by Tammy Goddard
In the Bible, God gives a great promise to those who have learned to show respect and honor for their parents. Ephesians 6:2-3 says, Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. I cannot think of anything that I would wish for my children more than satisfying and long lives.
If we want our children to treat us with respect, then we as parents need to learn to be respectable in our dealings with them. What is it that causes us to respect a person? I asked this question to a group of mothers, and although they gave a variety of answers, the main reasons given were that the individual was either honest, strong, or compassionate. Our children will honor and respect us for the same reasons.
How does a mother gain the respect of her children?
She is honest.
- She means what she says.
Proverbs 12:19, “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” We should never give a command that we are not willing to enforce. If we hold out our hands, then the children must take our hands. If we call our children to come, then the children must come. If we tell our children to be quiet, our children must be quiet.
- She tries to live what she teaches.
As mothers, do we obey our God-given authorities? How do our children see us respond to our husbands’ authority? Do they see us living at home what they hear the preacher preach at church?
- She admits her mistakes.
There are no perfect parents; we will all make mistakes. Our children will admire and respect us if we ask them to forgive us for our grumpy attitudes or inaccurate evaluations of a situation. We all have bad days. Those days will not jeopardize our children’s respect for us; however, pride and arrogance will.
She is strong.
- She has a standard.
Colossians 3:20 says, Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Why is it so important that our children obey us? What does it mean to obey? When we make our children obey, we are teaching them to please God. When we let disobedience go unpunished, we are allowing our children to displease the Lord. The issue is not whether or not the command is significantly important. The issue is that our children are not pleasing God when they do not obey us. It is very important for us to understand exactly what it means to obey. I use the following definition of obedience as my standard: “Doing exactly what you are told to do immediately and with the right attitude.”
When I taught kindergarten, I would read a word from a list of words I placed in front of the students. I then instructed the students to hold up their index fingers and to put them on the word that I had just read. One little boy in my class held up his thumb and placed it on the correct word. Did it really matter which finger he used to show me that he could identify the correct word? It mattered only if I wanted him to learn to obey as much as I wanted him to learn to read. A child’s ability to read is not what pleases God; obeying Him does. Obeying means doing exactly what we are told to do.
When my children were asked to do something, they were expected to do it right away—not after they had finished playing a video game, after they had finished reading the chapter in their book, or after they had finished watching a movie. Obeying means doing exactly what we are told to do when we are told to do it.
I also made sure that the attitude reflected obedience as much as the actions did. They were not allowed to stomp as they walked away to carry out the task. They were not allowed to slam doors, roll their eyes, or breathe a deep sigh of annoyance. Obedience is not obedience if the attitude is not right.
- She has a punishment for the violation of the standard.
As mothers, we should not make excuses for our children’s disobedience. Often, I have witnessed the mother of a very naughty child say things such as, “He is hungry; he always gets grumpy when he’s hungry,” or “He’s just tired.” I often hear this one: “I think he is coming down with something.” All of these statements may be true, but they are not legitimate excuses for a child to be disobedient. Hungry children ought to be fed, but their disobedience ought not to be excused. Sleepy children ought to be put to bed, but they should not be allowed to be disobedient. Sick children ought to be given proper care and medicine, but they should never be allowed to be disobedient. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
If we do not act as if we believe what we say is right, how can we expect our children to believe what we say is right? When we give a child a command, he should not be allowed to argue with us. We must not allow him to make excuses or to blame others for his disobedience. A child should always be made to take responsibility for his own actions. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
- She is consistent.
Aside from meeting our husbands’ needs, there is nothing more important for us to do than to make sure our children grow up to please the Lord. As mothers, we must not get so busy that we are too tired or too distracted to be consistent in the discipline of our children.
When we have a standard of conduct accompanied by a punishment for violating that standard and consistently uphold that standard, our children will then respect us for the security that this strength brings into their lives.
She is compassionate.
- She rewards good behavior
We must let our children hear words of praise often. We should write notes praising them for who they are and what they do. In the summer months, when the children were home all day, I would plan fun activities to do as soon as all of the chores were finished. We would go get ice cream, go to the park or library, invite friends to come over to go swimming in our pool, play a table game, go shopping, etc. I tried to vary the activities to the ages and likes of the children. We did not do what I enjoyed doing, but what they enjoyed doing. Knowing that fun activities were planned made doing the chores considerably more pleasant.
- She showers him with love and affection after discipline.
Small children need to be held, hugged, and kissed after the discipline. As the children grow older, a hug, a loving note of praise, or kind words will draw them close to us.
- She makes sure the rules in her home are not made to insure a more convenient and comfortable life for herself as a parent, but to train her children to please God.
Our children grew up on 6½ acres of property. There was much work to do inside and out, and at times it would have been more convenient to hire someone to come do most of the work than to do it ourselves. However, my husband and I worked with our children training them in not only how to do the work, but also in how to work. This training took time. The job was not always quite as professionally done as I would have liked, but my children grew up learning to work hard and acquiring the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a difficult task.
There are many things we did on family vacations which I would never plan to do for myself. The goal of our vacation was to create memories and deep ties with our children. We planned our vacations around activities that the children would enjoy. The age difference between our oldest son and our youngest son is fourteen years, with our two daughters in between them. Planning a great vacation took some clever preparation, but our vacations provided many fond memories and strong ties for our family.
A mother who strives to be honest, strong, and compassionate in her dealings with her children will be respected. It is not always easy, but let us be respectable mothers. Oh, that someday we would be like the Proverbs 31 mother whose “…children arise up, and call her blessed;…” (Proverbs 31:28a)