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  • Dr. Gil Stieglitz

RESPECT, What It Means in Families

A key issue that often divides husbands and wives is how to have responsible, enjoyable children. One parent is almost always more strict than the other, and one is almost always more lenient. With this natural split in most homes, children can exploit this and cause chaos in the home.

I recently wrote an article about Cultivating Order & Structure in Families, and I heard from many of you that you would like to know more about this! Click the link in case you missed it. So begins a new series of articles about the Five R's (Respect, Relationship, Rules, Responsibility, and Resources), not necessarily in that order. I hope you and your spouse find these helpful in creating a home of order and peace. You can also purchase The Four Keys to a Great Family audio podcasts about these topics on the PTLB website store by clicking HERE.

Teaching Kids about Respect

We are all drawn to people and places, where our strengths will be noticed, our victories celebrated, and our mistakes and weaknesses minimized. For kids, this should come from their family. Respect = adding or assigning great value to someone. We reveal how much we respect someone by the way we treat them. People we greatly respect are honored, listened to, taken seriously, and considered when making decisions or for the kind of person they are. People we don't respect are given none of these things. Scripture says,

"Honor your father and mother,"

But it also says,

"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,"

Ephesians 6:2 tells kids they need to honor or respect (assign value to) their parents, but they don't inherently know how to do this. We must teach them how to respect us, their friends, and their siblings -- not only by teaching them what respect is, but what it looks like by the way we treat them and the way we treat others. Here are a few ways parents can teach children about respect. These simple child-rearing exercises can often make all the difference if a husband and wife will be united together in bringing order to the home.

Couch Time/Staff Meetings. It is important for children to see mom and dad sitting down and talking calmly to each other every day. Children gain a level of security and stability from watching their parents interact respectfully without tension and stress. Instill "couch time" when the children are awake where the parents discuss their day or the various issues of their lives. The children are playing near by but not participating. It is amazing how much this observed couple time helps children find stability, especially when the children are young.

As the children get older, especially in their teen years, there is a real need for the parents to discuss how the teen needs to be parented and where the possible trouble spots might be. This can be accomplished by holding weekly staff meetings, where they get to participate in the planning and activities that will happen during the coming week. This allows them to participate in a respectful setting, where possible conflicts are worked through and cooperation is instilled.

Present a unified front - always. You can do this by vowing that you will never disagree with the other parent in front of the children. If a child realizes that they can play the parents off of one another, then they will take advantage of this diversion from their actions. Most successful families have husbands and wives who discuss disagreements in private not in public. If your spouse allows something or does not allow something that you would handle differently, suggest a private discussion on the matter. Do not get into a debate in front of the children. Only in the case of significant physical or psychological damage should open disagreements between parents be allowed.

There will be disagreements between parents on what to allow and what to restrict but all this debate and heated interaction must take place in private so that a unified front is present to the children. If you are not quite unified about something yet, then no decision has been reached and you should tell the children you are still discussing it. It is not a competition between who can win and who will lose. You are on the same team and need to focus on working toward an agreement both of you can live with.

Require the use of proper titles. This does not seem like a big deal in our day and age of easy familiarity, but it is crucial that children recognize a line of respect between themselves and adults. This means that children should not call their parents by their first names. They should refer to them as Mother or Father, or Dad and Mom, or other affection and respectful terms referring to their parents. If the children refer to their parents by their first names, this should be corrected. There are only a few people in the world that can call me "Dad."

Children should not call other adults by their first names either, even if the adult wants them to. We found that inserting a Mr. or Ms. in front of the first name of a person who wanted to be called by their first name was sufficient to create the level of respect necessary. Without these customs of respect, children get the idea that they are equal to everyone and that they do not need to conform their behavior or speech to anyone else. As a child grows up, if they have the idea that everybody is equal to them, then when they are teens they will feel that they should be able to do whatever they feel like doing. They become the "gods" of their own world and we don't want that, although independence is eventually the goal. Assigning titles of respect is one less check against rebellious independence, however. Proper titles and respectful use of names is a subtle, but constant, reminder of the difference between an adult and a child.

Demonstrating Respect to Children

Here are some practical ways you can demonstrate respect to your children. These should be done regularly and some everyday:

  • Compliment each child about something every day.

  • Point out their strengths regularly.

  • Tell them they are special and terrific.

  • Act on every impulse you have to value them.

  • Spend regular time with them, as a group and one on one.

  • Hug, hold, wrestle, and touch them.

  • Be excited to see them every time.

  • Tell them you like them as a person.

  • Listen to their stories, problems, interests, adventures, fears, joys, etc. when they want to talk.

  • Don't interrupt them or discount their ideas, feelings, or thoughts about things.

  • Do stuff they like to do.

I hope you found this helpful and that you'll join me next time when I will talk about how to teach kids about responsibility. I look forward to interacting with you. Please email me at to let me know how God is working in and through your life.

In His service,

Pastor Gil


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