respect for authority

Building Proper Respect for Authority in Your Children

A key characteristic of a thriving family is a well-established chain of command—respect for authority. An All Pro Dad is responsible for delivering his precious cargo successfully into adulthood, and the family can’t be rudderless, with mutiny afoot at every turn. Building proper respect for authority in our children is an essential task.

A child who sincerely respects his or her parents, teachers, and neighbors will develop powerful qualities such as humility, integrity, personal responsibility, and accountability. Those traits will serve him or her quite well in every aspect of life. So how do we build respect for authority in our children? Here are four ways.

1. Set the correct example.

We want our children to be respectful, but are we living what we are preaching? Reflect on your actions and carefully consider what the kids are absorbing. Do they see you obeying traffic laws? Do you pay your taxes? Are you respectful to the employees of their school, your neighbors, civil servants, or even the worker at the drive-thru window? In the chain of command, everything starts at the top, with you. What do your children see? We must set the standard for their behavior.

2. Be a parent, not a friend.

No dad loves hanging out with his kids more than this one. I love them, and we have all the inside jokes, laughs, and good times that best friends would have. But my kids are not my friends. They are my daughters, and I am their dad. Our dynamic can’t work any other way. A big line of respect runs through our relationship that is not to be crossed. We are to teach our kids to say thank you, please, yes sir, and no ma’am. We should never allow our kids to speak with malice or disrespect to their parents or any adult figure in their world. It’s great to have close bonds with your kids, but maintain your authority at all times.

3. Don’t ignore moments of disrespect.

Nip disrespect in the bud at an early age. Don’t ignore the moments of disrespect that surely will occur, whether at home, at school, or in public. When my kids were younger, they knew they’d better keep it together in public or discipline would come. My oldest challenged this often, and I’d look at her and ask, “Have you lost your mind?” She understood by multiple examples that when I said those words, she would lose something she cared about if she didn’t stop. Always apply discipline to undesired behavior, and do so in an incremental manner. The first time, maybe they lose a favorite stuffed animal for an hour. The second time, it’s gone for the day. Third time? That’s up to your discretion. Never ignore these highly teachable moments.

4. Communicate the expected behavior clearly.

If we are modeling the behavior we expect, maintaining our parental authority, and disciplining when our children make mistakes, we are going to be in pretty good shape. Clearly communicate to your children what you expect. When you discipline them, be sure they understand the reason for the punishment. Communication is always key to mutual respect, so keep the lines open. Stay calm, reinforce your love for them at all times, and reward great behavior just as much as you discipline the negative.

Sound off: How have you handled disrespect from your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does respect mean to you?”