Sample ImagePlace the napkin on your lap, don’t speak with your mouth full, and respect your elders.

In the past, parents were the final authority on everything. What you were allowed to wear, where you were allowed to go, and what you were allowed to watch on TV and in the movie theater were decided for you.

Parents dictated what we could say and even when we could say it.

“Speak when you’re spoken to” was not a suggestion; it was a command to be followed without question. And, although I have never been an advocate of keeping children silent at all costs, I am disturbed by what has become the norm.

Today, youngsters of all ages “talk back” to their parents. In the malls, on the streets, and even in church, I see and hear blatant disrespect for authority. It almost makes me wish for the “good old days.” Back then, all parents and elders were treated like your own parents.

In most cases, parents are to blame for the behavior of children.  In our quest to be our children’s “best friends,” we often hand over parental power.  Negotiating with a three-year old who won’t go to bed, making a deal with a ten-year old who refuses to put down the XBox and finish his homework, and wishing your teenager would stop texting friends while sitting in church are behaviors I simply don’t understand.

I just don’t get it! There has to be some happy medium between reaching out to our children with welcoming arms and laying down the law. That zone of compromise defines what decisions our children will make, and which we will make for them. The privilege to make decisions should be earned, and should be distributed in an age-appropriate manner.  

The Bible tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This is an exhortation to us as parents, to recognize that our job is to TRAIN our children to become respected and productive adults. Everything we do, how we live our lives, what we say to our children and to others while in their presence, are essential to that training. We need to take this mandate seriously, and to temper our love and affection with a fair measure of discipline and rules relevant to the ages of our children.

We need to recognize that the children we are raising will affect hundreds of lives as they go through life. We can make a difference as to whether they will do so positively or negatively. From their teachers, to church leaders, to peers, and to younger children in their care, all are affected by behavior that is upright—and learned at home at an early stage.

If you allow your children to dictate how you perform as a parent, don’t be surprised when they won’t let you return the favor.

Judith Falloon-Reid is a marketing executive and founder of ByHisWord Outreach Ministries, a multi-faceted Christian ministry in South Florida that includes ByHisWord Theatre Company, a youth outreach ministry. For more information about Falloon-Reid, log onto