Tag Archives: respect

Character foundations: respect, honor and honesty

I flipped open my Growing Kids God’s Way workbook just now and came upon a passage I had previously highlighted. I’ve been thinking a lot about my children’s character lately, so it’s fitting that the book opened to this page. Here’s the quote:

“The quality of your character and that of your children is best exemplified by the presence or absence of three attributes: respect, honor and honesty. … Respect, honor and honesty are critical fibers in the moral fabric of our being. To respect our fellow man is to honor him, and to honor him is to live honestly before him. The parent’s job is to take the intangible concepts of respect, honor and honesty and make them tangible—to take their abstract meanings and make them concrete. They must show their children what moral truth looks like,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 90-91).

With this in mind, I looked at the house rules I have displayed on my white board to see if they help accomplish this goal. I have had these rules on my board for quite a while and considered revising them simply because my kids are older, but ultimately I decided to leave them as they are. This tells me that these rules—founded on the basis of respect, honor and honesty—are constants in our lives. Following is a list of house rules you might consider as you expect these character traits in your children.

  • Obey mommy and daddy; say “yes, mommy” and “yes, daddy”
  • Be true in all things; never tell a lie
  • Always use nice words; nasty attitudes are never tolerated
  • Be polite; say “please” and “thank you”
  • Answer when spoken to; say “hello” and “goodbye”
  • Respect and obey adults; make eye contact and respond kindly

As I was writing this, I started to wonder what the real difference is between respect and honor. According to Microsoft Word, the words are synonymous. Yet, there is a wise quote from a 19-year-old girl in the GKGW workbook that distinguishes the two:

“I can never remember a time in my life when I was not required to show all those in positions of authority respect. It is second-nature for me to do so, although it is hard sometimes to respect a person who is in authority over you because of a lack of integrity in their personal life. It helped when my parents explained the difference between respecting the person and respecting the position. I can always respect a position of authority out of a sense of duty. When I respect someone in authority because of the way they conduct their life, I am honoring them out of a sense of devotion. Understanding the difference between ‘duty’ and ‘devotion’ helps me always respect authority figures,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 91).

I think of respect as being action-oriented while honor is more of an attitude or belief. While our children are young, we ought to expect actions that reflect respect. With such a foundation then, they are well equipped to develop a sense of honor for those things they have been taught to respect.

How well does your parenting teach your children to show respect, honor and honesty?

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Tuesday Triumphs: Character development

Just last week, a parent who frequently volunteers in William’s classroom complimented me on his character. She said, “William is such a confident child, but he’s sweet and kind-hearted, not arrogant.” Her implication was that confidence often brings out arrogance and that William proves that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Her comment made me smile, of course, but more than that, it made me wonder what it is that makes him this way. There’s no doubt that he is confident. And he is a very sweet child.

When I think of his confidence in school, I immediately feel validation for our decision to delay Kindergarten. His birthday is just two weeks before our state’s cut-off date, so no matter which way we went, he was going to be either the oldest or the youngest. There was no middle ground. His first year of pre-K, he was the youngest. His immaturity was blatant. His second year of pre-K (same school, same teachers), he was one of the oldest, and his teachers (and I) were amazed by what a different child he was. The confidence and maturity he gained made all the difference.

But aside from his age compared to his classmates, I knew there was more, especially since he is in a mixed-age class right now. I know that I would never accept arrogance from my child, but how exactly did that translate in a way that an outsider would notice? What I couldn’t figure out was whether this is just his personality or whether I did something as a parent to encourage this in his character. Then I picked up my copy of Childwise, and the first page I turned to gave me my answer:

“Certainly a child is born with a particular temperament on which personality is built. However, these do not excuse a child from appropriate character training. The combination of virtues instilled in a child’s heart must be the same [no matter his inborn temperament].

Character, in fact, is not about a person’s temperament or personality. It is the quality of a person’s personality and the moral restraint or encouragement of his temperament. It is the outward reflection of the inner person. Our character reflects our morality and our morality defines our character. They are inseparable,” (pg. 89-90).

To be honest, I have never consciously worked on William’s character. I remember once finding a list of character qualities and wanting to incorporate them into our daily routine, but it never really happened. What I think happened is that by implementing the Ezzos’ parenting philosophies, building his character became a natural by-product of all of the other work we had been doing.

