Discussions of Substance – Reciprocal Respect

In my last post, I shared how a passion to improve marriage for future generations inspired a conversation with my 22-year-old son.  I want to help parents foster an atmosphere of reciprocal respect so their children will ‘hear’ them and take to heart advice regarding pre-marital sex. 

Study after study has proven that parents have the greatest influence in this arena.  We know we have this influence, but HOW do we go about influencing?

At about six or seven months old, an infant realizes it is an independent being, but I don’t think the parent truly realizes.  It’s not absolutely obvious until their thoughts, desires, opinions conflict with our own.  Just because it conflicts doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  Little Lucy wants to wear stripes and plaid.  It’s hideous, but it’s her opinion.  It’s these conflicts that test our mettle and give us the opportunity to hone reciprocal respect.

A family in the Netherlands reads together in 1958.

A family in the Netherlands reads together in 1958.

Reciprocal respect is my term for embracing the reality that your child is not a mini-me.  It is allowing them to exhibit their unique personalities.  In turn, they will feel your consideration of them as people with something to offer and acknowledge this with respect.  I’m not saying do away with rules.  To the contrary, I’m saying understand your rules enough that you aren’t threatened when kids question them.  Which they will.  It’s avoiding the “Because I said so!” and instead expounding on, “Here’s why….”  And yes, there will always be that exasperating instance where Little Lucas is pushing you to the limit and he knows it.  That’s when after three explanations you say, “You are smart enough to understand this.”

The Basics to encourage an atmosphere of reciprocal respect:

1.  Do NOT over-react to misbehavior or dissension.
2.  Let the punishment fit the crime, discipline should be thought-filled.
3.  NEVER yell at the top of your lungs or use demeaning, humiliating words to control behavior.

My husband and I didn’t always get this right.  First off, we had to un-learn some negative parenting techniques inherited from our families of origin.  I had to get rid of hypercritical perfectionism.

There is the huge and important factor of instilling integrity and character in our children.  Alan E. Godwin states, “Like many things, integrity is more often caught than taught…..infect our kids with integrity.”  Kids are our little mirrors.  Live out your values and your children will absorb them almost through osmosis. 

Fondness fosters openness.  Fun fosters openness.  We all need the release of laughter and light-heartedness.  Fun bonds a family and helps cement reciprocal respect.  It overcomes the fist-pounding, ‘my way or the highway’ attitude.  The fist-pounding atmosphere will not help your children to look to you for guidance.  Jesus didn’t pound his fists.  Jesus told stories. 

Try not to flinch or be guarded when the tough questions start coming.  Be prepared for them in advance.  (Look for a future post about “Tough Questions Kids Ask.”)

A good rule of thumb is to be as truthful as you can for the development level of your child.  As the kids become teens, sometimes it involves confessing your own past bad behavior and what you learned from it.  Showing that you are human does not diminish your leadership.  It shows that you have experience and understanding.

The good news is that each day we have a do-over!  None of us are perfect.  Pray for the Lord to guide your steps in raising your child in the most healthy way possible.  I pray for the strength and courage and wisdom to be bestowed upon the parents in our community!

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him,” Lamentations 3:25. 

Please read the following two articles.  I highly recommend them.  They go a long way in helping learn HOW to facilitate this atmosphere so that you can eventually empower your child regarding the downfalls of pre-marital sex.  When the opportunities arise to discuss this sensitive subject, you’ll have the foundation.

Alan E. Godwin’s post:  Infecting Your Kids with Integrity

and Dr. Joann Baum:  Respectful Parenting

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