Respect: That estimation or honor in which men hold the distinguished worth or substantial good qualities of others.
Noah Webster 1828
American Dictionary or the English Language
In simple terms respect is to honor others worth. The bible tells us that all men are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26). We are of great importance and worth to God (Psalm 139). Given this information we must be respecters of all. This is a little hard to swallow for me since my instinct is to only respect those who deserve it according to my judgement!
The more I think on what respect means, the more I realize I have been acting on and thinking of respect as a feeling. But, respect is not a feeling it is an action. It is a choice. As we have been training respect this week we have been talking about how respect is an attitude. It chooses to think of others first and to honor them, whether the person deserves honor or not.
We have been talking about respect in greeting and meeting people, in conversations, and in ongoing relationships. When we first meet a person we respect and value their worth as a child of God by being cheerful, attentive and polite. The children and I have practiced looking people in the eye, introductions and proper hand shakes. This is still in the training stage at our house as none of my children have offered a hand to someone new or used proper protocol for introductions. I trust as we continue to train this they will be able to use it in the world and it will show honor and respect to others. The first time I met one of our pastor's sons he smiled confidently, stuck out his hand to shake mine and spoke cheerfully and confidently to me. I was amazed that a 9 year old boy made me feel so special by simply greeting and meeting me! I pray my girls will do the same some day.
Other ways we respect those around us is by using good manners. We train our children to be polite and well mannered for others benefit. For little ones this means being polite in our play and sharing, eating politely and being patient with others. None of these things come very naturally to a child so they must be encouraged and trained.
When children are playing they must be coached and trained on the proper attitudes and actions. If we never require a child to respect others they will quickly alienate everyone around them! As parents we need to be willing to stop what we are doing and address the arguments over toys, address the loud or improper voices and address the greed that often comes when playing with others. I have found that if we approach this training from a heart of respect for the other person it will give more meaning than simply fixing the situation by taking away toys, separating children or redirecting. It is well worth taking the time to talk out the situation with the little ones. When a child snatches a toy from another I try and ask them questions like, "is this how you want to be treated? Did you ask first and then wait patiently? Did you get help from a parent when the other child wouldn't share?" This gives the children tools to use; ask, wait patiently, get help etc. This respects the other persons space, time and choice. If the other person refuses to give the item to the other child in a timely manner we should not get angry and argue, but, seek help from mom or dad.
When sharing a meal with others it is a good habit to train manners before hand. If we require good manners at every meal and work on them little by little as our children grow they will be habits that carry over into meals with others. Again, practicing and giving a child tools to use will prevent arguments, offenses and poor manners. No child is expected to like everything placed in front of them, cut their meat perfectly at age 4 or never spill. When a child does not like something it is wise for the parent to only give a small portion and for the child to politely say, "no, thank you, or just a little, please." We have a rule that you may not give your opinion about a food unless you are asked or you have something complimentary to say. This works well, but needs to be reminded often at our house!
Respect looks so much simpler as a child. You are to treat others well in all situations. As our children grow we will have more opportunities to encourage them to make the choice to respect even when it seems unfit for the situation. Our 7 year-old daughter has started to notice the sin or unwise choices other people make. We have had opportunity to encourage her to, "love and respect the person, but hate the sin." One of our pastors, Mark Darling, shared this in a sermon many years ago and I have held tightly to this. Others are not always easy to respect, but, we can train our children and ourselves to treat others with dignity and worth. Respect does not lie and honor those who have acted dishonorably, it does however, treat others with good manners. Let's encourage our little ones to show respect right from the start, honoring others with their good actions and manners will become a beautiful habit as they grow!