Last week, I shared some thoughts on teaching boys to be respectful. I wanted to come back and add a second part to that post because I really didn’t get into a lot of practical tips last week. If you didn’t read it, you will want to start there, and then come back and read this post. 🙂

Respect, Part 1

What Do I Do with My Disrespectful Son?

What do I do if my child is in the habit of being disrespectful?

  • Realize that respectful attitudes and speech are counter-cultural. Kids today speak to adults in ways that in the past would have been considered extremely rude. Keep your standards high! Teach your kids what the Bible says about speech and realize that this will be pretty different from the way our culture talks.
  • Don’t argue with your kids. I find myself guilty of this fairly often, and I have to work to not “answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4-5). Not all kids try to draw their parents into an argument when they get an answer they don’t like, but some fall into this as a habit.
  • Don’t justify your decisions to your kids. There’s a difference between explaining the reasons behind a decision and having to constantly justify yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of justifying. Be calm and gracious, but be an authority.

We are working to get rid of conversations that go like this:

“Can I go play outside?”

“Not today, it’s too cold outside. We can play outside when it’s warmer later this week.”

“It’s cold outside? It doesn’t look very cold to me.”

“Yes it is! It’s 20 degrees! The sun may be out, but that’s too cold for you to play.”

“I won’t get cold. I’ll wear a jacket.”

“No you won’t! You’ll end up taking it off.”

This conversation sounds silly, but how often do we do this as parents? God has given me the job of being a parent. It is my responsibility to make decisions about what I think will be best for my sons, and I will answer to God for those decisions. God has not given my children the authority to analyze my decisions and obey the ones they like and talk me out of the ones they don’t like. They are to obey in all things (Colossians 3:20). As a mom, I don’t need to justify my actions to my children. I am happy to give an explanation where appropriate, but there are also times where I cannot explain (i.e. my 4 year old does not need a detailed explanation of why it’s not good to go into a public restroom by himself). Children should be expected to obey what you say whether you explain yourself or not.

Instead, the conversation should go like this:

“Can I go play outside?”

“Son, I really think it’s too cold for you to play outside today. We’ll play outside when it warms up later in the week.”

“Would it be okay if I played outside as long as I put on an extra layer?” (Respectful question.)

“No, I think it’s just too cold today.”

“Okay. Yes, mom.”

And if the question is asked again, simply remind the child that they have asked and you have answered.

  • It might be necessary to remove the influence of TV shows and movies that turn disrespect into humor. As I explained in my post on entertainment, we had to remove several movies from our rotation. Which movies they were doesn’t really matter – just be on the lookout for what entertainment encourages bad attitudes and disrespectful talk in your children. Some children are more sensitive to picking up junk than others.
  • Decide on a proper response for your home, and insist on it. Our kids must answer “Yes, Mom” or “Yes, Dad,” when we ask them to do something, and this response includes a respectful tone. Not “yeah” or “okay, after I do this first” or “*sigh* in a minute!” Be prepared to practice this with them to get it right… sometimes it takes a few tries.
  • Teach your children that the bad decision of the person in authority does not give them the excuse to be disrespectful. Recently, one of our pastors taught on respecting the government from 1 Peter 2:13-17. He explained that in 1 Peter 2:13 through 3:7, Peter instructs believes to be submissive to the government, to masters (employers), and wives to husbands. There are no perfect husbands, employers, or governments, and so obviously perfect leadership is not a requirement for us to be able to show respect! In fact, in 2:18, servants are specifically commanded to be respectful of good masters and also unreasonable masters. As parents, we need to set the example in this by not speaking disrespectfully about those in authority over us. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to be respectful knowing that it is God who has put authority in our lives.
  • What about the “future leader” types who have genuinely good ideas, but are tempted to take charge when they shouldn’t? We have at least one future CEO, and possibly more. I think it’s possible to encourage leadership, but in an appropriate way. Just this morning, I asked my husband a question, and my son cut him off and started to answer. I asked him to stop and to let Dad talk. Then, when Dad and I were finished talking, I asked him what his idea was. It really was a good idea! But if he’s going to hold down a job in the future, he needs to learn not to interrupt or to answer for other people, especially when that person is in authority.
  • Bottom line – Respect is an issue of the heart that comes down to fearing God. This takes us back to where we started! Our job is to teach our sons the Bible and to instruct them with our words and actions. God is the one that changes hearts, and I’m so thankful that He does. It’s not always in our timing, but He does use His word and His Spirit to change our sons!

If you’re new to Frugal Fun for Boys, be sure to check out the rest of the posts in the Biblical Boyhood Series.

