Somewhere along the way, my little boy, who cuddled and snuggled, grew into a towering boy-man. This little boy, who would do his best to level me in a full on tackle, still reaches around me to squeeze me tight. I hold these moment like fragile glass balls and tuck them into my heart.
But then I’m as fragile as glass in those moments when he feels far away even though he’s standing right next to me. It’s those moments when I’m tempted to grip him tighter than ever and shower him with love. But what he needs is respect.
Respect is the key to our sons’ hearts.
The language of respect is not a mom’s native language. We filter everything we say or feel through the language of love. And it’s our love that should prompt us to learn the language of respect. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect, calls it “Respect-Talk.” I call it the key to connecting to my son’s heart. I know when I attack he pulls away, but when I show respect, he draws in closer even when we’re dealing with a difficult subject.
The hard part? Learning that dealing with the issue and our emotional response to the issue are two separate events. Moms, it’s not our son’s responsibility to listen to us process our emotions over a choice they made or to make us feel better about ourselves as moms. Our job is to parent our sons with honor, integrity and obedience.
A Mom’s Motivators
What is honor? Honor is positive regard and actions towards the spirit of our sons. It’s looking for and calling out the good. It’s appreciating who they are and saying thanks for what they do. Honor chooses words and tone of voice with wisdom. Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:3-4 guide us in treating others with honor and respect.
Integrity is soundness of moral character and adherence to moral principles. It’s being a person worth trusting and respecting. It’s letting our yes be yes and our no be no. It’s growing in character through perseverance and allowing God to refine us as we endure. 1 Kings 9:4, Ephesians 6:14, and Matthew 5:6 direct us into integrity of heart.
Obedience is to follow instructions. God’s word is clear on how we’re to treat one another.
We are to think of others above ourselves. We are to put on kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, and patience. This applies to everyone we come in contact with, including our children. But somehow, we give the people closest to us the worst of us, and the people we don’t live with the best of us.
As we focus on becoming women of honor, integrity, and obedience, we become worthy of respect. Respect affords us influence and creates an influential boy turned man. But what is respect?
Respect is Not:
- giving someone whatever they want when they want it.
- agreeing with everything someone says or does.
- insisting on “my way or else.”
- unearned trust.
- courteous consideration for another person.
- how we treat someone while making decisions, delivering consequences, or standing firm
- loving the spirit of someone and viewing them through a God-lens: wholly loved, with a God-given purpose.
10 Ways to Show Your Sons Respect
1. Make sensible rules.
Rules are necessary for life. Without rules, chaos would rule the day. And chaos doesn’t lead to a life filled with peace and joy. Rules teach us to think about the consequences of our choices. They also teach us to consider others and how our choices affect others outside of ourselves. And reasonable rules create an environment for following the rules.
2. Enforce rules with objectivity and consistency.
I’ll never forget the advice I received when my kids were young: say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t use empty threats. It doesn’t work in anyone’s favor to play favorites or ignore what’s happening. Do the hard work of following through on consequences. Keep rules reasonable and follow up with consistency.
3. Have clear expectations.
Do our sons know what we mean when we say “be nice?” Or does he know what we expect when meeting someone new? We need to be as clear as we can be. When we instruct or explain our expectations, teach, observe, and follow-up. Model what we expect. Practice with him and observe him. Review the expectations periodically. Repeat this process for each expectation.
4. Let go of control.
This one can be hard to do. As moms, we want the very best for our sons. We want them to synthesize what we teach them, we want them to succeed, and we want them to reach their full potential. But in order to reach their potential, we have to let them try and fail. We need to step back and give our sons space to wrestle through things, and yes, make mistakes.
5. Don’t coerce.
Manipulation via yelling, attacking, or resorting to bible-thumping is ineffective long-term. We might see a change in behavior, but it will drive a wedge between us and our sons. We shouldn’t resort to using manipulation. Let’s resist the temptation for immediate relief from the tension and keep our composure.
