By Shawn McMullen
Among other things, the Ten Commandments taught the Israelites the value of respect: for the Sabbath, for parents, for life, and for marriage. In the context of the family, children were to respect their parents and honor them. Naturally, the members of the Israelite community responsible for teaching this concept to children were their parents.
So how would Israelite parents go about teaching their own children to respect them? Certainly they would teach them the law at an early age. But they would also model the principles of the Ten Commandments before their children so the younger generation would learn from their examples.
Godly parents must do the same today. Although the Ten Commandments continue to provide practical guidelines for this process, Christian parents have even more resources in the pages of the New Testament. One example comes from the writings of James, the Lord’s brother. James wrote to the church, but his words apply equally to the Christian family: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). When godly parents model wise living before their children, their children learn to respect and honor others.
Model parents live pure lives. Integrity is never lost on children—no matter their age. Parents who make integrity a priority in their relationships, who think with pure minds and speak from pure hearts, make a lasting impact on their kids.
Model parents make peace. They don’t exasperate their children. They’re not given to quarreling or bickering. Instead, they diffuse conflict and tension in the home. They’re not easily offended. They actively seek peace.
Model parents demonstrate respect. They’re respectful of their children’s needs and feelings. They’re gracious and attentive, tender and sympathetic. They don’t belittle their kids or talk down to them. They bring honor, dignity, and stability to the family.
Model parents are sacrificial. They put other family members first. That’s not to say they don’t lead, discipline, or maintain control. But as they do these things, they also follow Paul’s admonition to “value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3, 4).
Model parents show mercy. Kind and compassionate, they are attentive to their children and responsive to their concerns. They don’t hold grudges. They don’t keep score. They forgive and forget.
Model parents are dependable. They’re the same people in public that they are in the privacy of their homes. Their children benefit from their consistent love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22, 23).
Model parents are impartial. They are fair. They don’t show favoritism. Their children feel loved, admired, and valued. The rules they live by and the decisions they make are marked by impartiality.
Model parents are sincere. Their children draw security from their honesty and confidence from their transparency. Their kids believe them, trust them, and depend on them. And rarely are they disappointed.
By God’s design, Christian parents are called to teach their children respect and honor. When their teaching is supported by their examples, children rarely miss the point.