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I'm Avital.

You want a present, peaceful and playful family life? I'm here to help you make that a reality.

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How Do You Teach Kids Respect?

FREE: 3 Steps to Solve Any Parenting Problem

How do you speak to your own parents? Do you hang up on them? Do you raise your voice? Interrupt? 

It can be really uncomfortable but necessary to look in the mirror and ask, “How do you treat your own parents? Do you respect your elders?”

Today I’m answering a question from Samantha who writes:

Dear Avital,

I totally believe in peaceful and respectful parenting but I feel as though I’m letting them disrespect me. 

It says in the Bible “obey thy father and thy mother”  and here I am letting them disobey me.  I worry that I’m raising kids who are disrespectful.

Thank you so much for any insights on how to reconcile this. 


I totally understand this question.  It can even feel like peaceful parenting just doesn’t work. It can feel like you’re raising kids who don’t know how to be respectful because you’re not demanding the obedience and respect that mainstream culture tells us to. We so often hear “Listen to your mummy,”  “He’s a great listener,” or “She doesn’t listen!” The underlying meaning here is really about following orders.

The Fifth Commandment

Our culture values obedience.  It’s even in the Bible, right?

Well, maybe so.

I personally read Hebrew. The meaning and interpretation of the original text that I grew up with was not “obey” your mother and father, but to “respect” your mother and father.  Furthermore, to respect your mother and father meant to be considerate of them, to take care of them, to make sure that they could live with dignity, with a roof over their heads, clothing, and food. Being respectful in this way was about having compassion, civility, and being polite.  Not about obedience, fulfilling every wish and whim, nor about living your life according to their demand. 

We could debate biblical meanings for days. A point I want to make though, is that I think peaceful parenting can actually create a truer, deeper, meaningful sense of respect for another. The mainstream parenting approach suggests  that children are learning respect when we teach them to obey us, and to respect us. In the peaceful parenting approach however, the onus of respect is on us.

Respect thy father and thy mother – in other words you are commanded to respect – not to demand respect from someone else. The verse is asking us all to show respect. 

Create an Atmosphere of Respect without Demanding it

Creating an atmosphere of respect without demanding it requires a little perspective shifting. We need to put the onus of teaching respectful attitudes and behaviors on ourselves – adults who actually understand this. After all, even though all people deserve respect all the time,  it’s really hard to respect someone who yells at you, punishes you, controls, or manipulates youIf you want to learn how to manage the worst tantrums while treating your littles with respect (without yelling, bribing, or punishing!)  Sign up for my FREE Peaceful Tantrums Webinar. Here are some other ways to be someone who commands respect rather than demands it.

Rather than demanding respect, let’s become people who command respect. Rather than demanding respect, let's become people who command respect.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This

  1. Respect YOUR elders- The commandment to be respectful is on us, in the biblical sense but also in the psychological sense. We are the ones who must model being respectful to older generations. Every interaction we have with others is an opportunity to teach kids respect. Think back to your last conversation with your parents, or the lady in the supermarket.  These are the things that will comically, come back to us. 
  2. Respect your YOUNGERS –  Everybody deserves respect. It certainly doesn’t mean we do everything our children ask of us though. The way that we talk to them will necessarily by definition be mirrored back to us. If we listen to them without interrupting, if we speak in kind gentle tones, they will mimic this. This is how they develop and learn. 
  3. Respect your SELF – This can be  a tricky one, but we teach people how to treat us, by how we treat ourselves. Grabbing meals on the go? Eating toddler leftovers? Not brushing your own teeth? The energy we put out into the world is what reflects back to us. Hold boundaries around respecting yourself. Is it giving yourself more time? Finishing a project you’ve started? Express when you feel disrespected too! (e.g. “Please can you say that in a more polite way?”” I don’t like being spoken to that way. Can you share your feelings instead?”) You can command respect with your presence and energy field rather than being someone who yells and demands respect. 

Do you ever worry about raising children who are disrespectful?  How are you modelling respect now, or how else could you be modelling respect? Let me know in the comments.


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11 Replies to “What Happened to Respecting Your Elders?”

  1. this was a refreshing reminder. adultism is tiring and yet i notice it with how i treat my own children. what happened to youtube comments? did they disable them? anyway, thank you for this, my youngest is 7 and my oldest is 16 and it is still helpful. maybe i shouldnt think they “should” obey me, i enjoyed your interpretation – with 5 kids wondering how not telling everyone what to do, would anything get done. good thinking questions

  2. Hi Avital,

    Thank you for all your insightful content. I was particularly curious of your approach to the topic of this video, but a few of my questions remain unanswered. Could you maybe help me out? That would mean a lot.

    I have a 4 year old daughter, and at the moment she tends to insult me a lot. She talks back, interrupts, or sometimes insults out of the blue to provoke some kind of reaction. I know this is her exploring the limits of what she can and cannot say; I know that, to an extend, she is mirroring my own slipups (although I do try my best), and I also know I should remain unphased by this. However, I feel like I would NEVER have talked to my own parents like that, and I struggle to keep my cool when she is so insulting, insolent and disrespectful. I find myself questioning this parenting philosophy, as it doesn’t seem to work in this respect, and as I myself, raised more traditionally, do deeply respect my parents.

    In a more concrete way: When I ask her to please express her feelings more politely, and she screams back “No! You’re dumb!” – what is the next step? Move away? Stay with her through her tantrum? Repeating my request? I really am at a loss, and without a clear idea of what to do in that moment, I am much more likely to just react and snap disrespectfully myself.

    Thank you again,

  3. Thank you for this perspective, Avital! It resonates with me on so many levels. Since I had my daughter two years ago I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, especially how I’ve been taught respect. I never dared to talk about my belief openly because of the judgement I’am sure I will receive, but I absolutely agree with you, that respect cannot be taught or demanded, it must be showed towards our children. I was raised differently, respect was something that was expected, very ofter it was forced on me by physical punishment. Although I do respect my parents, but our relationship is distant, cold and very formal.

  4. I read your email a few days before watching the video and in between times I reflected on the issue. So when I listened to your video I kind of got shivers – because I’d reached the same conclusion as you!! And this was an absolute epiphany for me. I’d never seen it from this angle before. You hit the nail on the head – the commandment is there for the person reading it, not their parent!!

    A similar New Testament verse says, “Children, obey your parents.” (Ephesians 6:1). It doesn’t say, “Parents, force your children to obey you.” The onus is on the child.

    And what will have them willing to obey? A loving and respectful relationship with the parent. So what is your job? To be loving and respectful to your child. And simply to ask for respect when it is not shown.

    Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

    Perhaps this one should also be applied to parenting.

    And this one:

    “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)

    And this one:

    “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

    I am so grateful to you for making this video. As you pointed out, in many regards Western culture is founded on the Bible and there are many people practising Judaism and Christianity today so where there is an apparent discrepancy between a parenting model and the Bible it can be a very real obstacle to that model being accepted and put into practise. However, we are all so closed about our religious beliefs that it is very rare for these thoughts to be aired publicly. I admire you for tackling it head on. I am also grateful to the writer of the letter because that took courage.

    Love you, Avital.

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