Upward, for peers, and downward

Character Development & Respect

Lesson verses:

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 1 Tim 3:4 - NIV

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”-which is the first commandment with a promise- 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Eph 6:6:1 - NIV

”In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Mt 7:12 - NASU

There are 6 relationships that we all must respect and teach our children to respect. Respect for:

  1. Parents
  2. Authority
  3. Elders
  4. Peers and siblings
    (Adults also have spouse and children as relationships)
  5. Property
  6. Nature

This week’s principles: You are not your child’s friend; you are his king, his teacher. Teach your children to treat others like they wish to be treated, and to treat other’s property and nature is if it were their own. (Mt 7:12 above—Golden Rule!)

This lesson will teach on how Christians—and your children—should show respect. It is clearly emphasizing behavior towards all others in the above relationships, but it is essential to relate the behaviors back to why we do those behaviors: because God would have us be respectful. The scriptures included here will help you relate the behaviors back to why, what God tells us about these relationships. Respectful behavior honors God, shows Him praise, and shows our willingness to obey His commands. This is why we do what we do. (We recommend Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick—available in the church book room.)

A little background; let’s look at some terms and their meaning.

WHY? A common and often irritating childhood question. What does it mean? There are 3 type of children’s “Why?”:

  1. Why of curiosity (non-moral). Why is the sky blue? Why do we eat healthy?
  2. Why of comprehension (moral). Why must we tell the truth? Why do we help at the Rescue Mission?
  3. Why of challenge (moral). Why do I have to? Why can’t I do it like everybody else? The first 2 whys are legitimate and should be answered positively whenever possible. The third is rebellious in nature and correction should be given in proper fashion. It challenges your authority.

Character: the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation. the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; moral or ethical quality.

Temperament of a person is inborn, a foundation of the personality. You will find that your children are born with distinct personalities and temperaments. What you build on this is what becomes their character. Moral character regards a person’s moral restraint or encouragement of his temperament. Moral training and character development are synonymous. Christian character (to us Christians) implies a standard of moral and social excellence—we are called to a higher standard than our society.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 - NIV

Do not love the world or anything in the world. 1 John 2:15 - NIV

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2 - NIV

Though we must live in the world we are to behave and live differently from those who have no hope. This is a large part of our witness; we must also train up our children in Christian character. We demonstrate and define God, by our actions, to a world that does not know Him.

In Jonathan Edwards’ last sermon at his church in Northhampton, MA, he states:

“But the due regulation of your families is of no less, and in my mind and in most respects, of much greater importance. Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by God’s rules. And the family education and order are some of the chief means of God’s grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove ineffectual.”

His point: if the Christian family breaks down and does not serve its purpose, everything else of the church is weakened or ineffectual.

“The family is the values-generating and -perpetuating institution of every society.” ---Ezzo

This, obviously, includes character training. In doing this, one principle to remember is that our children’s holiness is more important than their happiness; the happiness will eventually follow as we are always happiest in God’s will.

More terms to define:

  • Honor: high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank.
  • Respect: deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment.
  • Authority: the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.
  • Mock: to attack or treat with ridicule, contempt, or derision.
  • Obedience: the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance.

Now, let’s tackle the 6 relationships.

  1. Respect for authority

    Man does not like to submit to authority—any authority— due to our fallen nature; it runs counter to self which is our natural god. But we are called to live under authority, to play by the rules.

    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Rom 13:1-2 - NIV

    Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb 13:17 - NIV

    Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 1 Peter 2:13-14 - NIV

    We must teach our children to honor authority as playing by the rules not only helps everyone to get along but it respects others and their rights. Respecting authority while we drive makes us and everyone else safer. Respecting rules in class creates a learning environment more conducive to other children’s learning. This is displayed all throughout our society. Just like anything else, children will follow their parents’ model of respect for authority. Our submission is accepting that a divine appointment has been made above us. Bitterness to authority will often be reflected in our children if we model the same. Be careful what games, movies, and shows you let your child play and watch; many show gross disrespect for authority.

  2. Respect for Parents

    Respect for parents cannot be understated; it must be taught and enforced diligently. The relationship of child to parent is a picture of man’s relationship to God. It gives our children the primary idea of how we should relate to God. It is so important that God even saw fit to make it the 5th Commandment:

    “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Ex 20:12 - NIV

    As you are aware, it is the only commandment with a promise, a promise to greatly benefit those who obey it. Do you realize that this carries the same weight as “Do not commit murder”?

    Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Col 3:20 - NIV

    ”Anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death. Ex 21:15 - NIV

    “‘If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head. Lev 20:9 - NIV (also see Ex 21:1)

    “The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures. Prov 30:17 - NIV

    Do not allow your children to mock you (or your spouse) to any degree, because when they do, they also mock God. Children will not respect or obey you as their governor as a matter of their desire, they must be taught this as it runs counter to their nature, too. Do not underestimate the importance of your position. In Romans 1:28-2:2, Paul tells us that those who disobey their parents are depraved and under God’s judgment. It is a serious action!

    Small children need be simply taught to obey their parents outright (along with the moral reasoning) as they do not have the capacity to make moral decisions. It will take years before they have the ability to understand and reason moral behaviors. Each child will have a different timeline, but generally around ages 9-10, they will begin to understand moral behavior; at that time, authority will change somewhat—children who were formerly led by the power of authority will then be lead by strength of the parental influence; not by strict obedience but by submission; not by fear of punishment or force but by realization of right behavior. This is a transition that must be made as the child matures or resentment and rebellious behaviors will result. There is still an authoritarian relationship with parents, but it is much more mature and freeing for the child. We noticed that we didn’t have to spank our children nearly as much at this age than prior to this time. This is not only natural but also desired. Supervision of the child decreases as they get older, as they learn more about right and wrong. As they learn responsibility, their freedom increases, and the need for parental control diminishes.

    As we get older, even into adulthood, we still must honor our parents, but submitting to and obeying them is normally not Biblical. After marriage when we “leave and cleave”, clearly the mandate to obey is gone; up until that time, it is somewhere in between. In this same time period, your child may then also morph from being your child to becoming your friend. Until this time they should not be your “friend”— your equal. To do so is to not only invite trouble but also to be unbiblical.

    Obedience will be covered much more in later chapters, but it is different than submission or respect; it implies obligation as opposed to moral responsibility. Obedience is mandatory for young children as they cannot make moral decisions, and they must learn self-control, to control their selfish and “reprobate” tendencies. It is a temporary teacher until the child develops moral controls to determine his behavior, an extrinsic control until he develops intrinsic or internal controls. The extrinsic control develops into internal submission, a heart-based change which reveals the moral character that we are trying to develop. Just like all of us, there remains sin, disobedience, moral failure, but this is part of our humanity and is expected. The amount or level or failure is what we seek to diminish.

    A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. Billy Graham

    When we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. From that time on, there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can. Our children are extensions of ourselves. Fred Rogers

  3. Respect for age

    “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. Lev 19:32 - ESV

    Teach respect for elders. Your children should understand that they not only respect their parents but any and all other elders in which they come in contact, particularly the elderly. Teach them to seek out ways to help those who are frail or weak; the best way to teach is by doing it yourself in their presence, and encouraging them to help also. Teaching respect is not difficult: allow elders to go first, hold doors for them, address them as Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. We in the Saucier household have taught our children to say Sir and Ma’am to all adults. This not only shows respect for elders, but it also earns them respect from elders, improving their confidence, self-esteem, and ability to interact with adults. We discourage calling adults by their first names until the child is also an adult. Left to their own decisions, children will be rude to elders.

    From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” 2 Kings 2:23 - NIV

    Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. Job 19:18 - NIV

    Showing respect is not just attitude (which is essential) but also action, at a minimum, appropriate verbal response to a situation. Teaching a child to respect without providing them with the knowledge of how to do this leads to exasperation. Teach your children by example whenever possible, by words when not.

    Love is not rude. I Cor 13:5

    “ show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:2 - ESV

    Teach how to interrupt. Children need to be taught how to interrupt a conversation, phone call, etc., so that they, and we as their parents, are not rude. Teach your child to place their hand on your shoulder, arm, thigh (if sitting)—you decide—and wait patiently for you to acknowledge them and break your conversation. They should not tug, beat, or shake you for attention. You may consider holding their hand to acknowledge their presence, then when there is a break in the conversation, you excuse yourself and attend to your child’s needs. Obviously, teach them they may interrupt for an emergency like their brother falling in the pool. This teaches the child: more patience; to honor their parents and others; how to communicate in a quiet, unobtrusive way; and that you, as a parent, will attend to them in an orderly way. It earns great respect for your child from others. That said, you must not forget to attend to their needs or they will be exasperated…again.

