As a parent, you’ve certainly earned the right to say with greater emotion than any politician, salesman, or comedian, “I get no respect!” In fact, if you were to check your dictionary for the definition of the word “father,” you will find that it falls directly between “fathead” and “fatigue” in the dictionary. And “mother” falls somewhere between “motheaten” and “motion sickness.” In my years of working with parents and their children, one of the most frequent complaints I hear is, “My children have no respect for me.”
Each of us has been given the responsibility of teaching our children to respect God-given authority. The Bible admonishes us to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17). This includes employers, teachers, pastors, and our neighbors. But this chapter will focus on parental respect.
RESPECT FOR PARENTS
God makes it clear we are to honor or “respect” our parents so we may live a long and prosperous life. God saw parental respect as an issue of such vital importance that He gave it to Moses as one of the Ten Commandments–second only to having no other gods and remembering or “respecting” the Sabbath day and keeping it holy.
This commandment stands out as the only one God gives with the promise that if we oblige, we will live a long life. My parents firmly believed in parental respect, and, as a result, carefully engineered a plan to help me obtain longevity. This plan, at rare moments, would involve the use of an instrument known to my parents as the “spanking belt” and known to my siblings and me as the “belt of doom.” I discovered on more than one occasion that Mom was quite skilled at using the dreaded belt. Some might question my parents’ approach to discipline and, to be honest, there were times I didn’t appreciate it. Yet, my parents had nothing less than heavenly intentions when they disciplined their children. They wanted us to learn the biblical principle that a great blessing awaits those who obey and respect the God-given authority of parental guidance.
I’ve heard individuals say, “I demand respect from my children!” In fact, we would be more honest if we said, “I demand obedience from my children!” If we demand respect from our children we rob them of the opportunity to offer it to us freely, as a gift or token of their love and devotion. Furthermore, the difference between respect and obedience is as extreme as the difference between fear and love.
For example, as punishment, a father once told his disobedient son to stand in the corner. After the boy took his place, he shouted, “It may look like I’m standing, but I’m still sitting on the inside.” Here is a child who obeyed his parent, but didn’t respect him. Obedience can be demanded, but respect must be earned. Obedience is comparable to offering a service to an individual in which they oblige by offering you the expected amount of compensation. While, on the other hand, respect cannot be demanded any more than one could demand an individual’s devotion or love.
The God-given authority we have as parents will be greatly enhanced when it is joined with God-given wisdom. James 1:5 tells us God gives wisdom generously to anyone who asks, without finding fault. As the farmer in the parable of the sower, we must carefully plant the seeds of respect in the hearts of our children and do everything in our power to keep these precious seeds from being choked out by actions we take as parents. All too often we follow the shallow philosophy that our children should “do what we say, not what we do.” But we should be able to declare as the apostle Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). It is humbling to know with every action a parent takes, whether godly or ungodly, we declare to our children, “Whatever you have learned or seen or heard from me–put it into practice.”
How can we plant seeds of respect in the heart of our children? We must start by being an example, by showing respect for those in authority over us. This includes the pagan employer whose voice sends chills down your spine; the police officer who writes you a summons for going 56 miles per hour–while others were driving much faster; the annoying neighbor who mows his grass at 7:00 a.m. on your only day off; or the spouse you may have grown to take for granted. As I have traveled the nation, I have had the privilege of conversing with many young people. In only a few moments of conversation, one can easily detect what kind of respect their parents have for others–as respect or disrespect is reflected in the voices of their children.
We can also cultivate the delicate flower of respect in our family by showing respect for our children. At times, we may find it easy to let our feelings, words, and emotions run wild when we are hidden from the eyes of our employer, friend, or church. As a result, we find it easier to treat our children as pets when they should be treated as the precious gifts they are. On the other hand, this new-age mentality–that a good parent must be a child’s best friend–is almost nauseating. Our children are not in need of another friend; they need a parent. But we must make every attempt to be friendly to our children. This can be done by simply asking how their day went, what they’re feeling, or what their opinion is on a subject or issue. If we ask only these questions, however, we do our families a grave injustice. We show a greater act of respect when we take the time to intently listen to their answers. May we be careful to listen to their opinions and allow them the opportunity to present their view of a situation. By listening to their opinions, we are in no way obligated to respond. Instead, we are obligated to use this information to make good, godly parental decisions.