6. Separate the issue and the disrespectful attitude.
When we try to deal with both the issue and attitude as one situation, it morphs into a monster of epic proportions. Pretty soon harsh words explode like grenades and the shrapnel of bitterness and resentment pierce hearts. Moms, we need to love our son’s spirit over his behavior.
Allow room for respectful disagreement. A simple, “How might we disagree and still show respect?” goes a long way towards separating the issue from the disrespect.
7. Show confidence in him.
As his mom, we see beyond the behavior to the heart of our son. It’s the gift God gave us as moms: to see him for what he could be and is. See his heart for people, his creativity, his ability to fix things, or fight for what’s right. Believe in the spirit of the man living inside your son and call it out.
8. Appeal to his sense of honor.
Our boy-man is driven by honor and respect. He most reflects God’s warrior-hero characteristics. Appeal to his natural in-born sense of honor. Cultivate an honor for God and for keeping his word.
9. Seek to understand where he’s coming from.
We need to remember that our sons are unique persons with a unique God-imprint within their soul. Rather than jump to conclusions, ask open-ended questions that lead to conversation, not interrogation. Respect seeks to understand, not dictate.
10. Give respect to gain respect.
Treating others with respect paves the way to developing a character of soul worthy of respect. Sure, we can tell our son to respect us because of our position, but do we want lip-service or do we want our son’s heart? Let’s be women worthy of respect: Treat others with kindness, keep our word, and honor other’s above ourself.
How to Respect Our Sons And Confront Bad Behavior
We need to learn how to confront behavior we don’t respect in a respectful way. We live in a culture that has equated disagreement with hate and acceptance with love. Parenting doesn’t work that way. As our sons grow from baby to toddler to child to teen to young man, they will test the boundaries we’ve set, resulting in behavior we cannot condone.
In order to confront behavior we don’t respect in a respectful way try the following:
- honor the good in him
- state your thoughts about his behavior
- ask to understand
- appeal to him to solve the problem.
An example: “Right now, I am so angry and surprised by your behavior. I’m not trying to disrespect you, but I don’t understand why you’ve behaved that way. I need five-minutes and then we need to talk about this and how to solve this issue.”
Benefits of Respecting Our Sons
Proverbs 14 and 15 hold some of my guiding principles for parenting. In these two chapters, I find my theme song ringing through. Chapter 14 opens with a verse contrasting a wise woman and a foolish woman building a house. We’re either foolish or wise at varying intervals in our parenting journey, but let’s keep striving to build our house and not tear it down.
Verse 8 tells me to think before I act and verse 12 encourages me to pray and count the cost before I make a decision. Verses 15 and 18 tell me to be smart and wise while verse 29 tells me to keep my temper in check. And finally chapter 15:1 tells me to keep my tone gentle. Tone. It’s what makes or breaks respect with my son. If it’s filled with contempt, I lose an opportunity to speak life into my son’s heart.
And that’s what it comes down to. Speaking life. Even in the midst of hard difficult circumstances. Even when we don’t agree or understand, it’s still fully possible to respect the spirit of our sons while not condoning their behavior. But it takes practice, which means, we will sometimes get it right and sometimes we will blow it.
It’s in those instances, where we pick ourselves up, dust off our knees, apologize, and then try again because the benefits learning to respect our sons is the kind of relationship we dream about: mutual love, honor, and respect.
Related: Listen to our new parenting podcast, Rise Up to Raise Up Faith-Filled Kids:
Jessica is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who has energizing vision and an enthusiastic approach that gives others hope-filled inspiration to address internal hurts in the light of God’s redeeming love. She believes that through Christ’s transforming grace, personal histories don’t have to define the present or determine thefuture. Her greatest desire is to see people live this “God-life” with all the power and grace that God provides. She loves connecting with people and hearing their stories. Jessica lives in a rural setting surrounded by farmland and her husband and children. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/CREATISTA