All about the roles and responsibilities of family members: Respect,even more than love, is the key to a successful family
Respect from parent to child, child to parent and sibling to sibling.
In a family, love is the easy part. They place that baby in your arms and you’re in love, but now what? Love needs a leg to stand on – a leg called “Respect”.
Love just Happens, but Respect is Earned
We don’t usually have a problem telling children they need to earn our respect, but parents also need to earn the respect of their children. Wait, parents usually don’t have to earn their child’s respect – they only have to hang on to it.
Feeding and cleaning your baby shows her she can count of you. You pick up your toddler from childcare when you say you will, she realizes you are dependable and worthy of respect. However, the toddler years are when many parents begin loosing the respect battle.
If you tell your child she is going to go to bed if she hits her brother again and then you don’t follow through, she understands you don’t always mean what you say. Respect begins to fade. Saying she is going to spend the rest of the day in the car by herself if she keeps whining at the amusement park lets her know you say silly things you never intend to do. Letting her call you names or ignoring when your toddler hit you says you have no personal pride and can be treated badly. You are no longer worthy of her respect and children want to have parents worthy of respect.
If you promise a sleepover for her birthday, follow through. If you promise a week without TV for a failing grade, follow through. Knowing what the rules are and knowing everyone is going to follow them makes a child’s life easier.
You love all your children equally, but respect is a different matter. Respect varies due to age and maturity. Some parents pretend everyone has to be treated equally, but that’s silly and the children know it. If one child comes home and immediately tells you of a bad grade, he deserves respect for being upfront. However, the child that hides the grade until the teacher calls, deserves to know they let you down. Why wait for the world to teach them how to gain respect?
Respect Means Saying You’re Sorry
My dad once saw a poster from the 70’s movie “Love Story”. It quoted the famous line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Daddy grumbled, “That’s a bunch of baloney. Real love is having the guts to say you’re sorry when you’re wrong.”
He’s right. Respect means telling your son you were wrong. “I’m sorry. I’m having a bad day and I took it out on you.” That simple sentence will earn more respect points than all the ice cream in the world.
Respect is a Two-way Street
I was 16 and my dad and I disagreed on how I’d handled a situation with the car. As the disagreement grew he yelled at me. I yelled back. He puffed up his chest and said, “Don’t yell at me, young lady.”
I retorted, “You yelled at me first.”
He stopped, took a deep breath and said, “You’re right. I did. I apologize.”
Well, what’s a teen-ager to do? I couldn’t let him get the upper hand and be more mature. So I took the only recourse possible – I apologized to him. The disagreement continued, but on a calmer level.
Parents demanding respect but refusing to treat their children with respect is a costly mistake. Each child is an individual with rights and responsibilities, not only in the family, but in the world. You are teaching your child what they should expect from the world. Does their opinion garner a respectful ear from you? Then they’ll believe they have something to say. Can they expect a truthful evaluation of themselves from you? Then they’ll learn how to hear constructive criticism.
True respect means sharing the bad. As a child grows up, they need to be made aware of problems in the family. Keeping a problem from a child only makes them feel out of the loop. Usually they can tell something is wrong and leaving them out adds to their worry. Decide what they need to know and, if possible, give them something to do. Tight finances? Talk about ways they can help save money. A sick grandparent? Tell them how much a hand-made get-well card would be appreciated. Respect your child enough to let them help you.
Respecting differences earns a lot of talk, but in a family it’s hard work. Each day decisions have to be made about what will be tolerated. Will you break over mismatched clothes? Uncombed hair? Rap music? Refusal to eat green beans? Pierced navels? What will it be today? Is she being creative or just difficult? Pick your battles wisely. My brother had long hair right up until my mother wondered if it might have something to do with him having trouble finding a job. That was the first time she mentioned his hair, and the last time she needed to.
Respect Thy Brother, and Sister
If someone stormed up to your child, screamed insults and accusations, called them ugly names and then threatened them with bodily harm, you’d be filing charges against the perpetrator within the hour – unless it was their sibling. Why do we allow our children to treat each other in ways we would never accept from a stranger?
Name calling isn’t cute. Never let it start. Respect in its most basic form says you don’t call people names. A family based on respect does not allow its members to say ugly things about each other. Ever. Period. Home is a place a child should be able to go when the world isn’t being friendly. Home needs to be safe.
Respect between siblings goes deeper than just name calling. It means protecting each other from all harm. I have two teen-age boys. The older one had a friend that picked on the younger one. Not a lot, but enough to make my younger son uncomfortable. I sat down with my oldest son and told him his brother had a right to be safe from ridicule in his own home. I gave him two options. Either he corrects his friend – or I would. He stopped the teasing with only one comment to his friend. My sons, and their friends, know this house is a safe place to be.
Love, Honor, and Respect?
Speaking of a family being a safe place, your marriage is a place where each partner should be protected. Name calling between mom and dad is a sure “okay” from the top on verbal wrestling matches. Is that really the way you want your future son-in-law to talk to your daughter? Your marriage is her live-action tutorial.
How do you respect someone that just cooked you a meal? You say, “Thank You”. What about someone that filled your car with gas? You say, “Thank you.” Or what about when someone packs your lunch, brings you a glass of water, hands you your glasses, brings home a paycheck, or fills the refrigerator with groceries? That’s right – you say, “Thank you.”
Try it. Say thanks to the people you live with just like you would for a kindness from a stranger.
Respect – we show it all the time. We know how to treat the neighbor or our pastor, our teacher, and even a stranger on the street. Now, if we could just start treating our family members a little more like strangers!