As we examine the cultivation of respect, we must remember to take the time and respond to the so-called simple things in life–things as simple as a Crayola masterpiece or dandelion bouquet. We must take the time to say things as simple as, “I love you because you are you. Or, “Thank you for a job well done.” This is a simple but powerful way of cultivating both parental respect and self-respect in the lives of our children. Make certain you never require your children to read your mind when it comes to your love for them. Let them know with word and action that your love and respect for them will never fail and is never contingent upon their performance.
The difference between man and God is quite simple. A man tells his children to “get right or you’ll have to leave the home!” Our heavenly Father says, “Come home and 1 will help you get right.” How many families could have been saved if we adapted this heavenly concept? Furthermore, how many family quarrels could be avoided if a parent was honest enough to say, “I’m sorry,” or perhaps a more difficult phrase, “1 was wrong.” Like a child using a cookie cutter to create holiday cookies, each action we make serves as a pattern for the lives of our children.
At age twelve, I set my alarm early each morning in order to have time to walk half a mile down an old gravel road to get my parents a morning newspaper. This was never something they required of me; it was something I wanted to do for them. I think in all my years, I will never forget the reward of placing the paper on the breakfast table and hearing the simple words I cherish to this day. Sometimes it was my dad and other times my mom, but someone always said, “Thank you!” As a parent may you never forget what a powerful effect one word can have in the emotional and spiritual development of a child’s life. One word can fertilize or poison the delicate flower of love, confidence, or respect.
A BIBLICAL EXAMPLE
In reading the Bible, 1 find one parent stands out as a man who nurtured respect in the heart of his child. Abraham waited nearly one hundred years for Isaac, the son promised by God. Can you imagine the joy Abraham felt when his son was born? How he must have cherished every moment, from Isaac cutting his first tooth to hitting his first home run (or the Old Testament equivalent).
Then came the shocking day that God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I find it amazing that Abraham didn’t hesitate, but immediately prepared for the sacrifice. He carried the coals and the knife he would use on that long journey up the mountain while Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice. I’ve always marveled at Abraham’s faith and obedience, but I’m equally amazed at Isaac’s, for there is not the slightest hint that Abraham had to wrestle him to the altar. If it were me, I would have been screaming for help as I ran down the mountainside. Yet, Isaac never ran because he trusted God as well as his father.
This is a great example of one son who had faith in his father, as well as respect for God and Abraham’s wisdom. Abraham had obviously proven himself in the valley; now Isaac would trust him on the mountain. Can we say the same about our children? Have we been trustworthy in the valleys of life so that our children will respect us on the mountains of decision? Isaac submitted to his father because he knew he loved him. He was faithful and he knew he was devoted to God. He had undoubtedly heard him pray many times. He had seen him live obediently before God. And he most certainly had never misled Isaac. Now, at the most crucial time of his life, Isaac respected his father enough to trust him with his life.
Abraham must have lived consistently before Isaac. Lack of consistency in our lives will stunt the spiritual growth of our children. They will never respect-or embrace-our faith if we are not consistent in faith, love, and discipline. When Abraham told Isaac God would provide a lamb for the offering, Isaac didn’t ask for proof or roll his eyes; he simply believed.
This isn’t to say Abraham was a perfect father. He was human and therefore made his share of mistakes. But his walk with God was consistent, and it was reflected in the life of his son. Conversely, Isaac wasn’t a perfect child. He probably got into mischief that required discipline. We can assume Abraham and Sarah were consistent in their discipline. Their consistency was as important as the type of discipline used. As parents, they had to live in agreement. If they disagreed with one another in front of their son about when and how to discipline, he would not have respected their authority and would have played one parent against the other. May Abraham and Sarah serve as our example of how imperfect parents can follow God’s perfect plan and as a result, see faith and respect cultivated in the lives of our children.
BENDING TOWARD THE LIGHT
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The word “train” means to “bend.” If we live a life that fosters respect in our children for us and the God we serve-they’ll bend toward the kingdom of God, just as a plant bends toward sunlight.
If your sons or daughters are cultivating seeds of rebellion rather than seeds of respect, go to God in prayer. Seek His wisdom. Trust His Word. Live a consistent life devoted to God, and He promises they will not turn from the “way they should go.” We have God’s word on it, and that word will never pass away.
The Reverend Walt Weaver is a graduate of Central Bible College and an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. He has had nine years of full-time ministry to young people and travels as an evangelist, ministering to families across the nation and overseas. He is a featured speaker at youth camps, youth conventions, and family revivals.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Renee, and she continues to be his greatest support outside of his relationship with the Lord Jesus. His heart reaches to the youth of this nation and he knows that in order to have a powerful effect on them, he must first reach the heart of their parents.