Teaching honor is trickier than teaching obedience, since honor is a gift. It’s awkward to teach someone to give you a gift. Honor must be freely given, from the heart. Honor isn’t something you can demand from your children, but you can certainly motivate them to grow in it. Consider the following six ways you can help your children develop honor.
Honor Lesson #1: Teach children to treat people as special
Children often don’t realize how specially their parents treat them. They take the daily gifts in family life for granted. To help your children begin to see how honor works, occasionally say to your child with a smile, “I made you some cookies for a snack. I wanted to honor you.” Children also learn to treat people as special when they watch how their parents treat each other and those outside the family.
Honor Lesson #2: Teach children to do more than what’s expected
Honor looks past the words of Mom’s intent. Honor involves being thoughtful and thorough about what you do. “The bathroom is an excellent place to work on honor,” one dad said. “We put up a sign by the light switch that read, ‘Is the bathroom ready for the next person?’” Instructing children to surprise you by doing something extra teaches them to think about your needs and desires, not just getting away with the bare minimum. When your child does some extra task, it’s like giving you a gift. Receive the gift with delight.
Honor Lesson #3: Deal with a bad attitude
When you’re teaching children what honor means in practical terms, attitude is a good place to start. Obedience is revealed in actions; honor is revealed in the attitude that goes along with those actions. Don’t just point out a bad attitude. Give children healthy alternatives. How should a child respond when given an instruction they’d rather not do? “Okay” is a good place to start. Honor redirects a bad attitude into constructive responses. If you want honor you must continue to correct until the attitude is changed. By disciplining for attitude problems and teaching your children a better way, you’re helping them to develop a lifestyle of honor.
Honor Lesson #4: Create honor lessons in life
Several techniques will help teach children to value others. A mother of two preschoolers said, “I teach my children that one way to honor me is to listen with both eyes. They think that’s funny, but it helps them understand that we show honor by looking at people when they speak.” Your own response to honor is important. When your son folds the towels as you asked and then does more by putting them away, your delight is his reward. Too often, parents focus on what a child doesn’t do, and they neglect to praise the child for the good thing he or she did. This results in discouragement, and children may give up on honor because they think it doesn’t work.
Honor Lesson #5: Model it
Children learn about honor from their parents. How your respond to the decisions of leaders or to the news teaches children how to respond to you. And the way Mom and Dad treat each other, even in disagreements, is an example to children of how they should treat others. When parents discipline with honor, they must remove selfishness from their own hearts in order to discipline effectively. This is a challenge, but the results reproduce themselves in their children. One adult remembers, “ My parents forced me to clean my room and make my bed. I remember I gave them a hard time. I can see now that something else was going on. The way my parents treated me was firm, but it also showed honor. I didn’t realize it then, but I was learning some valuable lessons about relationships.”
Honor Lesson #6: Appeal to conscience
Children may appear tough at times, but their delicate consciences can be a significant tool for helping them to learn honor. It’s amazing what touches a child’s conscience. Sometimes it’s a word spoken in sadness instead of anger. When disciplining his daughter, one dad said, “It makes me sad when you choose to hit your sister instead of talking things out. It also makes God sad when we don’t choose to do the right thing.” Appealing to the conscience is different from using guilt to manipulate. It is not a matter of telling a child, “You’re bad and you need to change.” Instead, we are trying to convey that the child is a good person who has done the wrong thing.
The rewards of an honoring family are great. When parents and children honor each other, the family dynamic changes, and joy is the result.
Dr. Scott Turansky is an author and speaker known for his heartfelt parenting approach. He offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges and is the founder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.