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Helping Our Children Keep the Fifth Commandment

by Carolyn C. Waterbury-Tieman

The fifth commandment states, "Honor your father and your mother, ..." (Exodus 20:12). While this seems straightforward enough, an essential piece of information is missing. Paul supplies this piece later in the New Testament when he expands the message, originally addressed only to children, to include parents. He reminds parents, "...do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord," (Ephesians 6:1-4) and "...do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged,." (Colossians 3:20-21). Thus Paul acknowledges the reciprocal nature of honor. In short, parents who demonstrate honor in the treatment of their children are most likely to be honored by their children - honor begets honor.

The dictionary defines honor as "a showing of merited respect", "respect and esteem shown to another", and "to regard or treat with honor or respect". Think about the people that you have honored or felt respect for in your life. How did these people treat you? I suspect that they appreciated your individuality, recognized your need to be treated with dignity and respect, valued your participation in the relationship, and, in many cases, conveyed a sense of unconditional esteem. Most of us would find it easy to honor such a person.

Our calling is to be such a person in the lives of our children. Why is this such a critical issue? Because the relationship we establish with our children is the foundation for the relationship they establish with God. In my work with children of all ages, I have observed that those who have known distrust, if they believe at all, do not trust God to be there for them. Children who have known criticism believe God can only love them when they are perfect. Children who have known anger and punishment believe God is waiting to punish them too. Children who have known guidance characterized by honor and respect in an atmosphere of unconditional love are prepared to accept the grace of God.

How do we teach our children to honor us by honoring them? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Say "please" and "thank you" often. Avoid interrupting childrenīs conversations and activities without warning. When interruption is necessary, say "Excuse me".

2. Use a respectful tone when speaking to your children and expect the same in return. When you experience disrespect, you might reply, "Iīm sorry, but I canīt hear you when you speak to me in that tone of voice." Respond to requests only when they are offered in a respectful manner.

3. Listen to your children carefully when they talk about their thoughts and feelings. Give them opportunities to share their opinions.

4. Set and enforce reasonable limits. Make sure the expectations you have set for your children are realistic for their age and developmental level. Devise consequences that teach rather than punish.

5. Honor your father and your mother. One of the most difficult challenges of parenthood is establishing a more adult relationship with our own parents. While this is not always easy, the benefits for every generation involved are tremendous. Remember, your children are watching and learning

If we accept that the honor we deserve as parents is earned rather than automatic, would it not make sense that we should demonstrate the same courtesies we extend to other adults, and yes even strangers, to our own children?

Đ1996 Families Under Construction, Inc. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.

Carolyn C. Waterbury-Tieman is a parent educator and certified marriage and family therapist who has been in practice for over 10 years. Visit her website at http://www.famucon.com.


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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

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