We often think of the Bible as a guideline or “rulebook” of sorts, God’s little instruction manual – if you will. While I’m not intending to debate whether that is an accurate picture of the scriptures or not, I do want to point out one thing. Given all the “rules” that the scriptures contain – it’s amazing to realize that there are really only 2 that God gives to children. Yep, that’s right – only two!
What are they?
- Children obey your parents – Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20
- Honor your father and mother – Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2, and many others.
Of these two, I’ve come to notice that the first is usually pretty clear in the minds of most parents. Disobedience is typically (though not always) recognized by parents, and most do at least something to address it (while not always effectively).
But the second – the issue of honor – seems to be an area of great confusion or ignorance to most parents. What does it mean to “honor your father and mother?” In my understanding of the spirit of the text, it’s an issue of attitude, which then correlates into action. Let me explain.
Disobedience is pretty clear-cut – we can see a disobedient action pretty easily, especially if it is one of outright rebellion to a clearly-stated instruction. But a dis-honoring action can often be written off as “the stage they are in” or as what is typical of their age. For instance, a teenager rolling their eyes or releasing a huge (SIGH) when they don’t agree with their parent’s decision – while they may seem like innocent or harmless things, they are in actuality an act of dishonor. Another good word for it may be disrespect.
Parents often overlook dishonoring actions if the obedient action is actually done. For example, Mom says to Bobby, “Bobby, I want you to go and clean up your room, please.” Bobby says, “Oh Mom! (in the whiny-est of tones) It’s not that big of a deal! It’s going to take me forever and I don’t see why I have to do it TODAY!” but, he does go and clean up his room afterall. Is his complaining, disrespectful attitude toward his mom acceptable since he went ahead and did what she wanted? I would say, “Not at all.” His problem is not one of disobedience… he did what he was told. His problem is one of attitude, of dishonor toward his mother – and that too is a God-given commandment for children.
Dishonor goes to the level of the heart – it has to do with the attitudes and mindsets of our children. We not only want them to be well-behaved individuals, but we want them to be well-attituded (sorry, I make up words all the time) individuals. We want them to have respect for God, parents, and others – and the parent-child relationship is the workshop God uses to help them learn self-discipline and self-control as it relates to other people. If you have a child who is outwardly obedient but inwardly rebellious, do you REALLY have a child who is pleasing to God? No – it’s only a matter of time before the inner rebellion manifests itself outwardly. So many Christian parents see their children become adults and consequently go wild once they are “out on their own.” Why would such a thing happen? They were always so well-behaved and obedient growing up. Could it be that there was in inner, attitudinal thing going on that was allowed to be rationalized away or ignored? It’s a lot of work to address attitudes, I can freely admit that. But the attitudes are the area of true character, the place that long-lasting action flows from. And did you think that being a parent would be easy?
“RED FLAGS” THAT SHOW DISHONOR:
- Improper tone of voice toward the parent (irritation, anger, resentment, sarcasm, accusations)
- Violent behavior (toward the parent or non-directed)
- Temper tantrums (this is really saying, very loudly – “I don’t like what you are wanting me to do!” – isn’t that disrespect for the God-given authority of the parent? Don’t ignore it and hope it goes away, it won’t. It will simply take on a different form later).
- Deceitful or deceptive behavior (sneaking candy when you aren’t looking, lying about things so they are not found out. They do not respect the boundaries you’ve set for them. This is more than simple, childish behavior. Once may be childish ignorance, but a pattern shows a rebellious attitude of the heart toward your authority)
- Outright disobedience (Telling you “No.” Deliberately doing what you’ve instructed against).
Do you see how your authority is challenged time afer time, and you may not be seeing it as such? It’s important to call it like it is and quit making excuses for your children’s bad attitudes and disrespect.
If we are going to raise Godly children, ones who honor (love) God and others (the first two commandments Jesus metioned as being most important) – then this issue of attitudes has GOT to be effectively addressed. And it has to begin early on in life, or else it’s an up-hill battle. That doesn’t mean it’s not a winable battle for those who are already behind the curve, just one that will take a great deal more resolve and consistency.
So how do you address attitudes? It doesn’t have to be harsh – but surely has to pull in what God thinks about the issues at hand. Your children need to be taught what God says (obey AND honor) and what those terms mean. They need to be taught WHY those things are important – both now and in the long run. YOU need to be clear on WHY they are important.
NOW – they are BEING good, Godly people, developing Christ-like attitudes toward those in authority and others (siblings too… I’ll talk about the whole area of sibling relationships eventually – stay tuned.).
IN THE FUTURE – they are learning skills, attitudes, actions that will serve them very well in the future, as well as be a BLESSING to the people around them.
Finally, it comes down to this: WHY do we want our kids to be Christ-like? Because it honors God? Yes. Because they are better people if that is the case? Of course. But also because our diligent guidance of our children into Christ-like attitudes and actions is the creation of a tool that HE can use in this world to do His eternal work in the lives of others. Our children then become agents of change on an eternal level – blessings of God to the world around them. Don’t forget the honor… it’s not arrogant to insist that your children honor you. It’s teaching them to honor God and the people He loves.