Leading The Way

Before we can teach our kids how to be respectful, we need to make sure that we are leading the way. One summer weekend afternoon several years ago, I picked myself up off the couch and began my weekly lawn-mowing duties. As I pushed the mower back and forth across the lawn, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There was my four-year-old son, Luke, keeping perfect pace with me as he pushed his plastic lawnmower (the kind that shoots bubbles out the top) along the sidewalk, his face filled with all the seriousness of a professional landscaper. When I walked, he walked. When I turned, he turned.

When I could stand the inescapable cuteness of it no longer, I stopped the lawnmower, walked over to Luke, and congratulated him on a nice job of mowing the sidewalk. But underneath my joviality, a more serious thought gripped my heart: If Luke is imitating me on something this trivial, how much more will he imitate me in things that really do matter?

If we want our kids to treat each other respectfully, the truth is that we have to begin with our own example. As Jesus reminded us in Matthew 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” Being one who often has the whole plank aisle of Home Depot in his eye, this verse is always a good reminder for me. Social research has found, time and time again, that children really ARE influenced by their parents’ behavior. This means that the way you act with and around them will make them either more or less respectful. You get to choose.

While I am not exactly Father Teresa in this area (or any other area), I set the goal of trying to be respectful in every interaction I have with my boys. Memorizing the Golden Rule (e.g., Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is a good way to start. If I ask my boys to do something, I remind myself to ask in a respectful way. If I joke around with them, I make sure to joke around in a respectful way. If I ground them for all eternity, I do it in a respectful way (just joking about the grounding for eternity---the American Academy of Grounding recommends grounding for no more than 15 years).

This is the first step in raising respectful kids: Showing them how YOU do it. I think you will find that, over time, this will have an even more powerful effect than your greatest lecture. They say that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. You don’t have to know quantum physics to figure out that your tree should be firmly planted in the field of respect.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. TR wrote:
Came across an excerpt of yours in today's Promise Keepers' How to Build a Better Christian Family, which was very intriguing. So 'Googled' you, and found your blog... And now signed up for the daily feed. Id be interested to hear more of your insight(s) on addressing teens...Also can you add a 'share today's article with others' at the bottom of each article?
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and positiveness!
Best regards,

Sun, August 7, 2011 @ 10:11 PM

2. Charlee wrote:
I'm not quite sure how to say this; you made it exrtelmey easy for me!

Mon, November 21, 2011 @ 6:56 PM

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