Ask Dr. Dobson

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Question: You place great emphasis on instilling respect during the development years. Why is that so important? Do you just want adults to feel powerful and in control of these little people?

Answer: Certainly no. Respect is important for several specific reasons. First, the child?s relationship with his parents provides the basis for his attitude toward every other form of authority he will encounter. It becomes the cornerstone for his later outlook on school officials, law-enforcement officers, future employers and the people with whom he will eventually live and work.

Teachers, for example, can tell very quickly when a boy or girl has been allowed to be defiant at home because those attitudes are brought straight into the classroom. Again, relationships at home are the first and most important social encounters a youngster will have, and the problems experienced there often carry over into adult life.

Second, if you want your child to accept your values when she reaches her teen years, then you must be worthy of her respect during her younger days. When a child can successfully defy your authority during his first 15 years, laughing in your face and stubbornly flouting your leadership, he develops a natural contempt for everything you stand for.

Stupid old Mom and Dad! He thinks. I?ve got them wound around my little finger. Sure they love me, but I really think they?re afraid of me. A child may not utter these words, but he feels them each time he wins the confrontation with his mom or dad.

Third, and related to the second, respect is critical to the transmission of faith from one generation to the next. The child who disdains his mother and father is less likely to emulate them on the things that matter most. Why? Because young children typically identify their parents, especially their fathers, with God. Therefore, if Mom and Dad are not worthy of respect, then neither are their morals, their country, or even their most deeply held convictions.