    Teach your child to overcome shyness. Shyness is part of personality, and it is not wrong or right, but it can be used by your child to a point where it is rude, disrespectful, and disobedient. Some children are naturally more shy, but all children should be taught to be polite and civil (at a minimum) towards others. Do not let, “Oh, he’s shy” be an excuse for you child’s rudeness. They still must be moral. If someone says, “Hi”, “Thank you”, or gives a compliment to your child, their response should be in kind and appropriate. If they refuse to response, a suggestion is to respond with apology for your child’s behavior and explain that you are working on that. Later, at home most likely, teach the child how to respond and inform him what is expected of him. This makes polite behavior a command, and disobedience brings consequences. All children can learn to be polite no matter their temperament.

    Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Gal 6:7

    For your child to receive respect, he must first give it. If we expect respect as parents and adults, we must teach it. This is biblical and proper.

  4. Respect for peers & siblings

    Our peers are persons of the same basic rank, level or dignity. They are people whom we consider our equals. What are some of the Biblical statements regarding this?

    The last 5 of the 10 commandments clearly pertain to our neighbors.

    ”You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Ex 20:13 - NIV

    ”In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Mt 7:12 - NASU

    Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Php 2:3 - NKJV

    “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Lev 19:18 - NIV

    But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Mt 5:44 - NIV

    Home is the place where boys and girls first learn how to limit their wishes, abide by rules, and consider the rights and needs of others. Sidonie Gruenberg

    It takes work to encourage your children to be consistently positive towards their siblings and friends. Some things to practice may be to encourage them to be happy when something good happens to others; to celebrate someone’s birthday while not seeking attention for themselves; to remind them that family are always best friends and take care of each other.

    Getting them to go beyond avoiding hostile behavior and truly being sensitive and godly towards their peers is very difficult and takes consistent effort, but it pays great dividends in the end. Modeling and teaching loving, encouraging, and godly behavior will help tremendously.

    One thing shown to help by clinical research is family chores. When children participate in helping with the needs of others—family in this case—it causes them to be more sensitive to human need. Doing chores has been proven to increase compassion amongst family members, and those with more difficult chores and chores helping someone other than themselves (family or group) have more compassion than those who simply take care of their own needs—cleaning their room, self-grooming, etc. Try to include your children in acts of serving others daily. This also teaches responsibility.

    Actively teach your children to be more considerate of others. Listen to their talk about school, about who is being picked on, new kids in class, etc., and encourage them to help those people feel loved and welcomed. Strongly discourage gossip and malicious talk. Take them to a local shelter, a local Christmas gift-giving program, or let them assist in some mission outreach. This opens their eyes to loving others, even those that they do not know, and will encourage their compassion for those that they do know that much more.

    People will oppress each other — man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the base against the honorable. Isa 3:5 - NIV

    Life is not fair. This is a major principle to teach your child. While we all (should) receive equal justice under the law, life itself is not fair. We are all born with different skills, talents, abilities, situations & opportunities, etc. We all, by human nature, tend to focus on the things that we lack as we compare our lot to others. Teach your children to focus on the things that they have that others may or may not have. Teaching thankfulness is so lacking in our society today, and it will not only help them to be more godly but also more happy. We all get into trouble when we compare ourselves to others in any context, lacking or excelling. Once they learn life is not fair, then they can grow in other areas, such as accountability. Looking at life from this perspective is much more healthy and godly.

    From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Lk 12:48b - NASU

    Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:17 - NIV

    Comparison is a death knell to sibling harmony. --- Elizabeth Fishel

  5. Respect for Property

    Property itself is a biblical principle—if we can steal, this itself implies that someone can own something. Respecting the property rights of others is learned behavior and not natural. We are not to steal, destroy, defraud/prevent ownership by deception—even covet—property belonging to others. Our society works on the principle of individual property rights (so far!). (See Exodus 20 above)

    Children must be trained as soon as they are mobile to respect the property of others. It is not only acceptable but desirable to prevent your children from touching or playing with (destroying!) things around the house--- phones, TV/computer, glass items, etc. Now, this is not to say that we should not be careful to keep some precious, fragile, or dangerous items out of reach of children (primarily because they cannot be watched at all times), but boundaries are good for children! Children actually feel more safe and secure when boundaries are present than when they are totally left to their own devices. It will not hurt their self-esteem to be told not to touch certain things! I remember stories of my parents repeatedly whacking my hands for trying to change the TV channels. (We had knobs on the set which turned in those days! I am still afraid of TVs today…) Teach them that they have certain things which they can freely touch and things which they are never to touch. You can help their curiosity by showing them things—what they are, how they work, what they do—then tell them they are not to touch. You should not be afraid of taking your children to other people’s house nor have to constantly watch them to be sure they don’t break something. (It makes your evening much more pleasant also.) Teach your children to behave at other’s homes as they would at your own; and teach them not to throw other’s toys, etc., beginning at an early age.