The book makes it clear that we are to teach our children to respect authority, respect property, treat others with kindness and encourage service to others. By spelling out the character traits we should instill in our children, the Ezzos have validated all of the traits that I have always wanted in my boys. And not only do they spell it out, they give me a road map to achieving it.

Ultimately, what this shows me is that the relatively minor details of my parenting—like developing a schedule, defining a discipline plan and working towards first-time obedience—are all part of a much bigger effort in character development. I’m happy to see that it’s all working as I had hoped.

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Tuesday Triumphs: Strength in learning

This demonstrates William's handwriting and detailed drawings. He knows he's only allowed to throw balls. 🙂

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I am amazed by how much and how quickly William is learning in school this year. He is now six years old and in full-day Kindergarten. His private school’s curriculum is a year ahead of public schools. So while William is an older Kindergartner (by design), he is learning first-grade academics. He’s a very confident reader and is beginning to explore multiplication in math. Art will always be his favorite, but he also loves Spanish and playing the recorder in music.

This shows what William is learning in math. Adding 3 numbers!

A couple incidents this week demonstrated his academic success. One night, while my husband was reading a chapter book to him before bed, William corrected my husband’s pronunciation of a name while reading over his shoulder.

And just the other day, while discussing a spelling app I had installed on my phone, I mentioned that the words were pretty easy (cat, bird, ship). He said, “I can spell hard words like ‘information.’” He proceeded to spell the word and got it right until the tricky “tion” part.

I attribute William’s strength in learning in part to the way we have parented him. Despite the struggles we’ve had with his sensory issues, he does really well in school. His teacher says that William is always diligent with his work and has no trouble concentrating on the task at hand.

His handwriting is pretty advanced for his age. Not bad for a Kindergartner!

There are several character traits that I strive to instill in my kids, and they work well both at home and at school:

  • Respect for authority
  • Listening and attentiveness
  • Concentration
  • Thriving in a structured environment
  • Independence in play and in schoolwork
  • High standards for himself and his work
  • Appropriate social skills

This last trait was put to the test four days ago when a classmate punched William in the face. This boy was frustrated that William wouldn’t do what he wanted and rather than speak to him about his frustrations, he lashed out in aggression. As a mom, I am just appalled that this would even happen in school, and my immediate reaction was to protect my baby from the outside world.

But his response to the incident tells me that he knows very well how to behave among friends. Not only did he not hit back or scream or even cry, but he shrugged it off and walked away. Later, he told me that it hurt and that he was sad that his friend would hurt him. The boy was disciplined appropriately (sent home from school), which I take heart in. But even more encouraging to me than the school’s reaction was William’s response.

Thanks to all that I have learned from the Ezzos, I feel confident in William’s abilities in school and among friends. These skills not only help him in Kindergarten, but I’m confident they will inspire strength in learning throughout his many school years to come.

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Maturity in children

Have you ever received a comment from a stranger that validates your parenting? Amid the daily ups and downs I have with my kids, I occasionally get such comments. I got one just last week.

Someone told me that William, my oldest, seems particularly mature for his age. Mature. We have our struggles, especially when his SPD (sensory processing disorder) rears its ugly head. If we get basic good behavior, I call it a good day. So why did this word strike me? I can think of a slew of other characteristics that I’d rather be complimented on:

  • Well mannered
  • Confident
  • Selfless
  • Respectful
  • Smart

But the word mature is especially flattering. Mature is how I would describe the children of the parents I most respect. When a child is mature, it means to me that they have all of these qualities and more. When a child is mature, it tells me the child has been taught how to confidently navigate his way through this world.

When a child has been taught how to navigate the world, he is given the foundation that allows him to develop confidence. With that foundation, the child is free to learn and grow.

What is that foundation built upon? Obedience. Yes, everything circles back to obedience.

“Freedom is not found in autonomy, it is found in obedience.” (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp, p. 27)

I’m reminded of a story my contact mom once told me. She said she and another mom were on a hike with their kids and reached a particularly treacherous area. The path was surrounded on one side by water and on the other side by a steep drop-off. It was a dangerous spot. The other mom held her children’s hands tightly to keep them from running away and to keep them safe. She couldn’t trust them.

Meanwhile, my contact mom had taught her children to obey her word. She was able to tell them to stay near her while still letting them walk freely. Because of their characteristic obedience, these children were given the freedom to appropriately explore their world. They could be trusted to keep themselves safe, and because of this obedience, they were allowed more freedom.

So do I want my children to be happy, respectful, confident and a host of other qualities? Of course. But will I strive most for obedience and maturity? No doubt.

