As parents we are all concerned about training our children the best we possibly can. We search for fundamental keys that will help us to be successful. May I suggest a few of those fundamental keys are found in the Ten Commandments, especially the command to “honor thy father and mother” (Ex. 20:12). This command grows out of our respect for God and what He says (Ex. 20:1-7); therefore, we honor our parents. The command to honor our parents is followed by five more commands addressing our responsibilities toward our fellowman. If children learn to honor their parents, a foundation is laid for proper attitudes toward others. When God tells children to honor their parents, He is not only helping them but parents as well. God knows the tremendous load we bear as parents, so He gives us the boundaries we must give our children.
Children learn respect for others when they are taught to honor their parents. Teaching them manners like “Yes sir,” “Yes ma’am,” “Please,” and “Thank-you” are just fundamental to respect for others. Our young people must also be taught courtesy: boys give a lady their chair, respect for the elderly. Additionally, children should not be allowed to strike their parents. Help them learn such behavior is not the proper way to deal with anger, frustration, or even humiliation. However, if children are not first taught respect for God, they will not be taught the value of respect for others. Respect for others helps children learn respect for human life, and thus they learn “thou shalt not murder.”
Furthermore, teaching children to honor their parents helps them learn respect for moral purity. Moral purity is our aim; the by-product children learn is “thou shalt not commit adultery.” Today we hear and read a lot about the immorality among our young people. However, adults are not one whit behind, and sadly such immorality has become all too common among God’s people. Young people also need to learn that disparaging jokes, filthy insinuations, sensual magazines and movies are not becoming to Christians. We must teach moral purity by being an example of purity and loyalty in our words and deeds.
Moreover, when children are taught to honor their parents, they learn respect for human property. I am reminded of one occasion when we were visiting my parents. Our son, Codie, who was just beginning to walk, was walking around touching everything in his reach. When dad began to put everything out of his reach, we asked him not to because Codie needed to learn what he could and could not touch. (Besides, I do not remember my parents putting things up out of my reach. Yes, I have learned it is different with grandkids.) Seriously, if we fail here, why should we be surprised when children later decide to steal something just because they want it? Teaching our children to honor our possessions helps them learn “thou shalt not steal.”
Further, children learn respect for human justice when they are taught to honor their parents. My dad had zero tolerance for lying and administered his disapproval forcefully when he caught me lying. I didn’t understand that he was teaching me the importance of telling the truth and honesty as they relate to good character. Right beside his disdain for lying was speaking dishonorably and disrespectfully to him or mom, especially mom. She was his queen and his prize jewel, and I knew it. Folks, children ought not to be excused for lying or speaking disrespectfully to their parents. If children are allowed to do that when they are young, why wouldn’t they dishonor others if it will achieve their selfish ends? Children must learn early “thou shalt not bear false witness.”
Equally important is the need for children to learn respect for human individuality which will help them learn “thou shalt not covet.” The idea of coveting is an inordinate desire. Our children need to learn they can’t have and do not need everything the next fellow has. Children need to honor their parents’ status: they received an education and worked hard to earn the income they have. Likewise, children must learn the value of a good education and hard work in order to achieve in life. Along with respect for human individuality, children need to learn there are different levels of ability and different levels of status in life. This should help them understand they do not have to compete with their neighbor or society in general.
Finally, parents make mistakes and at times don’t use the best judgments. Sometimes we even fail to practice the principles we teach. But, our imperfection does not give children the right to point a finger and say, “Look you made a mistake; you aren’t perfect. I don’t have to listen to you.” Respect for parents is not built on their inherent strength, goodness or wisdom but because it is God’s will. Parents, let’s diligently teach our children to honor their parents so that it may be well with their soul.