Many Christian parents hold Ephesians 6:1-2 in their back pocket ready to whip out at any time to remind their children how they must honor and obey. But what does God say about the way we must treat our children? Does the Bible actually instruct us to honor our kids?
Making the Bible’s Honor Roll
God’s Word mentions various types of people that should be honored. This list includes those who do good (Rom. 2:10), serve the Lord (John 12:26), and risk their life for the work of Christ (Phil. 2:29). We are commanded to honor those who hold positions of authority, including parents (Eph. 6:2), pastors (1 Tim. 5:17), and government officials (1 Pet. 2:17). But we are also expected to show honor to people that God considers vulnerable or weak. These would include widows (1 Tim. 5:3), wives (1 Pet. 3:7), and certain members of the church body (1 Cor. 12:23).
The apostle Peter addresses honor a few different times throughout his first letter but then makes a startling all-inclusive statement in 1 Peter 2:17. He says, “Honor everyone.” That includes your aging grandparents who may not be able to remember what they ate for breakfast and your toddler that ends up with half of her breakfast in her hair.
Why should we honor everyone? God commands us to honor everyone, not because of what they are able to do or not do but because God “crowned them with honor” (Heb. 2:7) and because we have all been created in “God’s image” (Jam. 3:9). By honoring people, both great and small, we are honoring the image of God in man and valuing His creation.
Honor Your Kids Before They’re Born
According to God, no conception is an accident, no matter how you and your wife feel about it. We’ve all heard parents talk about “surprise pregnancies” or babies that came after they were “done having kids.” This links that baby with not being part of their plan, which hints that the child was not originally wanted.
My guess is that most children wouldn’t appreciate being considered accidents. Even if it was not your “plan” to have a baby at that time or to have another baby at all, you can be confident that any life that God gives is worth celebrating. The fact that your child hasn’t entered the world isn’t a good reason to make jokes or excuses about their existence. Our society has publicly and militantly dishonored human life in the womb. As Christians, let’s publicly celebrate the value of our children before they’re born!
Honor Your Kids Before They’re Mature
You’d think it would be easier to value your cute kids after they’re born…but when they ____________ (fill in the blank) that costs you hundreds or thousands of dollars, the benefit-cost ratio for toddlers can seem pretty low.
Let’s face it. Little kids don’t make a significant contribution to the bottom-line in a family unit, and oftentimes, their achievements and responsibilities don’t seem worthy of respect. And yet, the reality is, my little boys are men in the making, desperately looking for respect from peers and adults even from a young age.
My wife often explains mature behavior to our boys by connecting it with how a man of honor would behave. Find a way to honor your children, not for what they do but for who they are and who they are growing to be by God’s grace.
Honor Your Kids Before Others
One of the primary ways we honor people is by how we speak about them to others. It is natural for us to talk with other parents about our kids, sharing both the highlights and the challenges. However, sometimes I’ve found myself talking about my toddler in a negative light to get a laugh or to complain and felt like it was okay because I knew he didn’t understand what I was saying as he played at my feet.
Yes, there are times when it is appropriate to share challenges in order to receive counsel about our kids, but sometimes it just ends up being dishonoring gossip. When appropriate, share with others about your child’s spiritual growth and godly character—not just their academic or athletic achievements.
As a kid, my ears always perked up when I heard my name (or the name of my siblings) being used by one of my parents in conversation with another adult. Your kids are always listening to hear what you say about them. Don’t be surprised when they talk dishonorably to their peers about you when you have done the same to your peers about them.
Honoring our kids not only involves the way we talk about our kids with others but also the way we talk to our kids in front of others. Before you correct your kids in public, consider your motives to make sure you aren’t reacting out of a sense of embarrassment.
Sometimes you will need to give correction in front of others, many times it will be best to take your child aside, but you must always strive to honor them. As much as possible, interact with your children and teens in public as you would with another adult. Look them in the eye. Speak with kindness. Treat them with courtesy. Use “please” and “thank you.”
It should go without saying that we must also honor our kids in the way we speak to them in private as well. Never address them with demeaning terms (stupid, loser, brat, annoying). Some families enjoy inside jokes and sarcasm, but be careful not to belittle or dishonor family members by highlighting their weaknesses.
Instead, lead your family by setting an example with honoring and encouraging speech. Make a point to encourage each of your kids (and your wife) at the dinner table or some time when all the family is present.
Honor Your Kids Before Yourself
Selfishness is probably one of my greatest sin struggles as a dad. I confess that I have given my toddler the bruised banana of the bunch because he couldn’t tell the difference, or I have valued looking at something on my phone more than listening to their stories. Without God, I am selfish and I naturally prioritize my own desires.
At its core, honoring our kids grows from a heart of love for God and others. In Romans 12:10, Paul states, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” The key to showing your kids honor is to show them true, unselfish love.
Listen to them, play with them, value their creations and their opinions. Speak positively about them to grandparents and friends. Tell them you love being their dad. Show them that they are valuable to you with more than your credit card. Honor them by putting their interests above your own.
This type of unselfish love is the fruit of a person who is walking in the Spirit and daily depending on His grace. Ask for God’s help each day to honor and love your kids.
Growing Fathers Team
John serves as an Associate Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Murrieta, California. He and his wife, Suzanne, have five growing boys—Josiah, Micah, Judah, Noah, and Elijah.View all posts by John