Together With Children is the blog of the Office of Child Advocacy.
One particularly troubling aspect of our culture is the general lack of respect that seems to be the norm in day-to-day interactions with others. Growing up, I was taught to respect my elders and those in authority. In the south where I lived, children routinely addressed their elders with “yes sir” and “no ma’am”, “please” and “thank you” were expected. While that’s still true in a lot of households, the general tone of civility seems markedly missing. And I’m certainly not immune myself: when I am behind the wheel of my car and someone commits one of the cardinal sins of driving (cutting me off in traffic, not signaling a turn, or the like), I’ve been known to gesture and yell things I would never say face to face in an encounter.
Today our children overhear interchanges on talk shows and reality shows—and even in arguments between parents— that make most of us cringe. We can also be guilty of speaking to our children in ways we would never speak to our friends. This is not to say that discipline is not important, nor is it to suggest that children should not be respectful of those who care for them. Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, a landmark report by The Commission on Children at Risk, a panel of 33 leading children's doctors, neuroscientists, research scholars and youth service professionals, draws upon a large body of recent research showing that children are biologically primed ("hardwired") for enduring connections to others and for moral and spiritual meaning. The authors introduce a new public policy and social science term — authoritative communities — to describe the ten essential traits across social institutions that produce better outcomes for children. The report tell us that the best kind of parenting is authoritative (not to be confused with authoritarian)—a balance of setting and enforcing clear boundaries and engaging in warm nurturing interactions.
By definition, this style of parenting requires respectful interactions between parents and children. Helping to counter the climate of disrespect in our culture starts right there in the home, where parents and other family members model a style of interaction where everyone of every age is listened to and respected.
Today, pray for discernment in how to model respectful interactions, both with your children and with others where your children will witness how you speak and act. Pray for the humility to ask forgiveness when anger or pettiness or exhaustion frames your words.