God expects us to honor age: “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” – Job 32:7
And He specifically instructs us to honor our parents:
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. – Deuteronomy 5:16
So what are some practical ways that you can show honor to the adult figures in your life?
Perhaps writing a letter. Tell your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or another elderly person in your life how they have blessed and impacted you. A letter is sometimes better than a call as the person can look back on your words and be honored again and again.
Make a list. One family made a list for their father and mother’s 60th birthdays, including 60 reasons why they loved and appreciated them. Mom’s list included gratitude for making their lunches, taking care of them when they were sick, and for her amazing multitasking qualities. Dad’s list includes thankfulness for his service in the war, for passing on a love for music, and for his financial faithfulness. This is a great project to include kids and grandkids. (Sometimes the grandkids have some of the best ideas.)
Teaching your children about the importance of age. Who gets served first for dinner in your house? In Asian cultures, the elderly are served first. Finding little ways to teach your kids about the importance of respecting age as part of their good manners.
Visiting a nursing home with your kids. Far too often, elderly people are considered a burden. Ask the staff at a nearby nursing home if there is anyone in particular who could use some love and encouragement. ‘Adopt‘ this person by bringing them cards, treats, by singing for them, or by simply listening to him or her.
Address disrespect in your home. A disrespectful tone or disrespectful actions should never be tolerated in your home. Dads especially need to communicate to their kids that mom is always to be addressed with respect and that he too must be addressed respectfully. If you notice a general lack of respect in your home, call the family together and discuss it. An un-teachable child, one who thinks he knows more than his mom or dad, is headed for a world of pain and disappointment. Encourage your kids today to show respect to all of the adults in their lives. (Note, sometimes disrespect in little ones is excused as ‘shyness.’ Make it clear to your children that when you are with them, they are safe, and you expect them to always answer an adult who says hello or asks them a question. Explain to them that you understand their tendency to be shy, but shyness is never a valid excuse for being rude).
Recently a young mother asked me how she can learn to parent a toddler and a teenager (preteen) without getting angry all the time. As a grandfather, I’d say that you just have to wait until you become a grandparent and then you can do it without anger.
But seriously, there are two things that are important to remember.
One is to think about what is age appropriate for your toddler and for your teenager and to interpret their behavior in light of their age and their maturity. A lot of times we, as parents, have such high expectations for our children. We think of them as adults in little bodies. But they’re not. Their brain is still developing. In fact, it goes beyond even the teenage years. It’s not until about age 23 that a female’s brain is fully developed, and it’s not until age 26 or 27 that the male’s brain is fully developed. And the last part of the development is the prefrontal cortex which is the part of our brain that manages impulse and behavior and making decisions.
So when you are dealing with a toddler, that part of their brain is very primitive and undeveloped. You’ll see them do impulsive things. You’ll see behavioral things that just don’t make sense unless you realize, “Oh yeah, she’s just a toddler.” A toddler thinks magically. There’s no logic. It’s a delightful time. They can have an imaginary playmate. They can put themselves into stories and become part of the story because everything is magical. Absolutely nothing is logical until age 5 or 6 when the logic starts to sneak in.
It’s the same thing with a preteen. Their brain is more developed, but there is also the way that they think. Your tweenager is really just beginning the ability to think abstractly. Reversibility is part of that process. Reversibility is the cognitive process by which one can think of something and back it up and understand it as well as take it forward in terms of the thought process. So it’s not until you really get into the 12 or 13 year range that a kid can actually take a behavior and think back and say, “Well, I guess I did that because of this or that.” And they can reverse their thinking and go backwards. Prior to that, all they can do is think forward. If you ask them, they’ll say, “I don’t know why I did that.” They’re being honest. They don’t have the ability to think back. If you’re interested, there’s some reading that you can do. Jean Piaget, is a French theorist, who wrote about this some years ago. You can look him up on Wikipedia and see some of his writings on cognitive development and become familiar with what children are capable of in terms of their behavioral patterns.
Now the second thing, and this is that sometimes children can act like little jerks. They’ll even do certain things just to annoy their parents or others in authority. Sometimes kids will do things just to get your goat. That’s what kids do. If you can learn to laugh at that and make light of it, you’ll be so much further ahead than if you take it personally and begin to stew on it, and think about why they are doing it. If you can just kind of relax and not take it seriously you’ll find their behavior much less bothersome.
I talked about being a grandfather. One of the joys of being a grandparent is that you can watch your grandchildren, and just enjoy the developmental process. My grandkids are from age 3 to 30, so I have watched the developmental process over a long period of time. It’s fascinating. I wish I could have done that with my kids more. But sometimes you are too flustered and too frazzled to pay much attention to the developmental process. If you can get that developmental process into your mind, not set your expectations too high, and remember that when they seem out to get you, to make light of it and join in, you’ll be able to enjoy them a lot more.
No matter what stage in the developmental process your kids are at, they need some boundaries. Humor goes a long way in enforcing boundaries in a non-angry, non-putative manner. And think about using paradox, suggesting the opposite of what you want. I have fun doing that with my grandkids. I think the best advice that I can give you is to practice learning to enjoy them for who they are and how they are at this particular stage of life, because it only lasts for a little while and then it’s gone.
My youngest son had another child who is now age 3 and 10 years younger than her sister. When he was born I thought, “Oh boy, I get to watch another little person become a big person all over again.” I don’t know how long I’ll get to do that, but I enjoy every minute. And if parents can learn to enjoy their kids in their uniqueness, in their silliness, in their “kidness” that goes a long way to reduce anger.
So good luck with that. You won’t do it consistently, just do it more than you’re doing it now and that’s all you’ve got to do. Remember you just have to be a good enough parent. Don’t be too good, or you’ll spoil your child and make him into a little monster. Don’t be no good because then you’ll ruin your kids. God made us so that all we have to be is good enough, which means somewhat consistent. And also, try to remember to lighten up.
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