My daughter recently enrolled in a tae kwon do class for a couple of months. Besides now having the ability to fend off her bigger brother with the threat of a karate chop, she came out of it more confident and surprisingly more respectful. She started responding to everything we would ask her to do with a decisive, “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” and “Sir, yes, sir!” And then she would go do it quickly and with great pleasure! We, her parents, would just look at each other and marvel. It was beautiful!
This was in direct contrast to our son, who was in this phase in which he would question, delay, and whine at every request. Besides wanting to enroll my son in the class immediately, this got me to thinking about the idea of respect.
While I don’t want to make my kids feel like they are in the military, I do want them to show respect for their father and me and for all those who are in authority over them. And the primary way children show respect for authority figures is by how they treat us.
I’m sure we’ve all seen children who backtalk or even scream at their parents; and like me, you may cringe when parents let that happen. Or maybe there have been times when you’re the parent whose child treats you disrespectfully and you wonder how it got that way. Perhaps you don’t even notice and you think it’s normal.
I think it’s easy as parents to become numb to the way our kids treat us. Over time, we start picking our battles, and there may be occasions in which we choose the wrong ones. Or perhaps we attempt to be their friends (instead of their parents), and we focus too much on what makes them “happy.”
But in the end, don’t both kids and parents lose when this happens? Eventually, children will show disrespect to the “wrong person” (which can lead to big trouble), and they still won’t respect us as their parents. When we teach our kids to respect others, especially those in authority, we set them up for success rather than failure.
Now, I’m sure as much as we reinforce the practice of respect at home, kids will leak out the disrespect they pick up from their friends, from what they watch on television, and from what they observe in culture.
Just yesterday, my son came home appalled by the way his 4th grade classmate treated his teacher, cussing at her for confiscating a toy. (It didn’t end well for the guy.) I was glad he was appalled. I was too! Then I took him to football practice and watched him question his coach on the sideline in a disrespectful way.
I’m glad we are focusing on the idea of respect this month, not because I now want to force my children to treat me like I want them to treat me (and run the risk of having them rebel against authority later). My goal is to keep them in check, for their own good. I want to speak into their hearts now: to set them up for success later. I want them to know how to treat others and respect even those who may seem undeserving. I want them to go out into the world and love people.
I would love to hear your thoughts as I begin to have more of these conversations with my children.
How are you teaching your kids the importance of showing respect to authority?
Karen Wilson works at Orange as Reggie Joiner’s assistant and Manager/Editor of OrangeParents.org. She and her husband Mark have two children, Elijah (9) and Sara (7).