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Honoring Grandparents In an Age of Unhonor

Family relationships are tricky. Sin affects everything including our families. And that certainly applies to our extended family.  Grandparents can be a blessing, require some tricky navigation, or be a constant challenge.

But more often what I worry about is how our cultural child-centeredness influences how families view grandparents.  The very nature of sin causes all of us to curve in on ourselves. As a result, I wonder if God’s call to honor those who are older, especially grandparents, has fallen on hard times. Are we asking grandparents to honor the grandchildren rather than the other way around?

Functionally, who is honoring whom more?

Maybe this lack of notice is not even dishonor. It is, to coin a new word – unhonor. It never even crosses the child’s mind to honor their grandparents.

Three Principles to Honor Grandparents
To combat this child-centeredness I offer these three suggestions. How you implement them will depend on the current age of your children, the nature of your relationship with the grandparents, and how close you live.

1. Teach your children to honor the aged.
God takes one-tenth of his law to command honor of parents (Exodus 20:12). It is the only command with a promise, Paul reminds us. Even more so, by extension, we are to honor grandparents. It is good to train our children to honor us and to honor their grandparents.

When I was in school, as a sign of respect and honor, we were expected to rise when the teacher walked in. If another teacher interrupted the class, we rose when he or she came in as well. This now-quaint tradition in a secular school showed honor to those in authority over us. It was a specific application of Leviticus 19:32, “Stand in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere the Lord your God.” This verse clearly shows that honoring the aged and honoring the Lord are tied together.

All sorts of applications fall out from this principle.

  • When our children are small, they should warmly greet their arriving grandparents.
  • When older they should put down their electronic device and actually talk with their grandparents.
  • We can give them questions to ask their grandparents. See the Donut Date Journal 2 for suggestions.
  • When still older they might even ask advice about issues they are facing.

There are many, many ways honor can and should flow from child to grandparent.

2. Teach your children to take the initiative in reaching out. 
Many grandparents will not want to impose on their grandchild’s life. As a result they are waiting for the child to invite them in.  Let’s encourage our children to take the initiative to ask their grandparents into their lives. This might include an invitation to sporting events or plays. It might just be texting them every now and then. Or it could involve asking them to talk with their distant grandparent on the phone.

3. Accept your role as catalyst and honor as a goal.
As the parent you have a key role in encouraging this relationship. Yet with the busyness of life and the self-centeredness of sin, this area will need constant attention. Even as I was writing this post, I texted a reminder to my adult children to reach out to their grandparents. They do an excellent job in this area but we all need reminders. Know that teaching them to appropriately honor their grandparents will give them a deeper perspective on life. It will be one more step toward thankfulness and out of self-focus.

Relationships with grandparents can be tricky. Teaching our children to honor the aged and particularly the aged closest to them pleases the Lord and is a worthwhile discipleship goal.

A Few Questions for Application:
Had you thought that it pleases the Lord to train your children to honor you and the grandparents?
What challenges do you have in honoring the grandparents?
If you are a grandparent, do you see this as an issue?
What are you doing as a parent to encourage honor of grandparents?

I would love to hear from you with answers to any of these!