Written by: Eitan Shishkoff, Congregational Leader of Ohalei Rachamim (Tents of Mercy)
One key to blessed child raising is respect. Of course, you say, children must respect their parents.
That’s true, but I’m speaking of the respect that travels in the other direction. My advice to you is “reflect respect to your kids.”
We have been privileged to raise four children. That process began 42 years ago! While we were initially hesitant to bring ANY correction, that was before we read Proverbs and discovered that he who “spares the rod, spoils the child,” but a generous use of the rod and skimpy respect for our children as human beings in their own right, will not work.
Among the many moments of conflict I’ve experienced with our two sons and two daughters, one stands out—perhaps because it was relatively recent. Our youngest, Sigal, who was born and has always lived in Israel, was (as I felt) lacking in respect for me, her father. I raised my voice, expressed my disappointment very heatedly and stormed out of the house, deciding that I needed a little time with the Lord. I’m sure that He felt that I needed a lot of time with Him, as He began dealing with me as soon as I opened His book. “What was that back there?” He asked. “Welllllll, uh. But Sir, she didn’t even listen!” “Yes,” I felt the Lord saying. “But you are the grownup and she’s just a child. You verbally abused her and left her wounded. The interaction did nothing to instruct or improve her. Furthermore, your relationship is now suffering and your trust has been violated.” “Oh,” I managed weakly.
Finishing my cup of coffee and closing the Bible, I walked home. As I walked I prayed. I had to begin with some repentance for “losing it” at close range with my little girl. Secondly, I sought the Lord for a way to apologize and to heal the relationship without affirming her willfulness. Please understand. She had been wrong. But God saw my attitude and behavior as much more damaging than hers. When I got home I found Sigal and asked her to forgive me for treating her disrespectfully, for raising my voice and for becoming angry and impatient. She forgave me. She is now a 19 year old Israeli soldier and our friendship is open, godly and delightful.
Why do children need to be respected? For one thing, their mom and dad are “the image of God” in their life. The way you interact with your offspring is their first clue and initial impression of their Creator. Oops. When we look at it that way, we’re likely to change our tune. I’m not advocating for a child-dominated home, by the way. Not at all. But in my experience, if you treat sons and daughters as real, full people, they internalize that and somewhere inside the reality registers: “Oh yeah. I’m a human being and the people closest to me respect me. Therefore I can respect them and reflect the same value toward other human beings.” This is one of the ways they grasp the often difficult concept (at least for adults it’s difficult) that God truly, truly, unconditionally loves them. This is foundational to who we are and can serve as a lifetime foundation for our children.
How DO we show respect to our sons and daughters? One way is by listening. When you stop every other activity and pay full, interested attention to a human being, you send a strong signal. You are saying to that person “You are important. You count. You are significant to me.” Isn’t this what most of humanity is lacking and the root of most of the acting out which has become so endemic in our era? When you stop to realize that Yeshua Himself gave His life for your children, you realize that each of them is of such great value. That value is expressed to them directly by the way their mom and dad relate to them.
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)
Yeshua said “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 (NKJV)
This post is also available in: Hebrew