I spent 10 years as a Navy wife. We had been married five years and our oldest son was two when Steve enlisted, and we jumped into the deep end of military life. Being a military family meant that love and respect had to be frequently used tools in our toolbelt. Without them, success would have been difficult—if not impossible.

I spent my first few years as a Navy wife learning how to navigate the new way of living with its unusual language, transient lifestyle, odd way of doing things, AND its way of uprooting us every few years. It was challenging, stressful, and overwhelming at times, and I quickly learned that we had to be in it together. Our family of four had to pull together, relying on our love and respect for one another and our relationship with the Lord as our foundation, if we were going to make it through.

What did “pulling together” look like?

Pulling together meant that everyone’s voice was heard. We all needed the others to appreciate our perspective; we could not overlook anyone. In listening to each other, we could understand where each person was coming from and why he felt the way he did about things. Listening is crucial to love and respect as it places you inside the other person’s shoes.
Each of our children speaks his own “language,” so as parents we have to learn to hear what is being said even before they can talk. What does it mean when they go silent or scream? What are they saying? We have to learn the whys AND learn to be okay with what they are telling us. Here is an example from our lives:

Our youngest son, David, is fiercely independent and has been since the day he was born. Since he could do things for himself, he wanted to do things on his own. As his mom I had to learn to ask, “Would you like help?” and be okay when he told me, “No.”

My love and respect for David demanded that I allow him to be the person God created him to be and not force my desire to help on him. The love and respect you extend to your children will be unique to your relationship and will look different with each of them.

Pulling together also meant being intentional about how we communicated. There was no room for the phrase “You do it because I said so.” The “why” was needed. The “why” is where love and respect grow. When you are moving around every few years—completely upending your lives—everyone has to be on the same page. I learned early on that good communication was key to my boys being able to hear me—and for them to feel loved and respected.

Here are a few of my favorite communication tools:

  1. Gather as much information as you can so when your small ones ask (and you know they will) you have a true answer to give them.
  2. Explain everything (as much as it is within your power) before it happens and give them the positive and negative consequences of the choices they make. Stating the consequences ahead of time means no one is taken by surprise.
  3. Tell the truth, even when it seems the answer may be over their heads. There will be many times that life will be tough. Speaking the truth to your children, in love, will show them they can always count on you to “tell it to them straight”—something that will serve them well when they are adults in need of wisdom for their own journey

It takes intentionality to instill love and respect in our children, and they are things we have to give to them if we want to receive them in return. The reward for your effort is a beautiful, priceless relationship with adult children who love and respect those they walk in relationship with.