Respect: Demanded, Earned or Both?

Old school teachers will demand respect from their students. New school understands the need to earn it. Lately I’ve found myself in a position of finding and striking a balance between both demanding and earning the respect of my new mini-congregation.

I fall on the new school side of things for the most part. I believe a good teacher will be respected when they give respect, love, acceptance, guidance and useful content. It’s basically the whole, “You can’t make a withdrawal until you’ve made a deposit” thing. But it only works with children who have a typical or ‘normal’ response to a proper teacher/child relationship.

The typical response is of course, respect. Depending on the age you may also get hero-status or even complete enthrallment (pre-school). For some children, however, your kindness is seen as weakness, a vulnerability to be taken advantage of. This is the case most typically with undisciplined children. They may see all adults as their servants, same as they do their parents. Teachers therefore become just another grown-up that is supposed to entertain them, give them treats, and cater to their whims. So kindness and caring are misinterpreted… expected and unappreciated. Any expectations you have are simply suggestions and are ignorable… unless you find the balance between earning respect and demanding it.

For the most part, it’s the child himself who can help you find it. If earning isn’t working, it’s naturally time to move into demanding. But how do we do that without being a tyrant? Is it even possible? I believe in cases where earning isn’t working, demanding is the only alternative. But how?

I’m a Teacher. I give respect, I deserve it in return.

I naturally give proper respect to the students I minister to. I do not mock them. I am not mean to them. I greet them warmly and am polite to them. I am also kind and considerate when a child is in a bad mood, is un-churched, a visitor, or has special needs. These children need extra compassion. But even though I serve these children and their families, I am not their servant. I do not deserve to be mocked, made to feel stupid or unappreciated. The respect I give not only serves to show Christ’s love, but to also be an example to follow.

I defend the Golden Rule… even in reverse.

The Rule: Treat others how you want them to treat you. I wholeheartedly believe in this rule and will defend it. I will treat others how I want them to treat me AND you will treat me how I treat you. At least that will be my goal for you if you’re in my ministry. Not just because I deserve to be treated right. But because it will help you be more like Christ. Therefore it is a part of proper discipleship.

I understand that they must respect me to be led by me.

Why all this talk about respect? Why do I sound like a 67 year old football coach? Because I believe mutual respect is important. I can’t teach kids I don’t think are worth my time. And likewise kids won’t learn from someone they don’t think is worth listening to. If they don’t respect you, they won’t care what you have to say.

I earn and demand respect.

So I’m a little bit old school and a little bit new school. I understand it’s important to be someone worthy of respect. It’s important to pour into a life before you can expect anything from it… but when all that fails… it becomes a discipline issue. Discipline issues are handled like any other bad behavior, by discouraging it and providing benefits for the alternative. So in my kid’s church your son or daughter may find themselves in time out for smarting off… and if they keep it up… they’ll be sitting in church with you for a few weeks. When they’re ready to be respectful, they get to enjoy all of the perks that children’s ministry has to offer.

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