How to Talk to Your Kids About Respect in Relationships. 

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The odds of a teenage relationship ultimately making it to marriage is very slim, but healthy dating can help them decipher for themselves the qualities that they may find best fitting in a future mate. Dating can also help them discover who they are, and who they would like to become as a caring future spouse. 

That being said, it is important to prepare them for such a crazy task as dating. 

The primary focus that is helpful to teach young people around relationships is respect and needs to be emphasized from three perspectives. Respect for GodRespect for the other person, and Respect for Self

Teenage relationships are hard enough as it is, without adding any extra pressures. Whether or not your child is ready to be dating is between you and your child, but here are some thoughts to consider, should you and your child decide it is appropriate to begin a relationship.

Respect for God. 

If faith is important to you and your family, then the conversation should probably include a significant segment around God. Respect for God translates into consideration of the words and actions within relationships, and how they reflect God’s view of them. The question then could be taught, Are my actions and words within this relationship respecting God?  This respect for God also can be helpful in determining whether a relationship is healthy in the first place or not. It can be helpful to teach teens to ask themselves, Is this relationship honoring God to the best of its abilities?”

Teaching Respect for God within a relationship is not just a tool for behavior modification, to simply keep your kids from making poor choices. Although we DO want our teenagers to make smart choices, respect for God takes on a more holistic approach to how God views them, and how God views this other person they are spending time with. In Genesis, the text describes that humans were created “In the Image of God,” and that in finishing his creation of humans he saw what he had created, and said that it was, “very good.” This is contrasted with the other days of creation where God simply saw what he had created, and simply said that it was “good.” Being called Very Good, is a statement about our created essence, that God did not create us as sinful, depraved people, we take that upon ourselves. God created us with the inner goodness of himself. 

Living as Very Good Image Bearers could mean many things, but it surely includes living with respect for God within our relationships. Am I reflecting God’s created image in my relationships? Am I living out God’s created Goodness to its fullest? These are questions that can be asked in respect for God in relationships. 

Respect for Others

Each one of these elements of respect build on each other. It is out of a healthy view of humanity’s Very Good Image Bearer status, that we approach respect for the other person in the relationship.  

Since God has created humanity In His Image, this means the essence of this other person holds something significant within God’s view of them. They are created by God, bearing his thumbprint, and by nature, that means they matter. They hold worth. They are not an object to be used up and thrown away. In objectifying the other person in a relationship, we are not giving due worth to the significance of the person as a child of God. Having the right view of the other person from the beginning creates the foundation and expectation that they are going to be treated as a Very Good Image Bearer from the start. 

We learn how to do this from God. It is God who calls us Very Good. It is God who says we bear his image. It is God who says that each person matters and that each person is significant. Teaching your teen to ask, Am I respecting this person as a bearer of the Image of God in the way I am treating them? Do my words and actions reflect this person’s created label of “Very Good? Taking this seriously can play a big part in having a healthy respect for the other person. Viewing the other person from the perspective of God can really impact the foundation of a relationship. If a situation were to arise that would bring the couple to a crossroads, (spiritually, physically, and emotionally), recognizing God’s view of the other person can have an impact on their actions and words towards their partner. 

Respect for Self

Like before, each one of these elements of respect build on each other. It is out of a healthy respect for God within a relationship that we have respect for others, and this also carries over to our respect for self. The other person in the relationship is not the only Very Good Image BearerBoth parties are created with this inherent goodness in God’s eyes. All of humanity bears the thumbprint of God, and we are often the ones that are the first to forget it. When it comes to self-esteem and self-respect, humans are the first to put ourselves down. We are our harshest critics, and the last ones to point out our strengths. We often praise other’s strengths to the detriment of our own. For the most part, we don’t like thinking good things about ourselves, especially when it comes to talking about teenagers and their self-image. 

Like before, we learn respect for ourselves from God’s view of us. He created us in his image and calls us all Very Good. Viewing ourselves through God’s eyes creates an expectation of how we are supposed to treat ourselves. This may translate into creating boundaries that are set within relationships out of respect for one’s self. It could also mean healthy expectations of how your teenager expects to be treated within the relationship. Teaching critical thinking skills around self-worth, and self-image can be helpful in encouraging smart decisions. Teaching them to say, “It is out of respect for myself that I won't behave this way, or let you treat me this way…” Having a healthy respect for self-carries expectations of one’s own words and actions, as well as how one expects to be treated. 

We have to teach our teenagers about their inner created beauty, and image bearing goodness, so that they can be reminded of God’s view of them. Teach your child how God created them Very Good, that they are handsome/beautiful, regardless of what the world around them might say about their image. Teach them that they bear the Image of God within them, and that means they are special, and they matter. Having a right view of God impacts our view of others, which builds our view of ourselves. If we are to expect our teenagers to approach their romantic relationships with the right attitude and respect, then we are going to have to teach them. This starts with a healthy respect for God, Others, and Self. 

  Gavin Spell, Minister for Youth

Gavin Spell, Minister for Youth