Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?
During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”
Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.
Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.
It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.
She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.
Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:
- Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
- Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
- A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
- As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
- Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
- Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
- Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
- Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
- Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
- Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
- Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!
In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!