Is it just me or are kids today ruder than ever? A few months ago, I was attending my daughter’s school volleyball game. The loud cheers from the fans didn’t quite drown out the rude comments from the children standing in front of me. The sweet lady at the concession stand was trying to politely meet the demands of the children as each one talked over the other. Their requests changed multiple times as each assumed he deserved attention immediately. After a few minutes of this, the patient lady turned to the kids to say, “One at a time. And I want to hear please and thank you when making your order.”

While I appreciated the efforts of the woman to teach some respect to the children, the eye-rolling and snickering from them made me doubt that it actually worked. This exchange left me thinking about the character quality of respect among children today and within my own children. How would my children handle that situation? Would they wait patiently to be served? Would they use their manners? Or would I see my children talking over one another, demanding service, and then mocking any attempt at correction?

I think it is important to ask these questions of our children. Assessing them (and ourselves) will help ensure that the art of giving and requiring respect will continue into future generations. First Peter 2:17 says this: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” The word “respect” in this passage is a translation of the Greek word timēsate, meaning “honor or value.” As we teach our children respect for others, we must teach them to honor or value those around us and those in authority over us regardless of whether that person deserves it or has earned it. We respect others as we follow Christ.

Teach Respect by Showing Respect

Our children will subconsciously emulate our behavior. A good place to start is to look at our own actions first. Your child needs to see you being respectful with other people. This includes the way you speak about your spouse, co-workers, friends, the president, your pastor, and government officials. In front of your boss, you may display respect, but if you talk openly about your boss in a negative light at home or with others, your
children will pick up on that behavior.

Modeling respect also includes complimenting your children and trusting them. Treat each one equally, keep your promises to your children, and pay attention when they speak. Point out respect and disrespect when you see it. This teaches your children that others can see when they are respectful and when they are not.

Teach Your Child to Respect Himself

Give your child opportunities to be responsible and independent so he can begin to grow in his own strengths. Believe that your child can do the job you have given him to do. Help him be successful but don’t take over. Speak God’s identity over your child and do not allow negative talk. When my child says the words “I can’t” or “I am not enough,” I have my child speak what God says instead. The self-negative words spoken disrespect God’s creation. We are to respect God’s creations.

Teach Respect for Rules

Rules and structure are great for kids. It is important for your child to understand that you have rules for certain reasons. It is equally important for them to obey those rules when no one is watching, or when they may not get in trouble for disobeying a rule. You can set the example when you follow the speed limit, don’t litter, obey park signs, etc. Obeying all rules and not just some of them helps children learn integrity.

Expect and Require Respect

Don’t tolerate your child being disrespectful to teachers, coaches, family members, or friends. If you allow disrespect with some people, it will eventually flow into how they treat all people. Respect should be given to everyone regardless of whether he or she deserves it.

Praise Respect

As we try to teach any aspect of character development to children, we have to give praise and point out the areas of growth. Let your child know when she has done something well and that it makes you proud. Praise and positive reinforcement will motivate your child to be more aware of this good behavior and to repeat it.

A Short Devotional for Elementary Students on Respect

Read 1 Peter 3:8–9.
Peter calls us to be “like-minded” and “love one another,” encouraging sympathy, compassion, and humility. Can we summarize these with one word? Respect. Respect sees every person as an image bearer of God and as His own child whom He loves dearly.

In addition, we are to show respect even to those who accuse us or wrong us. After all, Jesus was accused and wronged for doing good but continued to respect those individuals whom God loved. We need to respond to others in such a way that shows a person she is highly honored and valued. As we give respect to others, we show them the love of God.