    Where does our value of property come from? Not from the property itself but from the owner of the property—caring for the property shows respect for the person who owns it. Why do we return a shopping cart to the proper location? Not for the sake of the cart or perhaps even the store, but more for the car owner who may have a damaged vehicle from a runaway cart. Why do we despise vandalism? Because someone owns that property, paid for it, cares for it, and doesn’t want is destroyed. You should seek to leave someone’s property in the same or better condition than that in which you found it. It doesn’t matter whether the owner cares greatly for their property or not—we are still obligated to respect it.

    Ownership implies dominion. Dominion: the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority. ( This also leads us to a sense of violation when something we own is in danger of assault. We need to teach our children that to cause a sense of violation is also wrong; it is not the way they would like to be treated. Approaching someone about their property can be perceived as either a threat or simply a friendly encounter. We should seek to approach in a respectful manner.

    One way to teach children the value of property is to teach them to labor. There are 2 types of labor: duty labor and purchasing labor. Duty labor is that done for helping the family as in chores, and it is valuable in teaching value. Purchasing labor is when they earn actual money to spend as they see fit. If you give your child an opportunity to earn money at a fair price (for their age and ability), they will soon see that property has value, and they will have more respect for property of others—as well as learning the value of work.

    Teach delayed gratification. Teach your children at an early age that they can wait for things that they desire. They do not have to receive a toy every time they go through the check-out line. They will truly learn the value of an object if they assist in the purchase price—a bike that they assisted in purchasing will be much more appreciated and cared for than one given to them outright.

    As children get older, teach them how to save and manage money. Consider an allowance; help them save for some purpose. Teach them how to budget as they get older so that they can better understand the value of money and objects and keep all of this in biblical perspective.

  6. Respect for Nature

    The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Ps 24:1 - NIV

    ”For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. Ps 50:10 - NASU

    Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way. Ge 1:31 - NLT

    We should respect nature because it was made and is owned by God. Nature and its beauty was made for the pleasure of man, we have dominion over it. It has inherent value simply because God made it. He treats his creation with integrity, so we should do the same.

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Ge 2:15 - NIV

    We are to take care of His creation, at least to a degree that is reasonable. Christianity is not to blame for environmental issues; living biblically ensures that we care for our environment. (This is not to say that it is more important than man or should at any time have precedent or priority over the needs of man; but those who are biblically wise will take care of their property and God’s in addition. It also makes good business sense.) We should care for nature for the sake of others who also enjoy its beauty and majesty. We should care for public lands and spaces so that others will not have to be hindered by what we have done. To respect nature is to respect others. Teach your children not to senselessly destroy things like leaves on a tree, etc.

    A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. ---John Muir


  1. Explain some of the differences between obedience, respect, submit, and honor.
  2. What is the purpose of obedience for children?
  3. How does respect for your parents differ from obedience when you are an adult?
  4. How should excessive shyness in a child be addressed? How can shyness be used to show disrespect?
  5. How do most of us assess fairness in life? How can we change that?
  6. How did you and your siblings get along when children? What behaviors, activities, or training made this better or worse? What will you do differently from your parents in this regard?
  7. Why is property of others significant?
  8. Can you remember you or someone else being treated poorly when you were a child? How did you handle this? How could you have handled it better?
  9. Tell us about one of your child’s most memorable purchases or your most memorable purchase as a child.
  10. How have you or one or your children “abused” nature? How did it make you feel?


  1. Pay close attention to your child’s “why” questions. Is he asking out of curiosity or rebellion?
  2. Find examples of offences against authority by your children this week. Bring some for discussion.
  3. Evaluate your relationship with your parents. How is it biblical or non-biblical?
  4. Teach your child (or spouse!) the interrupt rule.
  5. Be determined to model respect for elders this week.
  6. Be aware of how you treat other’s property this week.
  7. Just for fun: