In many ways, a healthy parent/child relationship is built on respect. If children don’t respect their parents, they may rebel against every request or obey only to avoid consequences. (Parents need to show a different type of respect to their children, but that’s a conversation for another time.) For your children to have a healthy relationship with God, they have to show respect to Him. Did you know, the original Hebrew and Greek words for worship are basically defined as showing humble respect to God? If your children don’t respect God, not only are they likely to rebel against His commands, they won’t even be able to worship Him!
Unfortunately, our culture has weakened what the word “respect” means. To most people, respect means being polite or perhaps showing a slight humility towards – as one might slightly nod one’s head rather than bowing or curtsying to royalty. The biblical meaning is much stronger. Respect towards God is to honor Him and value Him highly. To fear Him (yes, in spite of what you may have been taught, fearing God is a biblical principle) in a way that indicates a deep respect. Respect in the Bible includes obeying God’s commands – even ones that are confusing or with which we disagree – and paying attention to what He says. Having a true, biblical respect for God means your children feel that respect to their core. They don’t just metaphorically salute God or bow and then go about their lives focused on what they want rather than what God wants.
Before doing fun things to explore the idea of respect with your children, it’s important that you discuss the biblical meaning and standard for respect and what is the current definition for most people in the world. They may not thoroughly grasp the difference until you do some of the activities, but it’s a topic you should revisit periodically throughout their lives.
Once you’ve introduced the topic of respect, here are some fun things you can do to explore it in more depth.
- Check out some children’s books and read them together. There are children’s books about respect, but also look for books involving royalty or people in power over others. What are the various ways people showed respect towards those in power? Find books on customs in other cultures and see if you can find anything about how children might show respect to parents, older people, teachers, etc. You may want to keep a running list or compare and contrast time periods and cultures.
- Have a spot of tea. A part of showing respect is good manners – even if it is not the total definition of the word for our purposes. What is more fun than having a tea party or going to a tea room or “fancy” restaurant where they can practice their manners? Just remember to talk about how good manners can still be a hiding place for a disrespectful heart.
- Draw it out. Give your kids each a large sheet of paper. Have them divide it in half. On one side, they can draw or right words, attitudes and actions that are respectful, and on the other side things that are disrespectful. If they illustrate something they think you are doing that they believe is disrespectful, seriously reflect on their thoughts. You may need to apologize and make some changes yourself.
- Cookies for cops (or other authority figures). This activity can be with teachers, first responders, politicians, judges – even church elders… anyone who might have some sort of authority over your children. Work with your children to make them some cookies and thank you drawings or cards. Call ahead to find a good time to drop by and deliver your goodies, but also have a conversation with them. In what ways do people act towards them that make them feel respected? Disrespected? Why do they think respect from others makes it easier to do their job?
- R..E..S…P…E…C…T. You know the song. Encourage your children to take a familiar tune in the public domain (no copyrights, so most nursery songs) and write their own respect song or rap. You can even make a music video of the finished song.
- Have a heart. As mentioned early, respectful words and actions can hide an extremely rebellious and disrespectful heart. Have your children cut out a large heart. On it, they should draw or write the things they believe are part of having a respectful heart towards God. After discussing their drawings, have them flip the heart on the other side and draw or write the words or actions someone who respects God will exhibit. Encourage them to reflect on their hearts regularly.
Teaching your children to respect others is great. Teaching them to have a respectful heart towards God is crucial. Taking the time to help your children learn about respect can make living the Christian life much easier for them.