How do I help my child respect authority?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

Whether it is from teachers, principals, police officers, or parents, students have a lot of people in their life setting rules and guidelines about how they need to behave. Unfortunately, students can sometimes view authority as an attack on their freedom. Instead of seeing rules as guidelines to help them, they can view authority figures as trying to limit their freedom.

So what does the Bible have to say on the matter? Well, it tells us that we are to respect all authority. Romans 13 says that everyone must submit to all governing authorities. Notice our respect for authority is not based on the fairness or merit of the one with authority. Rather, we respect authority because it has been put in place by God. When your student cries out, "That's not fair!", help them see that as long as it does not disobey God, that we still must submit to authority. It may also help to give examples of how, when "not fair" works in your student's favor, they don't seem to mind so much.

The best example to use to encourage your student to respect authority is the life of Jesus. Jesus, being God, is King over everything. Yet, He humbled Himself by coming in the form of man to the earth (Philippians 2:5-11). He obviously submitted to God the Father but realize what else He did. He paid taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). When He was arrested, He didn't call down angels to rescue Him even though He could have. Instead, He allowed them to take Him and sentence Him, allowing Roman soldiers to crucify Him on a cross (John 19). Make no mistake that Jesus had the power and authority to prevent any of these things from happening. Also, see that nothing that happened to Christ by the governing authorities was fair or just. Yet, Jesus trusted in the Father and His Word. He obeyed God's Word and submitted to authority, knowing that God would use it for His glory. God was faithful. If Christ, who rightfully deserves all authority in heaven on earth, is willing to submit Himself to those in authority, then we must be willing to follow His example. Help your student understand the Gospel, and encourage them in it that they can trust God's Word as well.

As a parent, know that this may not be an easy task. Teenagers are figuring out who they are and seem to have a natural desire to rebel against authority. After spending years following Jesus, Peter still lopped off the ear of the guard trying to arrest Jesus. It may take some time, but know that it is imperative to help your student understand that the Bible teaches that maximum freedom is found under God's authority.

Things to think about:

Do I show respect for those in authority over my student?

How do you treat those who teach and coach your student? Do you set an example in obeying the law? When there is a conflict between your student and someone in authority, do you lash out in defense of your student or show respect to the person in authority? Do you speak honorably about others to your student? The way you treat people is going to help shape the way your student treats people. Just as Christ set the example for us, you need to set the example to your student.

Does my student understand why I have rules?

Does your student realize that you restrict their freedom because you love them and want to protect them? Have you explained to them past mistakes you have made and the consequences you want to protect them from? Have you told them that God does not restrict things to take away our pleasure, but to keep us from destruction and to live life to the fullest? Have you explained how you have to abide by the rules of those in authority over you?

How do I handle it when my student breaks the rules?

Do you listen to their side of the story? Do you take the time to help them see the consequences of their actions? Do they know that you love them and are willing to forgive them? Even if the student is wrong, it is vitally important that you use the incident to teach your student. Listen to them. Give wisdom. Give consequences. Make sure they know that you still love them.

What do I do now?

Talk to your student about the Gospel and how Christ submitted to authority. Ask him/her what that means to them. Discuss with them how we should react even when power is abused. Ask about their teachers, coaches, etc. and how they feel about them. Make sure they understand your rules as a parent and invite your son or daughter to participate in determining the consequences for breaking those rules so that there is a sense of personal ownership and responsibility for them. Make sure you tell them why you have the rules you have, and assure them that no matter what, you will love them. Be patient, and when something happens, be quick to learn.

Want to go deeper?

LEARNING RESPECTFor more tips and applications on respecting authority, check out the following links.