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Ask Jani: “How do we teach our children to respect authority?”

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Episode Synopsis

Jani and Heidi answer some questions listeners have sent in about teaching children to respect authority. Learn Jani's practical system "The 3R's of Respect" to help develop this valuable character trait in your children.

Audio Transcript

Featured Resource

The "9 Biblical Principles We Used to Raise Our Children" that we discuss in Episode 26 "Giving Grace to Your Child" has been prepared in PDF format for you to download and print at home.

Heidi: Today we’re doing a special “Ask Jani” episode. It’s been a few podcasts, Jani, since we’ve been able to sit down and ask you a question, and we thank you all for sending in your questions. So Jani, here’s the one that we received that we want to answer during our time together today: “How do I teach my children to respect me as their parents and other people in a position of authority?”

Jani: Oh wow, that’s a big one! I’m glad we’ve had a few days to think about this before our recording session, Heidi. This is such an important, great question, isn’t it? Because respect is key. It’s a great quality trait to help your child develop as a young person. And I think we as parents can be kind of scared by this (“I’m going to fail!”), So I want to start this podcast with a Proverb, which is in a way a promise from God. Proverbs teaches us how life works best. So would you read God’s Word to us, even as parents, from Proverbs 3:5-6, Heidi?

Heidi: Yes, these are some of my favorite verses. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Jani: That’s good, isn’t it? So we can trust in the Lord. I can trust in him as I’m working on this podcast, you can trust in him as we’re recording together, Heidi, and our listeners can trust in him to learn how best to raise their kids.

Heidi: I love that, that the Lord doesn’t leave us out there on our own to figure it out. But he says, “Trust in me, come to me, and I will make your paths straight.” What a good God he is.

Jani: Don’t you love that verb “lean”? I’m a leaner. I lean into Ray. You know, I just need him and God is saying, “Lean into me, Jani. Lean into me for this podcast.” Dear listener, he’s inviting you, “Lean into me for this question. Lean into me when you’re wondering how to deal with your kids.”

Our question for today

Jani: Well, let’s talk about this a little bit, Heidi. It’s so important, it really is. As I said, it’s such a great question: “How do I teach my children to respect me as their parent and other people in positions of authority?”

Jani: Well, we all know if it’s developed early, it will help a child in so many areas of life. Think of it when the child starts school, he will spend less time in the principal’s office and more time in his classroom. How about a church? He’ll learn to listen to the teachers and his pastor. Or public authorities like police, governors, our president. And even within our family. A child needs to learn to respect the parental authority, the child’s grandparents, other adults, a babysitter who comes in. So we want to encourage our listeners to start young.

Let’s define “Respect”

Jani: Let’s begin by talking about what respect is. I don’t know, Heidi, if you have ideas on this. I think it means to “hold someone up in high esteem.” Now a child would never put it that way, but it means that that person is noticed, that person’s wishes and instructions are deferred to. The problem is it takes something to respect another person. It takes a great deal of humility and self-control.

Heidi: It does. I was just thinking, “This is something we have to teach because my children want to do the opposite.” It’s easy for them to not look at people and to run around, or for mom to say, “Do this…” and to do the opposite. Their hearts are programmed to do the opposite of what I tell them to do.

Jani: That’s absolutely right, Heidi. Not one person on the face of the earth has ever been born with a great humility and a great desire to always defer to others. That’s why it’s so hard for children. Children are naturally arrogant. They’re naturally self-centered. We are all born this way.

Heidi: I know, I was going to say, “I’m naturally those ways, too!”

Jani: That’s right. So we’re teaching our children what we need to teach ourselves as well.

The 3 R’s of Respect

Jani: For me, it’s a little easier when I have a little system to go through. How can I teach my children respect? So what I call it is the “Three R’s of Respect.”

Jani: To teach your children respect, you need to Recognize it. What is respect? You need to Require it. Yes, you will. And then you need to Reward it – way to go! So let’s talk about those three today.

1. Recognize it

Jani: The first one is you need to teach your child what respect is, how to recognize it. I think the best way to do that is to model it. How do you, as a mother, treat others? How do you treat their daddy? What do you say about the church leaders on the way home from church in the car? Little ears are listening. Or what about when you get pulled over for speeding? (Not that I would know from any personal experience!) But the children are watching how you talk to that police officer and how you talk about him, either after you start driving again or once you get home and talk to your husband about it. So we need to model it for them to be able to recognize what real respect is.

Jani: For a child to be able to recognize what respect is, we also need to teach them about it. We need to give them biblical examples. When we tell these Bible stories we need to use the word “respect” so they begin to understand what it is. Teach them, from God’s Word, starting at a very early age, about other children in the Bible showing respect to those whom God has placed over them. You might not think that there are that many stories, but there are. Think of Samuel in 1 Samuel 1-3. Or David in 1 Samuel 16. Jehoash (Joash) was a very young King (2 Kings 12:1-2). The Bible says he was seven years old. Or Josiah from 2 Chronicles 34. He was young, too. Daniel was a young man who showed great respect to those over him. I love this: Jesus. In Luke 2:40 it says, “And the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” And then when he was 12 years old, Luke 2:51 says, “And he went down from Jerusalem where he and his family were and was submissive to his parents.” Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, knew how to respect his parents.

