By: Mark W. Merrill
Most of us recognize that every child is unique. With three children of our own, my wife and I can clearly substantiate that belief. Let me explain. If I were to draw a line in the sand and told my kids not to cross it, here's what would happen…one of them would stay as far away from the line as possible. Another would get as close to the line as they could -- without going over. And the third would run full-steam ahead, crossing that line as fast as they could. See the unique challenges? Well, even though each child is unique, the basic principles of discipline still apply in almost every case.
Honor is one of those underlying foundational principles of effective discipline.
This is what discipline without honor looks like. A mother told a fidgety child to sit down. When he refused she stood over him and demanded it. Well, he sat down all right but had this to say, "I'm sitting on the outside, but I'm standing on the inside!"
You see obedience without honor might look like it works in the short run, but it definitely doesn't work in the long run. On the other hand, teaching honor shapes a child's heart and motivations. When our children learn to honor their parents, they are really learning to greatly value, deeply respect, and highly esteem them because of who they are.
So what is honor? In their book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller say honor includes three things, 1) treating people as special, 2) doing more than what's expected, and 3) having a good attitude. Let's look a little more closely at each one.
1. Teach your children to treat people as special.
Treating others as special is the overriding theme of honor. Living out the concept of honor is seen when our words and actions show that we value others. Show your children how honor is the litmus test for what we do and say.
To help your children begin to see how honor works, point out good examples of showing honor. For small children it can be something as simple as your saying, "I made some cookies for a snack. I wanted to honor you." For older children, thank them when they show honor through having a good attitude. Children learn how to treat people as special when they watch how their parents treat each other and those outside the family.
2. Teach your children to do more than what's expected.
Doing more than what's expected means thinking about the intent of what was asked in the first place. In the book, Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids! the authors use the example of a mother who looked out the window and saw the garbage can blowing into the street. She asked her son to get it. The son not only retrieved it, he also watched it for a moment to make sure it was secure and wouldn't blow away again. When he saw that it was unsteady, he moved it to a more secure spot. He did more than what was expected.
3. Teach your children to have a good attitude.
Discuss the importance of a good attitude with your children. Help them understand that a right attitude is just as important as right actions. Let them know that sarcasm, non-verbal responses like rolling their eyes, and meanness will not be tolerated. Teach them to voice their opinions with respect.
If a child continues to have a bad attitude you need to ask yourself what could be behind it. Show the child how to deal with situations where they are disappointed or don't get their own way. As always, your children will watch your example very closely.
Instilling honor into your children will help you get to the heart of obedience. When I say heart, I mean your child's thoughts, intentions and motivations. Once children understand and learn honor, they will be motivated on their own to behave. Learning that principle will help them now and the rest of their lives.