Five practices that teach respect for elders

January 25, 2012

Blog, Character

Grandchild respecting grandmother as he listens to herBecause our culture stresses equality, we forget to teach our children respect for elders. In public schools, there’s a decline in the respect kids show their teachers which may mirror disrespect for parents. Respect naturally flows from honoring the wisdom of older people.

The Israelites were taught to honor their elders:  “Rise up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly…” Leviticus 19:32 and “Honor your father and your mother…” Exodus 20:12.  Honoring with their hearts is easier for our children if we teach them some outward ways to show honor. Here are some suggestions:

  • Require children to refer to adults as “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
  • Teach children to call relatives by terms such as “Aunt Jane” and “Grandpa.”
  • Teen such as babysitters may be called “Miss Christy” or “Mr. Jim.”
  • An adult friend of the family can be called a name like babysitters or given the title Aunt or Uncle.
  • Teach children social graces that show respect such as standing when an adult enters the room, offering a chair to an older person, waiting for permission to interrupt an adult conversation, and saying “Ma’am” and “Sir.”

Although this may sound stiff and formal when you begin, remember that you’re not only teaching a small social grace, but you’re teaching your children that they haven’t yet attained the wisdom to place them on an equal level with adults.  Not only will your children have manners that endear them to their teachers, but also they will learn that adulthood, with the accompanying wisdom and respect, is something they can look forward to attaining.

Question: How do you handle this in your family? How did you decide what your children will call adults? Is it working? Are there others ways you teach your children to show respect to adults?

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About Carole Bell

Carole brings to her ministry knowledge and understanding from a wide range of experiences. She worked with special needs children and diverse cultural populations. She taught and counseled a broad variety of children and teens from the disinterested and discouraged to the eager learner and the gifted. In all of these children, she saw a common thread: the need to feel valued and empowered by the people in their lives.

View all posts by Carole Bell

4 Responses to “Five practices that teach respect for elders”

  1. Teri Jones Says:

    I’ve learned the hard way that there is a second layer of teaching that must accompany this. It is training our children to not judge others that do not hold to the same standards. When my kids were little, they would run up to me aghast, tattling on another child whose mom was standing right there. “Mommy, he just called you Teri!” That defeated the whole purpose when the other parent suddenly felt disrespected and judged. Ugh!


    • Carole A. Bell Says:

      Ouch! Thanks for reminding us of the second layer that must be added to these lessons. One of the hardest things to teach kids is a non-judgmental attitude toward others. Once our children figure out that they are doing something right, they expect the whole world to conform. Funny, I guess that applies to grownups, too.


  2. Lucy Carter Says:

    Thanks for these tips! As a parent or grandparent, it is important to teach them values and respect to children at an early age. If they don’t learn respect at an early age it is difficult to teach as they grow older. Respect is the foundation of a strong and healthy relationship. If parents and adults want to have a successful relationship with kids, respect is the key. This is the key to open the door of tolerance. Here are other ways to teach children on how to show respect towards their elders: My Troubled Teen


  3. Carole Bell Says:

    Thanks for the comment. Your website provides some excellent points we all need to remember. I especially like your five points to help young people understand what “respectful” means.


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