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  1. Jill Feb 9, 2014

    Thanks - this was great. I agree about the "Yes, Mom," response. It doesn't mean agreement, it just means I hear you and I understand that you need to make this decision.
    I also like that you cut out certain movies/shows. We don't allow our children to do many things that their friends are allowed to do, and they are respected for it. If you make it a fact in your home, not an opinion, it will stick.

    1. Traci Jul 30, 2015

      I just found this on Pinterest, but have a question you may be able to help with. My son, 11, who is otherwise a pretty good boy, has recently decided that he will do what he wants after I have told him to do something else. It's little things, nothing big. I have explained to him that it's not so much what he is doing, but that he is directly disobeying what I said that is the problem. We are a Christian, two parent, home and our son knows how he is expected to behave. I don't want this to grow into bigger issues, so I am seeking advice in addition to the prayers I have been sending up! I am the parent with him more as my husband works, so I don't want to be "harping" on him, but still want him to be respectful by doing as I ask, regardless of whether he agrees with it or not. Thanks for any thoughts.

  2. Feb 10, 2014

    This is such good, Biblical advice. Thanks for reminding me of the basics. It's so tempting to think, they're never going to change so I'll just ignore this behavior. Parenting is hard work, but it's good work, and I ought to do it with all my heart, not just half-heartedly in a way that encourages my children to sin.

  3. carrie Feb 11, 2014

    I am really enjoying your biblical boyhood posts. i have pinned so many and notice my friends pinning them as well. such practical and Godly advice. I'd be really interested to know what movies you pulled- just out of curiosity, not judgement :)

    1. Sarah Feb 13, 2014

      Thanks for your comment! I hated to share the movies, not because of others judging us, but because I didn't want to make people feel like they shouldn't watch them if they don't have a problem with them. Movies are definitely a conscience issue. For us, it has been The Incredibles, Cars, and Mega Mind (and I think a few others but I can't remember which!). All of them have enjoyable stories, but the boys just seem to zero in on the sassy lines and it's difficult for them to not repeat what they hear...

  4. Sandy Feb 13, 2014

    I enjoyed very much, your teaching on boys (and girls for that matter), learning how to respect. I am going to take some notes and have a talk with my sons. They are very good boys for the most part, but there is room for improvement where respecting others is concerned. My oldest respects me, but other adults, he is lacking something. I asked one of my 14 year old's friends a question yesterday, and he answered, Yes ma'am. I want my son to have that type of respect, but he just doesn't. It's not that he says anything mean, he just doesn't have the friendly demeanor that I would like to see him have with other adults. I hope it's not because I told him to NEVER talk to strangers when he was young. But, now he is old enough to speak friendly to an adult and show respect where it's due. Thank you for the encouragement!

    1. Sarah Feb 13, 2014

      You hit on a great point here - when young men respond as your son's friend did, it is not only the right thing to do but it also builds better relationships with people. Respectful kids are enjoyable to be around! I think it's a growing process to learn to have a friendly demeanor, and I agree with you that it's something worth working on. I want my boys to be that way as well! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Kim Hannie Feb 20, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading your posts on 'teaching boys to be respectful'. I think you have very good points. I do not have any children of my own, but am a Kindergarten teacher and find that at times I struggle with ideas of how to teach the children, especially the boys to be respectful. I really loved the way you incorporated verses from the bible in your points. Great Read!

  6. Lin Mar 7, 2014

    Thank you for posting this series. It is something we are struggling with with our very strong-willed four year old.

    How do you handle refusal to comply with necessary tasks (brushing teeth, washing hands, etc)? We feel we have tried it all and are still getting no where fast....

  7. nicole Mar 13, 2014

    In addition to movies and shows I have had to adjust my children's clothing. So much is either and advertisement or an inappropriate saying or picture. My guideline is by about five no pictures or words on their clothing. Is this difficult? Yes, but it is worth it.

  8. Jennifer L.W. Fink (@jlwf) Mar 13, 2014

    Like any mom of boys, I'm interested in this topic. But I was really disappointed in the example given. As a parent, I'm trying to walk the line teaching my boys to respect others and teaching them to use their own judgment, and to trust that judgment. Ultimately, I think successful human beings need both skills.

    Encouraging and requiring our boys to accept our judgment (vs. theirs) of what conditions are too cold kind of reinforces that idea that their judgment is somehow inferior to ours -- despite the fact that they know their bodies far better than we ever will. It encourages and habituates them to the idea that they need to submit to the ideas, judgments and wills of those in authority to them. Which might sound like a good thing, but what about when the one in authority has a bad idea?

    I want to teach my kids respect, but I also want them to learn to respect their own intuition and judgment.

    1. Sarah Mar 13, 2014

      Thanks for your comment and for disagreeing so kindly! I do think that my kids know better than I do whether they feel cold outside or not. However as their parent, I am in a position of authority over them. God has given my husband and I the responsibility to make wise choices for our boys, and He has given the boys the responsibility to obey whether they agree or not. This was a partially made-up example, but there have been days that I have not allowed the boys to play outside. I know them - I know that my four year old will not leave his mittens on even though he promises he will, and it is my job to protect him from frostbite.

