I was recently asked this question at a conference. Have you ever wondered the same thing? Certainly, as parents, we blow it. Can we still ask our children to honor us?
God has put children in our lives to shine a floodlight on our own need to grow. Time and time again we see our own sinful actions and reactions in our family.
Yet Scripture also calls our children to honor us. How can we ask them to do this us when we are so sinful? (And I would add, are we calling them to honor us at all? I believe this is a missing component in our society.)
Reasons to Teach Honor
First, honoring us is not our idea but God’s idea. He is the one commanding our children to obey when they are young and honor us at all times (Ephesians 6:1-4). So as we teach this we are teaching what God commands. In fact, this idea is so important that God enshrined it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12).
Second, we do this is because we are an authority in our child’s life. We hold the office of parent. The Lord gave you that office knowing full well you are sinful. Every parent is. But God still calls us to honor that office.
We can see this principle played out in many other areas of life. If I assault a private citizen it is one level of offense. But if I assault a police officer it is another level of offense. Why? Because he or she is an authorized representative of the government. Similarly, we are acting as God’s representative in the life of our children.
All of us, our children included, do not want anyone to rule them. As we teach them to honor us we are training that vertical reflex to honor the Lord. Good parenting trains character even as we know God must give them a new heart.
Third, God tells us that as we inculcate this attitude, it will go well with our children. Paul tells us that this is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2-3). God’s blessings flow to the person who has learned to properly recognize, honor, and submit to authority. Defining the word properly is beyond the scope of this article. Certainly we want children who are full of life and confident. But one can be rambunctious and still honor those in authority.
How Do We Teach This?
Now that we know the why, let’s think a little bit about some of the how.
Scripture tells us that one facet of love is giving proper honor. In fact, we are commanded to, “Outdo one another is showing honor” (Romans 12:10). So we want to have a home where Mom is verbally honoring Dad in front of the children and Dad is verbally honoring Mom. We also want to have a home where we are speaking similarly about grandparents.
Reactively, it is easiest for one parent to come to the defense of the other. For example, a dad might on occasion say “Lisa, you should not speak to your Mom this way. She is your mother. God tells you to honor her. Try saying it again.”
Proactively, we show honor in remembering special days. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays of parents and grandparents are all chances to train our children in the honoring of the office and the person. Again, the idea is that the father is rallying the children to honor their mother and a mother, the father. Or the parents are encouraging their children to honor the grandparents.
This appropriate honoring of authority also spills over into how we interact with teachers, coaches, police officers, and pastors. This is not an attitude of slavish obedience or cowardly subservience. But it is a recognition of and honoring of authority that God has put into our lives. And of course, a Christian is ultimately a person who honors the Creator and Savior. Giving honor is what loving people do.
Jesus revealed to us that he honors his Father (John 8:49). Appropriate honor is a sign of love. It is commanded by God for the good of our children and to display his nature in our family. So even as we are working on becoming a person of worthy of honor, we can still encourage our children in it.