How to Raise Kids Who Respect Authority
by Arlene Pellicane
I overheard a little girl say to an adult volunteer at school, “Make me.”
I was surprised at the girl’s audacity. She glared as if to say, “Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?” As a child, I would have never dreamed of disobeying an adult like that.
Whether you peek into a classroom, church or family room, it’s not unusual to find children who show little respect for adults. What has happened in the past few generations to create bad, bold changes in children? Why are kids more demanding, entitled, less respectful and more emotionally fragile than previous generations. Kids are exerting their voices loudly while parents and adults are stifling and questioning theirs.
Parents have lost their way.
We as adults are the leaders of our homes. Yet many parents are more comfortable being buddies with their kids. This does a tremendous disservice to kids because children need parents, not tall friends. Rebellion grows when authority is absent. When mothers and fathers relinquish control, mutiny inevitably follows.
Parents must first believe they are deserving of honor and respect. This isn’t just a nice idea; it’s a commandment by God. The fifth commandment reads in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Obedience to this commandment is the bedrock of a decent and good society where there is respect for elders and authorities. The relationship children have with parents is the basis for their other relationships in life.
The word “honor” is from a root word meaning “weighty” (in terms of impressiveness or importance). When a child honors a parent, he assigns weight and importance to the words spoken by that parent. He honors the parent with appreciation. Children learn there is a loving moral authority to which they are accountable. Disrespect, which is the opposite of honoring, attacks the parent’s place of authority. When this breakdown occurs, it impacts the “long life on the earth” the Bible promises to those who honor their parents.
So how can we raise kids who respect authority and honor God? Here are three ways to get started:
Speak like a leader. Listen to your word choice and tone of voice when you give your child an instruction. Are you asking your child to do something or telling him? There is a big difference. “Time to come to dinner, okay?” is different than “Time to come to dinner.” I’ve noticed the tendency to tack “okay?” at the end of my sentences. I’m working on clipping off that final word so it doesn’t sound like I’m asking my kids questions all the time.
You might not tack on “okay,” but maybe your voice rises at the end of the sentence. That intonation turns it into a question. You don’t have to sound harsh or blow a whistle to make your children mind your instructions. Speak steadily with confidence, like a capable, caring authority figure.
Be picky with technology. Parents are needed more than ever to provide instruction, correction and boundaries regarding screen time. The content of most popular television, music, video games and social media is working against your family values. Talk about a program after you watch it and what values are being promoted. You can evaluate your child’s screen time with these easy ABC’s:
Attitude: What is my child’s attitude like after the screen time?
Behavior: How does the content encourage my child to behave?
Character: What character traits are being modeled and picked up?
Consider how parents are being portrayed in the media to your children. Hollywood has made it common practice to make the father figure dumb and the kids geniuses. We’ve come a long way from shows like Father Knows Best and Little House on the Prairie.
Give your child a good name to live up to. Describe your child as respectful and self-controlled. When he or she listens to your instructions the first time, you can say something like “I really appreciate your obedience.” Give your children lots of positive attention when they act in a respectful, obedient manner. Let your kids overhear you praising their character to others. What if your child isn’t doing anything particularly respectful? Shakespeare said, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” When your child observes your belief in his or her potential, he or she most likely will put greater effort into possessing the virtues you value.
Use drama. Kids love stories, so leverage stories to get your point across. Let’s suppose you’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a holiday. You can tell one story in which the kids act disrespectfully, demanding food from Grandma, yelling and fighting right in front of Grandpa, and running through the house. Then act out the opposite—kids who offer to help in the kitchen, who say thank you, and who follow house rules.
The greater culture hinges on what happens in the microcosm of our homes. Don’t be afraid to step up and lead your children. Your decisions won’t always be popular with your kids, but they will be immeasurably blessed as they learn the importance of respect.
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