A general disrespect for authority seems to abound in our culture. Citizens distrust politicians, employees are cynical about their employers, and some even second guess the motives of local law enforcement officers. We hear news headlines of corruption and abuse, and it only fuels the belief that people in positions of authority only care about advancing themselves. Unfortunately, this common attitude of disrespect will infuse the attitudes of our kids if we don’t purposefully teach them to respect authority. After all, certain positions of authority are ordained by God and should be respected as such. So how do we teach our kids to respect authority?
1. Show them how. Model respect in front of them. When the police officer pulls you over, demonstrate respect. Refrain from grilling the pastor over Sunday dinner. Be careful to not berate your employer when you are around your kids. Be the respectful person you want your kids to be. Remember that even David felt conviction for cutting off a piece of King Saul’s garment. He embarrassed the king – an authority ordained by God. David realized that his duty was to solve his problems in a way that did not diminish the God-given authority given to Saul. It’s not always easy to model respect when we don’t think the leader is respectable. But if you will be an example of one who shows respect, you’ll like the way your kids turn out.
2. Show respect for your child’s authorities. If a teacher, Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, or other leader has done something to warrant a rebuke, speak to that person privately about the issue. Complaining about the issue to your child will only make your child less likely to respect that leader. If mom and dad don’t respect the teacher, then why should the student?
3. Teach respect for the position, even when the person in authority fails. Scripture commands us to show respect to authority figures (e.g. Government – Romans 13; Employers – 1 Peter 2). Despite the failures of leaders, children must learn to obey those in authority. Exempting your kids from obedience because you have a personal vendetta against the person will create an attitude of contempt. Children will begin to think that obedience and respect are optional. And you will be surprised how their disrespectful attitude develops in ways never imagined – they’ll disrespect leaders you admire and respect.
4. Be consistent when enforcing rules. Inconsistency fosters feelings of insecurity; it provokes children to anger against their parents and all other authorities. Children see this kind of treatment as cruel and lacking concern. Unfortunately, perceived inconsistencies are not inconsistencies at all. Mom and Dad know details that the children don’t always know. Some siblings may have different rules because of their age. Others show maturity at different ages, thereby gaining privileges at different ages than their siblings. Sometimes finances and other family situations change the rules of the house. This is why it’s important to explain perceived inconsistencies.
5. Ban media that disrespects authority. Don’t be surprised when your children start talking like the characters they watch on television. Just because it’s made for youths doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for them. Be skeptical of children’s books that turn disrespect into humor. A lot of the music marketed for youths fosters a spirit of independence and autonomy that launches an attitude of rebellion. Make sure you are the most influential teacher to your children, not the mass media.