How do you honor your father and your mother? Do you simply obey everything they say, no questions asked? Are your children expected to do the same? Stephanie Nickel explains what it means to honor your father and mother, and provides suggestions on how to teach your children to do the same.
Honor Your Father And Your Mother
“Honor your father and your mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. We read these words in Exodus 20:12.
We are called to teach our children the importance of honoring us. After all, God has given us the truly awesome task of making His ways known to them, and because this is one of the Ten Commandments and is repeated in the epistle to the Ephesians, we know it is still applicable today.
Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’”
Honor Your Father And Mother means Respect Your Father And Mother
We often think of honoring as synonymous with obeying—and they are closely related, as these verses indicate. But the idea of honor is more closely related to respect. According to Google “to honor” means to “regard with great respect.”
I think of it this way: Our children may obey us without honoring us (respect comes from within), but they can’t truly honor us without obeying us.
As parents, part of our responsibility is to teach our sons and daughters to respect—and obey—those in authority. And, of course, the ultimate authority over all our lives is God Himself.
Obedience Doesn’t Equal Respect
I don’t believe we are to be dictatorial and harsh when it comes to raising our children. If we are, we may be able to make them obey, but we won’t earn their respect. Immediately following the passage I quoted earlier from Ephesians, fathers are commanded not to provoke their children but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (v.4). I believe this applies to mothers and other caregivers as well.
As we diligently seek to grow closer to the Lord and obey Him in every area of life, it stands to reason we will become individuals increasingly worthy of honor and respect. It isn’t right to quote any portion of God’s Word simply to force another to comply with our wishes. We can’t simply expect others to “do what we say, not what we do,” as the old saying goes.
Respect Needs To Be Earned
This reminds me of a situation that occurred years ago, when my three children were very young. Our family was walking through the local shopping mall when we came across an older man behaving very badly. I don’t remember exactly what the situation was, but I do know my husband later told me that he’d been tempted to approach the man and tell him that although we had taught our children to respect their elders, he did not deserve their respect. If you know my husband, you realize this was very out of character.
For a time, we may be able to compel our children to obey us. We cannot, however, force them to regard us with respect. That would be something we have to earn.
I should expand on that just a little. Just because another person doesn’t obey the directives God sets out in His Word, doesn’t let us off the hook. We can’t use their disobedience as an excuse for our own. Somewhere along the way, we ought to seek to teach our children this lesson. However, the Scriptures lay out clear guidelines for how we are to raise our family, and as Christian parents, we should seek to earn our children’s respect by living as God calls us to.
Parents Should Honor Their Father And Mother Too!
One way is to exemplify honor by the way we treat our own parents if they’re still alive—even if our upbringing was less than ideal. (And if our parents have passed away, we may want to consider how the following questions pertain to other seniors, those in our family, church, and neighbourhood.)
Do we make the time to visit our aging parents as often as possible?
Do we pick up the telephone and chat with them?
When we do interact with them, do we become impatient or short-tempered? Sometimes it takes older people awhile to formulate a thought or figure out what we’re talking about. If we are patient and loving, it will bless them and set a good example for our children. (I encourage you not to complete their sentences and make them feel rushed. It will only make things more difficult and could very well put a strain on your relationship. And if they’re hard-of-hearing, learn to project while keeping a compassionate tone in your voice. For some, it will also help to speak a little more slowly than usual and look directly at them.)
How do we interact with seniors at church or in the community? Do we show them respect? Do we honor them?
How do we speak about our parents and other seniors? What do we say? What tone of voice do we use? It’s amazing how much children pick up.
If we want our children to learn to honor us, we must set a good example for them. There will come a time when we can no longer force compliance. And even at that point, they are still commanded to honor us. Let’s do what we can to make that more likely.
If you have enjoyed reading this post and wish to send us a comment or share a prayer request, please don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know.
Images courtesy of:
For Reading- dassel