We’ve had quite a few conversations about respect in our home lately. Not because of our own adult daughter, but because of some of the children on our street. Evidently, they have not been taught to ask permission before playing with dozens of their friends regularly in someone else’s yard.
What does that have to do with respect and Christian parenting? Because respect has two basic components. The first is putting others before yourself. It’s an attitude as much as it is an action. Respect requires you to put yourself in the place of others. “How would I feel if I had just re-sodded my lawn and children were tearing it up playing on it?” It also requires you to go a step further. “Even though I want to play on that pretty grass with my friends, I want to do what’s best for my neighbor, so we will find somewhere else to play.” (Or “We will ask permission first, to make sure the neighbor doesn’t mind.”)
The second component of respect is differential obedience. It’s what military commanders or royalty in Bible times expected. If a command is given, it is to be obeyed. There is no negotiating or disobedience allowed. The ruler makes the rules and the cadets or subjects are to follow them without questioning. Now a benevolent ruler, will perhaps explain why there are certain rules, but in a pinch immediate compliance is expected.
Why are these two components of respect important in Christian parenting? Because if your kids don’t respect you and others, they are not going to respect God. If they don’t respect God, they aren’t going to obey Him and we all know that will not end well.
Thankfully, there is a fun way to teach younger children about respect. Take turns pretending one of you is a king or queen. The others can choose to be any type of subject to the ruler they please. As you play, the ruler should make rules. The subjects should obey those rules. They should also find ways to show they are putting the ruler before themselves. Have fun with it, but occasionally have conversations about respect after you play.
You can also have fun playing games like “Mother May I” and “Simon Says” that require respecting the leader of the game. Older kids can benefit from activities like cooking. As the “sous chef”, they must respect the chef. This means following directions exactly and finding ways to show they are putting the chef before themselves.
It is critical that your kids understand what it means to respect others and especially God. Practicing in fun ways can make respect a good habit (and attitude) they have towards others and God for the rest of their lives.