Respecting the Parents

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" (Eph 6:1 KJV)

The concept of respect in the family is most important. The strongest method for a parent to "rule" and "control" is not with force and an iron fist but by commanding the children's respect. The only way for parents to really "manage" their children is for them to win the children to their side. A parent should be his child's hero. One of the greatest parental goals should be to get your children to want to be like you. Of course, the assumption is made that you, the parent, are truly living for God. Then, because the child respects and admires the parents, the parents can get the child to accept the parents' God, the parents' goals and expectations, the parents' values and moral standards, the parents' way of life, etc.

Thus, the key to a successful family from God's standpoint is respect—mutual respect. The parents must be respected: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right" (Eph 6:1 KJV). But so must the children be respected: "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4 KJV). Thus, mutual respect is to permeate and rule the Christian home.

First of all, the parents must be respected. Although the New Testament makes the husband the head of the woman (1 Cor. 11:3), they are both leaders of the home. As such, they both must be able to rule the home and fulfill their responsibilities with absolute authority over and respect from the children. Respect includes loving, honoring, and being loyal to the parents, not being scared of them.

The ultimate respect children show to parents is through obedience. Since the parents are completely responsible for the welfare of the children, it is necessary for every child to follow completely the directions of the parents. The standard is for children to obey at the first command without a negative attitude, without complaining, and without constant challenging by asking "Why?" Disobedience or even reluctant obedience accompanied by a negative attitude represents a lack of respect. None of this should ever be allowed to go unnoticed, but should be consistently corrected every time.

It is especially important to deal with negative attitudes because they can be very subtle, and children can secretly express their rebellion and displeasure through their attitudes when they would not dare express it with their words or actions. Even certain sighs and sounds, frowns and facial expressions, ways of looking at the parents (e.g., glaring), gestures, etc., can indicate negative attitudes and a lack of respect. None of these should ever be tolerated, starting with when the child is a toddler. No response but a good respectful response should ever be allowed.

Dealing with attitudes is especially critical after a child has been physically corrected. A parent's job is not finished just because the physical chastisement is finished. In order to prevent or eliminate negative attitudes, the parent should pray with the child, re-explain the situation to the child, hug the child (but not apologize for spanking them), let him know the offense is forgiven, reaffirm his unconditional love and acceptance to the child, and do whatever else is necessary to get the child to agree that the spanking was necessary, just, deserved, and the best thing that could have been done.

After the whole episode, the child should be able to express love to the parent, and should no longer hold any resentment, anger, or rebellious attitudes towards the parent. If the child cannot do this, then he still harbors a negative and rebellious attitude toward the parent, and the physical correction has not been successful. Thus, long-term pouting, sulking, crying on and on, threats (or attempts) to "call 911," etc. are obvious indications that the child is still in rebellion, and may need to be spanked again.

All children are pretty smart, and will sooner or later try to "play two ends from the middle," that is, to "play" one parent against the other. A child must never be allowed to manipulate the parents by trying to get them to make contradictory decisions or to overrule or undermine each other. This is usually done when the child doesn't like the decision of one parent, so he tries to get the other parent to make the opposite decision.

Some parents even assist the child in this manipulation by verbally denigrating the other parent to the child. However, children should see, as much as possible, the parents presenting a united front. Any child caught "playing one parent against the other" should be promptly and severely disciplined, because that is a very serious infraction. If the mother has already said "No" to his request, a child should be mortally afraid to even ask the dad the same question in an attempt to get him to say, "Yes." Such behavior should never be tolerated in the Christian home.

While we are on the subject of the parents being united, we should mention the dangers of an undermining spouse. The wife should not undermine the husband in the eyes of the children. Neither should the husband do such to the wife. Neither parent should ever do or say anything to tear down the other. This causes the undermined parent to lose some of his or her influence, credibility, and effectiveness with the children.

Some wives practice allowing the children to violate their husband's commands when he is not around. Some husbands ridicule the wife in the hearing of the children, behind her back, or even when she is right there. Either practice is equally detrimental, as well as emotionally painful to the victimized spouse. These and other undermining practices cause the kids to make light of their parents, to disregard their wishes or commands, to pick up a condescending, patronizing, sometimes cynical attitude towards one or both of their parents.  

In addition, no child should ever be allowed to pick their favorite parent. For example, Junior makes it obvious that he likes Daddy more than Mommy. Daddy must then discourage that attitude and make sure that Junior gives Mommy the respect and attention she is due as his parent. Or, suppose that Daddy is trying to correct Sally Sue and she decides to run to Mommy, as if Mommy is some kind of refuge able to rescue her from Daddy. Immediately, Mommy should not cooperate with Sally Sue in the least. Either Mommy should force Sally Sue to go back to Daddy or Mommy should take up with the correction right where Daddy left off.

Regardless, the child should learn immediately that favoring one parent over the other is a cardinal “no-no.” No child should ever be permitted to show obvious favoritism for any one of his parents. If he doesn’t “like” Mommy or doesn’t respect Daddy, he had better never let it be known.

Parents should be well aware that their marriage relationship teaches their children what to expect from marriage in general. Children who live with parents who routinely disrespect each other reach adulthood with very warped ideas and expectations of marriage. Many a young woman has had her belief in marriage severely shaken while watching her Christian father mistreat and oppress her Christian mother. She has come away from her childhood days with a negative impression and fear of men and a negative impression and despising of overly-submissive women, promising herself never to be like her mother who allowed herself to be used and abused.

And many a young man has grown up with the determination to avoid mistreating his own future wife like his father mistreated his mother, but still harboring a nagging fear that he will probably turn out just like his father after all. The picture of marriage we parents present to our children stays with them all of their lives.

Every thing should be done to develop and cultivate great relationships between all family members—the parents with each other, the parents with the children, and the children with each other. Each parent especially must have a good, loving, respectful relationship with each of the children. Otherwise, the parent loses the ability to influence that child. Strained relationships, "generation gaps," "I can't talk to my Dad (or Mom)" conditions, estrangement, "I hate my Dad" situations, prodigal sons and daughters, runaway kids, children that sneak out the windows at night, etc. should not exist in the Christian’s home.

Unfortunately, some Christian homes are virtual war zones, with the children and parents pitted against each other. The children dislike and even hate their parents, as well as their brothers and sisters. Something is greatly wrong, and attempts at communication and reconciliation must take place immediately to remedy the situation. The home is where we put in practice the graces that we preach and sing about in church. As the saying goes, "Charity"—and respect—"begins at home." So the general atmosphere in every Christian home should be one in which love and respect prevail.

© Philip and Segatha Matthews