challenges of parenthood for us has been raising our children with a sense of honor and respect. It seems to go pretty well until they hit the teenage years. It’s hard to tell if what appears to be an onslaught of egocentrism is due to their developmental stage, our national ideal of individualism, or both. What is certain is that, at that magical moment when their brains become more acutely aware of the world around them, they learn to develop an opinion about everything. Add to this their apparent belief that they have the right to express their opinions and newfound emotions however they want and to whomever they please, and it is no wonder that some adults have determined that, as a whole, teenagers are not respectful.
I would be lying if I said we didn’t have the respect conversation in our home more than once. Each of our three teenage boys has told my wife and me that they’ll give respect if someone deserves it or it is given to them first. When attempting to explain that how we treat others shows respect as much as (if not more than) our words, we’ve gotten blank stares. Many of our friends have had similar experiences.
I recently saw a study that said argumentative teenagers show signs of independence, which is considered a good thing. Yes, we want our children to be able to stand on their own, but how we teach them to do that is critical.
If you are considering Christian parenting and are attempting to find out what the Bible says about it, the first concept is pretty simple: It is important to practice what we preach. Our actions carry much more weight than our words. If we’re teaching principles such as 1 Peter 2:17, which describes respect as putting high value on (or loving) someone else, we must practice them ourselves. We must give respect to the rude person at the grocery store, who is more important than our annoyance over his or her behavior. And here’s the big one: We must also be respectful of our children.
Second, the way we teach our young people to be respectful should support what we teach them about respect itself. The ability to be respectful comes from a deep sense of self-confidence and integrity. The more confident our young people are, the more respectful they will be of themselves and others; not because of accomplishments or status but because they realize that they and others have tremendous value as sons and daughters of the King. Once they understand that being respectful is a matter of personal character rather than a choice based on how others treat them, they will be honor-giving people.
It is easy to tell our teenagers to be respectful. It’s a different matter to help them become respectful. May you choose wisely.