Jani: So use the Word so your children know what it means. You can say things like, “God wants us to respect others. That’s why it’s wrong to kick over Johnny’s castle he just built because you’re mad at him. You may not do that again. If you do, you will be punished. That’s not respecting Johnny.” So we can teach them, model it for them in that way.

2. Require it

Jani: Well, after we help them to recognize what respect is, we need to require it and that’s hard. That kind of hearkens back to some previous podcasts about discipline doesn’t it?

Heidi: Yes we have talked about that on past episodes, Jani, and I wonder if you know there is a wonderful episode on “9 Biblical Principles” and values to keep in mind as you raise your children. Our wonderful graphic designer, Caleb Weeks, created a printable that you can download and have, and I was so excited about that because sometimes I need to see something on the inside of my cabinet as I go to get my coffee cup every day to remind me what I’m focusing on.

Jani: Yes, give our listeners the website where they can find that again.

Heidi: You can find that at herestoresmysoul.org.

Jani: Thanks, Heidi. I lean on you for all the technical stuff. You’re great.

Jani: Well, the second point, first of all, your child needs to be able to recognize what respect is, but then you need to begin requiring it of him at an age appropriate time in his life. To respect another’s personhood and property requires self-control, which little children just don’t have. They are naturally selfish and self-centered. Don’t let that surprise you about your kids.

Humility vs Self-Control

Jani: Respect involves, as we said, both humility and self-control. Only God can grant real humility to a human heart. And so we pray that for ourselves and for the children in our lives, but we can help them develop self-control. Now self-control can’t change the human heart – that’s an inner working of God Almighty. Only God can change the human heart. But self-control does temper how we act on what is in our heart. And that’s very important.

Jani: I remember a time, Heidi, when I was growing up, there were four kids in our family and my mom was just a great mom. My dad traveled Monday through Friday, and was also gone one weekend a month. He was in the Naval Reserve, so he was home very little, six days each month. She was raising four young children. I was number three. My sister was two years younger than I am…she still is two years younger than I am! I remember one time Mom was getting after her and having to scold her. Patty was four years old and she just raised herself up to her four year old height and just looked mom in the eye and said, “Well then, if you’re going to make me do that, I’m just not going to love you anymore!” She was thinking, you know, because there was such a love bond between mom and her kids, that this was the worst thing that she could say. Maybe some of your children have blurted out, “I just hate you, Mom!” and you just collapse. You know, you hate hearing that. Well, Patty said, “I just won’t love you anymore.” I still remember my very wise mom standing up strong, calmly saying, “You don’t have to love me, but you will respect me.” And there was silence. Patty got it because my mom required it. Patty knew she would be disciplined if she did not respect Mom.

What things specifically do we require?

Jani: What things should we require that our children respect? Well, both people and property. Both words, how they talk to and about others, and their actions. Oh, what a kids do? They stick out their tongues, they roll their eyes, they shrug their shoulders. Those kinds of actions are disrespectful. They show a lack of self-control and a lack of respect.

How to require it / Methods of discipline

Jani: The only way that I found to require it of my children was to make it more painful to disrespect someone than to respect them. Now, dear listener, you and I might differ. Heidi and I probably differ on methods of discipline. That’s okay. The Bible gives us a wide range of discipline. It’s something you and, if you are married, your husband need to talk about and decide together. But I do want you to know we did use spanking in our house. Heidi, do you ever spank your children?

Heidi: We do spank them for matters of disobedience or disrespect. Those are the two things that we say in our house get a spanking.

Jani: Yes, and there is a biblical basis for that. We’re not to do it out of anger. We’re not to overuse it. But there is sometimes a place for that. We overused it in our family once with our youngest. He had been disrespectful to a grandparent. He was three years old. We required and instructed him to apologize and he wouldn’t. So we spanked him, and he had a strong enough nature that the spanking didn’t work. And then we had to spank him again and we were kind of caught in this battle, which really didn’t work. So I want to caution our listeners. On the one hand, I do believe in spanking. On the other hand, do not over use it.

Heidi: …or don’t do it when you’re angry or you’re very emotional.

Jani: Yes. What Ray and I talked about afterwards, because we realized that was not a good situation with our youngest child, was if he just dug in his heels and said, “No, I will not,” and we could not make him because we could not make the words come out of his mouth, we would spank him and give him a chance to do it again. But if he still refused, then there would be another kind of discipline, whether it be isolation or deprivation of some sort (some parents take away screen time, that kind of thing). The point is: to express our disapproval and encourage the child to help him or her control that urge the next time because they know what might happen if they don’t. Eventually a child will learn to do what you require of him. Do you find that in your family, Heidi?