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Bloggers on first-time obedience

Here are some of the best comments on the web on the topic of first-time obedience. Great food for thought.

First-time obedience sets clear expectations

Excerpt (emphasis mine): From a practical standpoint, the establishment of a high and clearly-defined standard is kinder than having a vague and intermittently-enforced standard. Why should my child have to factor in my mood, the time of day, recent history and the relative humidity when calculating how quickly to obey me? Better to make it clear and simple, so they can focus their energy on the important fun of being a child. My relationship with my son or daughter (like my relationship with my boss or my wife) will operate more smoothly and without resentment when expectations are clearly communicated.

Teach obedience and you don’t have to teach anything else

Excerpt (emphasis mine): When we start with just that one thing, we don’t have to do much else. What could be more simple? Once your child understands obedience, everything else is pretty much taken care of. Henceforth, you can simply ask him to come to you and he will. You can ask him to pick up his toys and he will. You can ask him to get ready for bed and he will trot off and do so. You can even ask him to “stop crying,” and he will stop. Simple. Obedience is really all you need to teach a little one.

Delayed obedience is disobedience

Excerpt (emphasis mine): We should expect our children to obey us. Period. Counting says to your child, “I need you to do this right now. But, I know my needs aren’t as important as yours so you can just do it when you feel like doing it.” I first heard the phrase, “Delayed obedience is disobedience” when my children were small. It served me well as a parent and I have shared it each year with the parents I work with at school.

Obedience and respect go hand in hand. By not insisting on first-time obedience, we are instilling in our children a disregard for authority. Without that respect, every request becomes a battle to be fought, and won, more often than not, by our child.

Teach your child to obey your word

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Always ensure that your word is obeyed. Expect first time obedience without argument, bad attitude or having to give several “reminders” (aka nagging). Do not accept partial obedience. Don’t limit your children with your own low expectations, they will live up to the standard you set, whether low or high. Make your word valuable by enforcing the rules, if you don’t, your word means nothing and your rules are meaningless. Your follow-through will make your words either garbage or gold. Never give a command you don’t intend to enforce. This concept of first time obedience is more difficult for parents than for children, but if we can train ourselves to be consistent with our follow-through, our children can learn to obey the first time.

Consistency is required!

Excerpt (emphasis mine): Through consistent use of this one-warning discipline system, children will learn to listen and obey the first time they are asked to do something. If a parent continues to be lax and only follow-through with the consequences some of the time, the child will continue to disobey and the cycle will continue.

Training comes first. Trust comes later.

Excerpt (emphasis mine): There’s the complimentary part to first-time obedience: trust. If we are loving on our children, responding in kindness, patient, and joyful, they will be trained to obey us out of their trust of us. That comes with a little time and experience, though, so in the earliest years, they do need to be trained to immediately obey.

If you’re on the fence about requiring first-time obedience in your home, perhaps these articles will help convince you. Read the full articles for more.

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Children want to be disciplined

Among most parents, it’s understood that children need discipline. But have you ever considered that your child actually wants to be disciplined? Sure, he may protest when you send him to his room, but many experts say children actually crave discipline.

I am currently reading Make Your Children Mind without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman and in the book, he says, “They don’t test us out of orneriness; what they really want to know is whether or not we care. When we are firm and prove that we do care, they may not like it but they do respect us and appreciate us,” (p. 88).

Discipline shows you care
Our children want discipline simply to know that we care about them. When you discipline your child, you are showing that you have a vested interest in how he behaves. You show that you care about what he does and who he becomes.

Some children of permissive parents will act out simply to challenge their parents to discipline them. They will try every misdeed in the book to see if their parents care enough to discipline them. Sadly, this tactic usually backfires on them. Not only do they not receive loving discipline, but also they get shouting, frustrated parents who lash out once they have reached their breaking point. (Think Supernanny.)

Discipline allows children to learn
Our children also want discipline so they can learn to navigate the world around them. In most cases, our children come from a place of innocence and want to please their parents. However, they are still learning the ways of the world and need their parents’ discipline to redirect them towards right behavior.

No matter how young, on some level, your child recognizes that he needs this discipline to learn how to behave in the world. He knows that the world can be a big, scary place, and he depends on you to teach and guide him by disciplining those behaviors that are not acceptable in our world.