      The Bible does not ever specify agreement as a reason to obey or not. Issues of sin are another issue - the apostle Paul preached the gospel whether the Jewish leaders allowed him to or not! But on issues that are not sin, I do not think it is Biblical to teach my kids that it is okay to go against authority when they feel like they know better. My husband has worked places where his bosses have made decisions that he does not agree with - even decisions that are foolish. But if he wants to keep his job, he needs to cooperate! 1 Peter 2:18 says that he needs to obey even bosses who are unreasonable. So what kind of service am I doing my sons if I teach them to go against authority?

      This doesn't mean that they can't disagree. They can even speak up on issues that they feel strongly about. At their ages, they can respectfully ask us to reconsider a decision. But then they need to be willing to obey either way, with an attitude that pleases God.

      And of course, as they get older, we'll be turning more and more decisions over to them. There is a big difference between a preschooler and a 14 year old deciding whether or not it's too cold to be outside.

  9. Jenn kujawa Mar 13, 2014

    This is such great practical help! We most certainly have some boys in our home who deal with disrespect. It is so hard to teach them a better way than what the world does because you have to be so so so diligent. I wrote a blog just yesterday about some practical ways we are making strides in our home! WWW.liveintheround. com/Blog/2014/3/10/fart-guns-and-zombies

  10. Zhanna Apr 6, 2014

    Thanks for this! Our oldest is 5 and baby is 17months both boys! We are definitely shrugging in some areas especially with respect for us and others... Totally agree with the influence of tv and movies and ever since we put parental blocks on several channels that air shows like , "I didn't do it" , "Jessie" , "dog with a blog" etc i have notice improvement! Those kids are so sassy and the audience laughs when they're being disrespectful to the authority figures ....

    1. Josette Apr 6, 2014

      I agree!!! I am canceling cable once my contract is up, only a couple of more months. I will try to put the blocks for now!

  11. Josette Apr 6, 2014

    I like your input. What would you say to a single mom whose child goes back and forth between mom and dad? My child picks up a lot of his dads "actions" and he tries to act them out with me. It is a big struggle between me and my child...he's 5 and has a big attitude. We attend church as a family (I have 2 older children) and I read scripture to him but it goes out the window when he goes with his dad. I feel like I am at a loss with this and it saddens me.

    1. Rosemarie Sep 14, 2014

      I am glad to hear that I'm not the only one!
      I often ask, "did you discuss this with Dad? What was his answer? Oh then, it between you and him."
      I refuse to get in the middle and argue.

  12. excursionannie Aug 25, 2014

    Thank you so much for posting these series on teaching respect to boys. I have 3 boys and we are struggling with this currently. Thank you for your insight, your time put into writing this and being in tune with the Spirit.

  13. EB Oct 15, 2014

    I am not a Christian so I do not think fearing God is a way to go about things for my family. In a way, I wonder if that is not just "passing the buck" actually because it would be really handy for me if I could refer to God as the boss and not me! That said, if we remove God from the equation, there is still the concept of 'authority' and, in our family's case that is based wisdom and experience that comes with age. So "no, you cannot stay up late because if not, you will feel rotten tomorrow" (I have been around longer than you and I know that!) and "yes, you must brush your teeth because otherwise you will get cavities" (ditto) and "thank you, you must respond in a certain way to your parents because if you don't learn to speak appropriately you will have big problems when you are older" (in school, to your boss, with others in general etc. etc.). Of course the message is often "I am doing this because I want the best for you, yes we can talk about it, we may even be able to negotiate" but at the end of the day, and as you say, "I've already answered that question and my answer's not going to change". PS I just say too much screentime melts your brain :)

  14. Ruth Nov 12, 2014

    An excellent write up with great Biblical advice!

  15. Emma Jan 20, 2015

    Great Article! I like the 'yes, Mum' response. Any suggestions for getting them to come to the dinner table when they're asked? My 6 year old always says: yes in a minute Mum I just have to finish putting these lego men on my space ship etc and need to find this part. I want to get respect from him so he models it to the younger children. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks! X

    1. Amanda Apr 2, 2015

      Emma, what I do with my kids is I give them warnings. "Dinner will be ready in 15 min." And then 10 min. later "in 5 min. you will need to stop and wash your hands for dinner." It works great with the kids. Unfortunately, it doesn't work at all with my husband.

  16. Mimi Apr 24, 2015

    Thank you so much for posting this insightful information from a biblical perspective. This article has been a blessing to me.

  17. Rachel Sep 5, 2018

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. You addressed several issues we were having.


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