Hang with us long enough, and you’ll find out that we put a lot of emphasis on definitions. Healthy communication is the bedrock of healthy relationships, and healthy relationships are the foundation of a truly successful life. Clear definitions are powerful communication tools.
Today, we’re going to talk about teaching our kids the difference between honor and respect.
Our definition: “Positioning others above yourself; showing awe and awareness of the sacredness of God’s creation.”
Philippians 2:3,4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Honor is about placing other people’s needs before our own. It’s about letting people go before us. It’s about assuming that other people know more than we do. It’s about choosing to lower ourselves to elevate others.
Make not mistake here — we’re not suggesting you become a doormat and let people abuse you and wipe their mud on you. Think of it as being a step ladder, bowing down willingly to help others reach their next level.
If honor means lifting someone up, then dishonor is putting a person beneath you:
Cutting in front of someone in line
Interrupting someone who is talking
Being a “know it all”
One-upping each other
Always trying to beat someone in a game
Being a sore loser or an arrogant winner
Dishonor could look like one child pushing another out of the way saying, “Just let me do it,” when she’s frustrated with teaching her sibling a new computer skill.
Honoring siblings and friends prepares a child for adult life and gives them an opportunity to practice stewarding people.
Honoring the people we know, and the ones we don’t, needs to be high on our list of family values. Some ways to instill it in our kids is to teach them to hold doors for other people (including and especially their siblings) and to let people go before them in a food line. But remember, we have to set the example and enforce the behavior in all situations. It’s repetition that turns a behavior into a habit.
If honor is all about position, then respect is all about attention.
There are two kinds of respect — respect for people and respect for things.
Our definition: “(with regard to people) Giving a person the attention he or she deserves. (with regard to things) Carefully and thoughtfully showing proper courtesy for other people’s belongings.”
We show respect to people when we give the person the attention he or she deserves.
We respect those in authority by saluting them, which is a special kind of attention, and by being attentive to and adhering to the rules and requirements of the authority figure. Our kids respect our authority when they pay attention to the family rules, listen to our wisdom and carefully weigh our advice.
We respect teachers and mentors buy listening to them (which is giving them our attention) and being engaged in what they are saying. We respect experts by carefully considering their advice or insight.
This is how the concept plays out with siblings: if one sibling is teaching another how to knit, the teacher in that situation should command respect, and the child being taught should give her sibling her full attention without interrupting or arguing.
If your family is on vacation and is taking a museum tour, you show respect to the tour guide (in that case an expert) by being quiet and giving him your complete attention.
We can reinforce this concept by having our kids always approach people in higher positions, look them in the eye, shake their hand and thank them. For example, at the end of the museum tour, have each child approach the guide, shake his hand and thank him for his time.
Live By Example
Parents dishonor their kids by positioning things and processes above them.
By processes we mean your agenda. For example, you’re trying to get out the door, and your daughter is asking twenty questions; that’s an interruption of process. In that case, the focus might have to be on the process, but you can still honor her by letting her know that her questions are very important, and you will gladly answer them once you are in the car.
But when mom is hyper focused on reorganizing her closet and little Jessie comes in to show her the drawing she made, it would be dishonoring to ignore Jessie and place the importance of the process above the importance of Jessie.
Parents disrespect kids when they fail to give them the attention they deserve. When our kids are speaking, we should look them in the eye and focus on what they’re saying. If one of our kids is a mini-expert in a particular subject, we should acknowledge it and give weight to their advice and opinion when it comes to that subject. That’s modeling respect.
When it comes to respecting things, we absolutely should teach our kids to be good stewards of their belongs and the household belongings, and we definitely want to teach them to be good stewards of other people’s things, but when we put so much attention on taking care of our home or our yard that we don’t pay attention to the kids, we are disrespecting them. And we appear to value our things more than we value their feelings, we are dishonoring our kids.
So the question is, how can we honor and respect our kids AND teach them to be honoring and respectful at the same time?
Let’s say, your teen boy comes in the house with his backpack slung over his shoulder. As he walks through the kitchen, there’s a bowl on the counter. He spins around to talk to his brother and knocks the bowl on the floor, shattering it. It’s part of a set that you love, and you are upset.
Stop and ask yourself what you are feeling. You might detect anger.
Next, ask yourself why are feeling that way. In this case, it’s because you feel there’s an injustice. You work hard for your family. Your husband works hard to provide, and your son’s carelessness has caused a loss.
Remind yourself that your child is more important than the bowl.
Call your child over for discussion. REMEMBER — because your child is important, you MUST use this as a teaching and correcting opportunity. This is a teachable moment, and when we care about our kids, we don’t let these pass us by.
Questions for your child:
What just happened?
How did it happen?
How do you think I feel about the bowl breaking?
What could you have done differently to avoid that?
You can do the same thing when a sibling disrespects another sibling’s belongings or process. But again, we have to teach our kids that the person is more important than the thing or process.
These kind of conversations let our kids know that we do value them, and they are more important than our things or what we’re doing, but it also teaches them to be honoring and respectful of people and things.