As God’s Word says, out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. If our hearts are full of frustration, no matter what words we say, the emotion will seep out, too. Our respectful behavior will only come from a genuine heart change and daily renewal from the Lord. I just wanted to remind you of these truths before I jump into these examples of what I am learning respect looks like!
Here we go…
1. Listening well. If we don’t have time for this, what are we doing? And sometimes our listening isn’t even about hearing actual words…sometimes the listening is more like discerning what needs and feelings their behavior is communicating.
2. Getting to know them and not assuming we already do. Letting them have their own thoughts and opinions and realizing they’re equal to ours. Make some room. It’s disrespectful to interrupt, interrogate, jump to conclusions, think we’re better, and give swift judgments.
3. Thinking before we talk. Thinking about where our words will take the conversation. Our words can give them hope that they can come to a workable solution in every single instance, whether they are 3 or 13 or 33. Our words can show we believe in them, that they have what it takes to do this hard thing! It is disrespectful to lecture thoughtlessly until we run out of words and it’ll only make us more aggravated as they lose attention anyway.
4. Staying calm and kind. Not making an enormous deal out of everything. It’s disrespectful not to mention frightening to have this big person (who is driven by the thoughts “It’s the principle of the matter” and “They should know better!) glaring at you, talking at you in an aggravated tone, and handing out punishments until their sense of justice is satisfied.
5. Having a plan for discipline that they understand and can expect is respectful. It’s disrespectful to surprise kids with a random disconnected punishment that doesn’t make sense and wasn’t ever mentioned before, like “You got a clip down at school again so you aren’t going to that sleepover tonight.” Punishments are necessary sometimes! But we can be a part of helping our children dig to the core of the problem and work it out instead of just punishing it. For example, what was the clip down for? It may be that we need to have a pretend class room at home and practice whatever the situation was that brought about the clip down. Now, it may happen that the only time to do that is during the family tv show time before bed, sadly, because school night evenings are pretty busy. That may seem like a punishment, to miss the show, and it is, technically, but it’s more of a natural consequence showing that fun is often squeezed out when we have to take the time to re-do something we did not handle well our first chance. Punishments that don’t fit the crime, that distance kids from parents, that are harsh and not well thought out, and that are surprising, are disrespectful.
6. There are so many more examples, but I’m over my 500 words big-time! Last but not least, we show respect by enjoying our kids and letting them know we enjoy them, by highlighting the good, and amplifying it like we hope others in our lives will do for us.