Developing Respect

Developing Respect

Respect can be considered both positively and negatively. Positively, it means we esteem someone as worthy of special recognition. We may call them Mr. and Mrs. or refer to them as sir and ma’am. We also defer to them, remaining silent as they speak, standing when they enter a room, or offering them our chair. Considerated negatively, it means we give care and attention to avoid violating personal and social norms and conventions. We wouldn’t yell at a teacher in the classroom or say, “Hey dude,” to the high school principal or university president.

Respect is taught to children at home, and more is usually caught then taught. That is, our children watch our behavior toward social customs and toward people, and over time they catch our attitudes toward them as well.

If our children see us talking during the pledge of allegiance, the communion service at church, or during the principal’s opening remarks at graduation, they will conclude that these social customs are not really very important, and they can disrupt them as well. No matter how often they hear, “You need to be quiet and respectful during these times,” from other people, they will miss the importance of it if they don’t see respect modeled in their parents’ behavior. They will regard it as funny to disrupt serious and solemn occasions, and will experience bonding with their equally disrespectful and rebellious peers.

Likewise, if our children see us behave disrespectfully to other people, people that deserve our respect, they will never develop the honor toward them that they should. How do we talk about our children’s teachers, coaches, and other adults in their presence? If we are always verbally denouncing them, our children will pick up on that spirit, and will feel free to do so as well. Even if we are right in our position, isn’t it important that we maintain a level of respect, even for the person we are in disagreement with?

If a teacher or coach is doing a poor job, or mishandled a situation, we may need to intervene with the proper officials and discuss it. But, we also need to model a level of respect toward them for the character development of our children. There may be times when it is more beneficial to suffer some mistreatment than it is to undermine the proper channels of respect and honor. If we lose those channels, we lose cohesion as a society. One early indicator of that is the public school classroom.

If you hear your children speak in degrading terms about an adult, it is important to find out why they feel that way. But, it is equally important, perhaps even more so, to stop the disrespectful speech and insist that they discuss the other person and situation in ways that are more appropriate for their age and situation in life.

Numerous times I’ve observed, during 32 years of working with churches, that when parents become disrespectful to other people at church, by either speaking badly of them, or gossiping, that their children pick up on that attitude and soon mimic that behavior. The greatest part of that tragedy is not just that the young people become disrespectful to some adults at church, but that they begin to lose respect for the whole concept of church, worship, and spiritual development. Since they have in effect have become judges of the church, and are positioned such that they feel they can be disrespectful toward it and its people, why do they need to attend a church anymore? So our disrespect not only breeds more disrespect, it breed death.

In the book, Reverence, Paul Woodruff wrote, “A remarkable feature of virtues is that you cannot argue people into having them when they do not,” and “In matters of character, strength leads to strength, and one lapse leads to another” (pp.24 & 25). In other words, a spirit of respect won’t just happen; it must be developed over time. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:7, “Give everyone what you owe him ... if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

What are ways you try to teach, model and produce respect in your home?



Sunshine for your Soul said...

We have lots and lots of communication in my house. Expectations are always communicated.
There have been a few times when my children (and even my hubby) will try to chat during events that I feel we should be quiet at out of respect and I just smile, nod and stick my finger up asking for a minute. They get the hint. lol
My dad was very direct and opinionate when it came to respect and it stuck.
Society is lacking, but every once in a while I will have a young boy hold the door open for me at the store and my heart leaps! Manners make me happy. :)

Warren said...

Sunshine - neat story about your dad! His stress on respect and manners impressed you so that it is now being passed on to another generation - your children. I read this morning that "Virtues are cultivated over time, and they have the greatest lasting power in close-knit communities." (Reverence, p.24) The family and church are the two best places for those virtues to be taught and developed.

Thanks for the visit!

mangiabella said...

Warren, I continue to be so very blessed every time I visit your speak TRUTH and my heart receives it with open arms. This is such a powerful post, there is such a need to model respectful behavior to our children. I am at the beginning stages here, being that my three children are ages 3 and under! This is a beautiful reminder that corrective training isn't always necessary if the proper behavior is demonstrated often. I always say yes ma'am and no sir to my kids, even though they are younger, and I notice they say it not to their peers but to the adults. It makes me happy :) Right now, I'm trying to be a patient listener to my 3 year old, to demonstrate how to do the same for others. She often interrupts adult conversations, whether when I am on the phone or in person, and that can be frustrating....but I am learning that "training" our children up is a daily process, every day staying consistent to teach them what is right.

Becca said...

Wonderful post, Warren! This one actually made me laugh as I reminisced about my Dad and the things he said when we were little, haha. He is and was a great man, but I plan on trying to tame my grouchy opinions of people a little better around my son :) They definitely are listening to every word. This is absolutely true - Kids learn respect in such small ways, starting in the home.

Warren said...

Mangiabella - Thank you! You are wise starting so early training your kids to be respectful in speech. Even when we do that, they will still hit periods when their emotions and mouths run faster than their minds, and they don't control what they say very well (like around middle school, then age 16, then right before graduation, from our experience with 3 kids). But, with the training and orientation in place when they are little, you at least have a base to work with.

One of the best ways to teach respectful speech is to practice it ourselves, and it sounds like you guys are doing a great job!

Thanks for the postive reinforcement for the article. It is the second of a 3-part series I'm doing on respect for our local radio station. I'll try to have another one posted next week.

Becca - Thank you! I can relate to what you are saying about the grouchy opinions! And you are right about kids picking up on the words of others.

Respectful speech has so much potential for good, and disrespectful speech has so much potential for harm. I can remember when I was a teenager my dad doing some construction repair work in the home of a Christian Children's home director. Part of his job was fund raising. My dad would often hear him make fund raising calls and talk so sweetly on the phone, then when he got off bad mouth the people to his wife. "They could afford to give more. They're cheapskates. They're stupd," etc. It really disillusioned him about the honesty and integrity of those who work fulltime in some Christian capacity. Even adults can be hurt by disrespectful speech.

Thank you for your visits! WB

A multi-dimensional life said...

Hi Warren,
I haven't heard from you in a while and I've also been taking more breaks. This post is so good and so true! Bless you for the way you speak the truth and continue to impart your wisdom!
I remember the very simple instruction I received as a little one..."don't say anything unless it's something nice." I know it sounds casual and simple, however as a child it made an impact and I never forgot it. My parents didn't use many words...but the words they used were good, and honorable and true words of wisdom. The benefit of postive, Godly teaching is invaluable! Bless you for the Godly teachings you continue to share!

alisa said...

I totally agree. Our kids emulate us more than anything. I always teach my son that learning how to respect his parents will teach him how to respect God.

I pray that I will always use my tongue to esteem others, and hopefully my kids will follow suit!