For parents, the shift from July to August in a normal year can feel a bit like accelerating onto a busy expressway from the slow lane. But in 2020, as we approach the last days of extended summer vacation, (hello there, unexpected pandemic!) it may seem more like a pedestrian trying to snatch a ride on a speeding bullet train. There’s so much to consider as our kids prepare for school: structured days, packing lunches, 7 am wake-ups, hounding kids about homework, driving to and fro... masks?? distance learning??? Oh my! (Pick up our 5-Star Mornings to make this transition a whole lot easier!) Needless to say, this transition has the potential to be—er, a little bumpy. It never works to fear change, better to face it with eyes wide open as an opportunity (welcome or not) for growth and reflection. It may even provide a hidden chance to be more intentional about how we treat one another in our families. 

I’m talking about Respect. It’s a word and concept that gets thrown around a lot, but do we ever slow down to truly examine what it means? 

Respect is defined as “recognizing the worth and dignity of every human being.” Sounds about right. But if we take a closer look at the root “spect,” meaning to see and the prefix: “re,” again, we gain more clues about the word's essence. At its core, respect means to look again at something or someone, to see someone or something with fresh eyes. I love this way of approaching respect because we have to practice it with every person we encounter: the mailman who keeps delivering the wrong packages, the neighbor who thinks your kids are too rowdy, your toddler, and or teenager who woke up super crabby, the Chick-Fil-A cashier who got your order all wrong, or your social media “friend” who is outspoken about her different political beliefs. Each person deserves to be FULLY seen by us—not just their bad mood, mistake, political affiliation, different skin color, or unfamiliar accent—but as a whole person. Respect is a great concept in the big picture view, but when we zoom in, most of us can fall short in our day-to-day living.

No need to feel defeated, just check yourself! 

We all have natural tendencies that cause each of us to react differently to situations. But are we aware that our children are always watching? That’s right, that tense little talk with Mrs. Jones next door about the soccer balls that keep landing in her yard, or the insult you said under your breath after your husband left the milk out overnight, or the way you disparagingly reacted to your reflection in the mirror—“I look like a hot mess!”—the kids see and hear it all! Psychologists universally agree that children learn by watching and mimicking their parents’ behavior. The ways you lack respect for others (or yourself) may be reflected in your children’s actions. Just another reason to be intentional about the way you view each person you encounter along the way.

When you model kindness, and courtesy, especially when it’s difficult, your little darlings will take note and copy. Score one for respect!

So in addition to printing out the school supply list which may or may not include masks, it may also be a valuable time to consider our interactions as a family. Begin asking the questions that can lead the family to greater peace and unity as we take on those busy school year schedules. Here are some questions to consider:

  • When I correct my children for their mistakes, do I also offer encouragement and hope? Or do I dwell on the problem?

  • Do I point out my children’s strengths and promote their achievements?

  • Do I support my spouse in his/her decisions? Or do I belittle, or capitalize on his/her mistakes?

  • As a family, do we celebrate the uniqueness of each individual? Consider going around the table at family dinner and telling one or two qualities you most admire in each person. Each vocal family member should contribute. 

  • Do I put my device down long enough to allow everyone in the family to feel seen, heard, and appreciated?

  • How do I encourage respectful disagreements in the family? Lord knows we will not agree on everything. But do we as parents foster a place where courteous discussion is welcome?

  • Do I feel respected as a parent? Or am I doing the lion’s share of the chores?

  • Do I treat myself with the respect I deserve? How do I talk about my appearance or qualities in front of my kids?  

  • How can I prioritize self-care: alone time, prayer, fun with friends? 

  • Do I show respect to those who have authority over me? How do I discuss political figures? Is my social media feed littered with name-calling rants?

  • Do I treat each person, even those who are SUPER difficult, with courtesy and dignity?

  • Are there times when I could be kinder or more patient with others? 

No matter how your August shapes up—busy school year, distance-learning, homeschooling— you’ve got this! Keep practicing and fostering respect in your family. While the ride may still be tad bumpy, you'll definitely be headed in the right direction. 

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