"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God..."--1 Peter 2:17 I am often humbled when I watch myself dealing with my children. Would I ever treat an adult the way that I treat them? Would I ever talk to others with the words and tone that I use with them? Sadly, this is an area in my life that I have known the Lord's persistent rebuke and correction. Writing these posts has brought it up again as I thought of how I spoke to my son yesterday when he had a hard time grasping a math concept.
But instead of asking myself why I do it, I need to focus more on how I can change the way I treat my kids. Just because they are shorter than me (though that is quickly changing!) or the fact that they are dependents under our roof doesn't mean that I can do or say what I like and get away with it. I am realizing that God is calling me on a double-standard that I hold against them. How I treat them will carry into how they will treat others---including myself!---in the future. And I have already felt the sting of my own disrespect slap me in the face.
As parents, this gift of respect is something, like all the others, that will greatly impact the lives of my children and others. When I respect them, I also give to them a sense of worth, value and importance, as well as an example of godly ways to relate to others. Peter tells us that we are to honor everyone---and that includes our children. At least, I can't think of anyone that "everyone" does not include!
So what does that look like? Several things come to mind:
I need to respect them with my words.
James tells us that there is power in the tongue. Am I using them to build them up or tear them down? I have been convicted when I use my words to teach others and turn around and yell at my kids as we are walking out to the parking lot afterwards, that there is something wrong with that picture. "As James says, "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water." (James 3:10-12)
I don't know about you, but this is something that I cannot will to do externally because the issue is a heart one. No amount of will power is going to help me to speak respectfully to my children if my heart is not right with God. Jesus tells us that out of the heart the mouth speaks (Mt. 15:18). I am realizing that unless God is actively working and changing me from the inside out, I will always hit a wall when it comes to this area.
However, I also believe that there is a time when I need to simply shut my mouth. If I have to walk out of the room so that I don't spew verbal poison all over them, then I need to do it. On the flip side, as I have mentioned before, I can also use my words to seek to affirm them. Basically, I can see what I say to other adults and seek to find ways to speak in the same way to my children. I don't want to be one person at home and one person at church or out and about. That is a recipe for disaster!
If I can't do it because it is the right thing to do, at least I hope that I will watch what I say so I can prevent future problems in my relationship with my children later. I am already dealing with the damage that my words in the past have already caused.
I need to respect their limitations.
As I shared yesterday about our children needing guidance, it is because they have limitations on what they know and understand. When I respect where they are and instead of yelling at them because they have not gotten there yet, I can show respect for where they are at.
But most importantly, I need to respect who they are and not wish they are someone else.
Even within a family, it is hard not to compare one child against another. I know I do it all the time. So many "if only you were like..." thoughts go thorugh my head, and unfortunately, they have slipped out of my mouth as well. God made each child unique. As we look ahead to adopting Anah with her special needs, I am realizing that every child has a special need. They are just not always obvious or physical ones. What they need is not my judgement but my compassion. God does not treat me that way. I cannot treat my children that way either.
What are some other ways that we can respect our children?