Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Essentials of Respect and Truth

Not long ago, a colleague and I were talking about what misbehavior we nailed when our children were young.  This was after spending a good chunk of the day with no success in trying to correct a student who was disrespectful and would not listen to us.  We discovered that mom and dad had the same problem at home. As we talked, my friend and I found that when our children were young, both of us had been very quick to stop disrespect and lies and to expect respect and truth.  And, we were strong in how we did it.

Young children have to value respect and truth. By the time a child is old enough to stand on his or her own two legs, the two legs of respect and truth need to be holding up wisdom development.  If a child has respect and tells the truth, a parent or a teacher can help him or her grow.  If a child learns early to give respect and to tell the truth, teenage years are easier, launching from home is positive, and he or she is more likely to have the courage to live life well as a braveheart.  Let me explain.

In Ephesians 6:4, Paul says to bring children "up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (NASB version). Discipline and instruction are tied directly to respect and truth.  Discipline only works when a child respects authority; if a child will not listen to a parent or a teacher, discipline will not be effective.  And, similarly, without truth there is no instruction.  Or at least no instruction of value.  Respect and truth are foundational to raising our children the way Paul says.

Respect is the recognition that I am not all that matters.  Respect says that someone else is important, and in God's order, listening to and cooperating with those "over" me helps me learn and is life giving.  Children who obey parents live longer.  Fools can become wise.  The fear, or respect, of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  A child who is "mouthy," rolls eyes at parents, and demands the last word will not learn from discipline. When faced with disrespect, a parent must not let the child win.  Disrespect in a teenager is a lot worse than in a five year old and a lot harder to fix.  Nail it young.  It is true that you "pay now, or pay later" when it comes to expecting respect.

Truth is the recognition that there are ideas and facts that represent life the way it really is.  The "truth" does not depend on how I feel or how I see it.  Truth, like respect, recognizes something outside myself and my way of seeing things.  Satan is called the "Father of Lies" because he loves to distort and confuse the way things really are; he knows that truth will lead us to God and right living.  Deception, cheating, and lies are about self and are behaviors that  hide truth and keep a child from repentance and real change.  Instruction only makes sense when one person has a truth that is valuable for the other to learn and is valued enough to learn. We teach our children to value truth by expecting the truth and telling the truth.  If we lie, even "white lies" and half-truths, our children's foundation of faith, where truth and trust go hand in hand, is cracked.

The courage to face fears in life depends on respect and truth.  A child who respects and fears God more than his peers or his own feelings will choose to be brave and do right, even when his friends don't.   Likewise, his respect and fear of his parents helps him be brave.  When I was young, a healthy fear of discipline from my Dad kept me out of a lot of trouble, often making me appear courageous to do right even though I was really just more afraid of what my Dad would do than what my friends would say.  When I got older and my Dad told me that he trusted me, I showed courage at times because I didn't want to let him down, I respected him.  Facing fears with courage often depends on a healthy respect of God, parents, teachers, and other authorities.

Similarly, truth helps a child bravely choose right. If a child knows what is true and right, those truths become beliefs.  And, beliefs become convictions that drive a person to face great fears, to do the right thing for God, people, and causes. For example, when a girl learns the truth that God cares about the weak and she really believes it, she will protect the weak or bullied no matter if friends make fun of her. As our children grow, teaching and modelling big ideas and eternal truths will give them convictions that lead to courage.  What are the truths you want to intentionally have your children know and believe?  Tell them and then cement them in by your example.

May God give you the grace to lovingly teach and expect respect and truth.  And, may you enjoy the fruit of your labor as your children grow and have these legs to stand on.

P.S. The student came back the next day, respectful and willing to listen.  The student learned and is now learning.

No comments:

Post a Comment