Discipline vs Threats

Heidi: I do. I often feel like the times my kids don’t do what I require of them, it’s more about me and that I’m not holding the line well enough. I feel like sometimes there’s so much going on or I’m busy with all three kids, and Hannah and James need attention here and Gideon’s off causing a ruckus, and I’m too distracted that I just will warn or I’ll threaten. “If you do that again, you’re going to get a spanking,” or “If you do that again…” But the Lord reminds me, we don’t want to be a family that threatens, I don’t want to look at my kids and say, “…if you do that one more time…” I just want my word to be my word. And so sometimes I have to repent to the Lord and say, “I haven’t been holding that line strong enough. I haven’t been requiring it. Lord help me.” And then I’ll tell my kids too, “Mommy has given you too many warnings, or too many threats, and Mommy doesn’t want to do that, and Mommy is sorry. So when you disobey today, there will be a consequence. There are not going to be any warnings or in-betweens.” So they can know that at the beginning of the day, too. And the Lord has really helped that in prayer. If one of my kids is struggling and I’m struggling and I say, “Okay, Lord, help me to hold the line.” And then I also really spend a lot of time praying for that child and saying, “God, this child is really struggling. Will you change their heart?” Because just like you said, only the Lord can change their hearts. God has been so faithful to help me in those moments and to help that child. It just amazes me how he can help them.

Jani: Yes. Oh, that’s so good, Heidi. I think what you’re getting at is that we want our children to obey us the first time, not because we don’t have enough patience—we don’t, let’s face it—or not because we’re perfect (we’re not!), but because we want them to be very sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. We want them to be able to obey the Lord and have an eagerness to obey him the first time so he doesn’t have to keep coming back with warnings. Thank you, Heidi. That’s so good.

3. Reward it

Jani: So with respect, we want our children, first of all, to be able to recognize it. What is it? This is what respect looks like. And then we require it: this is what we want you to do. And the third point is reward it.

Heidi: I love that one! That’s why I love the Ortlunds. They’re all about rewards…and Skittles. Tell them about the Skittles.

Jani: Oh yes, we use Skittles so much. Oh my goodness. What we want to do with rewards is follow our Lord’s path. He rewards us. We want to be very God-like in how we treat our children. Our Heavenly Father rewards us. Let’s make it more pleasant to obey then to disobey. We want to notice it when it children respect others. Talk about it in front of them, in front of their father and around the dinner table: “Oh, you should have seen James. He was so polite when I was talking to Miss Jani. He didn’t interrupt us. He waited right there until…” And you can just talk in front of him about how he respected mommy. And then reward it! I mean sometimes you might want to say, “Oh, I was so proud of you. Here are three Skittles!”

Heidi: Will you tell them this story about your kids when you lived in Scotland and you had to take them to church and…do you know what I’m talking about?

Jani: I do. I think our listeners probably do too, but I’d love to tel them. It was fun. We lived in Scotland and we had four little kids and Ray was working at the church. We didn’t have a car at that time, and so it was a mile walk to the church and back, and so I had to get the four kids there. The weather was not always pleasant. And the children were baby, four, five and six, and it was a mile to the church. So I had to figure out a way to do this or else I would end up in church a mess in tears. I know what works for me and that’s rewards. So I would buy what we called in Scotland “Sweeties”—they’re very much like Skittles—and I’d put them in my pocket and I would say, “Who can get to the next corner without complaint?” And whoever did got a Skittle, all three of them (the baby was too small and he was in the pram). Or I would say, “Now that we’ve crossed the street, who can get to that next fence post? Who can think of something nice to say about their sister?” and all sorts of things to reward the positive. And then while they sat during church, because we didn’t have any child care for them, I might give them another Skittle as they sat through church. I tell you, it worked for us and they didn’t have any cavities either, which amazes me (but we did brush their teeth every night).

Heidi: I just love that because the walk could have been filled with, “If you complain one more time…” and, “By the time we get to this corner, there will be a consequence” or “Please just stop it.” It could have been filled with negativity, but I love how the Lord put on your heart, “Let’s focus on the positive” and keep saying wonderful things over them instead of threatening things and the kids responded well to that. I just love that, Jani.

Jani: Well, that was from the Lord because I tried the other way and it didn’t work!

Jani: The important thing is we want to teach our kids about respect so that they can grow up to be respectful citizens, respectful family members, respectful church members, and all the world will benefit. All of society will benefit.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

Join the Conversation

  • Chanda Brown says:

    This episode was so timely and refreshing, thank you! ❤️

    • Jani ortlund says:

      Good to hear from you, Chanda. Thanks for listening. God bless you as you mother all your “Brownies.” Love and misses from my heart to yours. May He restore your soul as He shepherds you, His beloved daughter.

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    He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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