Cheers and screaming rocked the gymnasium where my friend sat with other parents at her daughter’s high school basketball game. The game was close and tension filled the stands.
A timeout was called and music poured from the rafters, causing more than one high school student to dance to the thunderous beat.
After the game, a woman from the visiting team approached a home coach to express concern over a few of the teens’ dancing moves. The home coach graciously shook the woman’s hand and agreed to talk to the offending students.
But as the visitor walked away, my friend was shocked at what happened next. And it rocked the stands more than cheers and music ever could.
The coach—who had promised to address the visitor’s discomfort—turned to his players and began ridiculing the woman. He used unflattering slurs and made a mockery of her concerns. As expected, many of the players were amused at the antics of their coach. And the message was clear: This woman and her concerns were unworthy of respect.
My friend was heartbroken at the poor example set by the coach. In moments, life lessons were sealed in the hearts and minds of young people that would follow them indefinitely. Someone admired and respected by the student-players set a flawed pattern for them to follow.
As our children grow and experience negative influences away from the safe haven of home, how can we ensure they will be respectful when interacting with others? How do we teach them to model kindness and compassion?
Here are three ways to teach kindness and respect without even the hint of a lecture:
1 • Respect our spouses.
Are we kind when talking to or about our spouses? Are they frequently the punchline of our jokes? (When we listen to the way our children address him or her, we may hear a hint of the example we’re setting.)
2 • Respect each other.
Pause and listen to family interactions. Are we encouraging sibling disrespect by our silence? Before a child finishes a question, are we jumping in with our response? (My daughter had to say, “Mom, let me finish” a few times before I realized my lack of courtesy.)
3 • Respect others.
Do we mutter under our breath about the incompetent waiter? Do our smiles turn to complaints when the other person walks away? Are we kind to cashiers, delivery workers, and strangers?
From those in our own households to those in the farthest corners of the world—each was created with infinite value and worth. Romans 12:10 reads, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
If our hearts’ desire is to raise godly, respectful children, we must teach by example that every person is an image-bearer of the Most High God.
Someone beautiful, beloved, and worthy of respect.