Discipline cleanses the soul
Most importantly, disciplining your child can cleanse his soul. When you discipline, the behavior is spoken about openly and is addressed with love. The child understands what he did wrong and has the opportunity to apologize for his actions. He also has the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those he offended. Once he repents and receives forgiveness, his slate is wiped clean.

When a child misbehaves and receives no discipline, he may feel secretly self-conscious about his behavior but has no opportunity to confess his sin or ask for forgiveness. Without being encouraged to apologize to his parents, his sins are left to fester in his heart.

His heart then becomes full of negativity, especially if his whole childhood is characterized by a lack of discipline. He may even carry this feeling into his adult years. Sure, he may understand that the actions he committed as a child are relatively insignificant, but when that negativity stays in his heart for so long, the actions and his feelings toward them can get blown out of proportion.

Be sure to show your child you care about his actions and his heart by disciplining him in love. One day, he will thank you for it.

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The marriage priority

What does your marriage have to do with parenting? Everything. If you have read any of the Ezzos’ books, then you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage, the relationship between you and your spouse, must come first. As Ezzo says in On Becoming Childwise, “Great marriages make great parents,” (page 43).

There is this pervasive idea in our culture that everything we do is for our children. We will sacrifice our health, our happiness and even our marriage as long as it’s what’s best for the child. Among some moms, it’s a competition to see who can be the biggest martyr. These moms equate martyrdom with love, in effect saying that the more you sacrifice, the more you love your child.

In the media today, there are examples of parents choosing divorce and saying that it is what is best for the child. Jon and Kate Gosselin from the reality show Jon and Kate Plus 8 is one example. I think the Ezzos would agree with me that if you really want what’s best, you should work on your marriage and heal that relationship—for your child.*

Ensuring stability and security
The reason the Ezzos say to make your marriage your first priority is not to satisfy your own selfish desires. Nor is it to put your spouse on a pedestal. It is for the sake of the child that we put our marriage first. Your child’s whole world is dependent on his parents. He depends on you for his health, safety and emotional well-being. Your marriage is the ground upon which your child stands. You are his foundation.

Ezzo says it best: “Where there is harmony in the marriage, there is stability within the family. Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children. When a child observes the special friendship and emotional togetherness between his parents, he feels secure. He doesn’t wonder about his parents’ commitment to one another. There is no disconnect between what his parents say about their love for each other and what he sees and senses in daily life. Successful parenting flows out of this rock-solid bond,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 36).

Think about what happens during a divorce. Your child’s DNA is made from both of his parents. He is equal parts of the two of you. When your marriage suffers, he suffers as well. When the two parts that make the whole child are split into two, the child is, in essence, torn into two.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine your child standing on a sheet of ice with his weight evenly distributed on both feet. Now imagine that the ice gives way, and a wide crack splits the ice right between his feet. What happens to the child? He either falls through into the ice or he must jump to one side of the crack and run to safety. If your marriage is the ice splitting in two, your child’s stability and safety is in jeopardy. Add to that his need to jump from one side to the other. In that split second when the ice is cracking, he must choose which parent to jump to for safety.

Creating a family identity
One phrase you will hear in Ezzo circles is that the child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Putting your marriage first not only creates security for your child, but it also creates a sense of togetherness. It builds the family identity.

Here’s another analogy for you. Imagine yourself on your wedding day holding both of your spouse’s hands. There you are, looking into each other’s eyes, standing close together and feeling loved. When you bring a child into the family, where does he go? Do you continue to stand there together still holding your spouse’s hands and let the child stand between you? If so, what happens when the child gets bigger? What happens when you have more children? Eventually, you find that you can barely touch each other’s fingertips much less hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes.

Rather than putting the child in the center, let your child stand next to you with the three of you holding hands in a circle as a family unit. Look into each other’s eyes. Talk to each other. And let your family circle grow as you bring new children into it.

Setting an example for love
When your child is raised in a home with two parents who visibly love each other, the child learns how to love. As in all aspects of parenting, we are models for our children. We set the example that they are to follow. Show your child what it means to have a healthy, happy marriage so that he can grow up to achieve the same for himself.

Feeling loved allows you to give love
When your marriage is happy and healthy, your spouse shows love for you on a regular basis. You feel loved. As a result, you are better able to express love to your child. If you feel depleted, then you have nothing to give. As they say on the airlines: put your own oxygen mask on first. When you are happy and healthy, your child will be happy and healthy.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some practical ideas to help you make your marriage a priority.

*A little caveat here: staying in an abusive marriage is not what is best for the child (or you).

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