Using "respect talk" with your son

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A common occurrence began this morning in my home. I could hear my oldest two children bickering back and forth. Whenever I go to break up the argument and tell them to be kind to each other, here are the typical responses I get:

Younger Sister (in whiny voice): 

  • "He's being mean to me!"

  • "He said I'm being wimpy!"

  • "He called me a brat (or something worse)."

Older Brother (in irritated voice):

  • "She's being such a wimp!"

  • "She's so whiny!"

  • "You always favor her and yell at me!"

  • "You don't hear how she really is when you and Dad aren't around."

But for some reason a different approach came over me this morning. I've been reading Mother & Sons, the respect effect, by Emerson Eggerichs. This book has made me more conscientious of the way I speak to my son, using terms of respect and honor. Terms that speak to his masculine heart. 

So I pulled his aside and said this instead:

"Buddy, God made girls to be very responsive and men to be leaders. It is this way with me and Daddy as well. Your sister will respond to your leadership. Even if she is being bratty, you take the lead as the man. Be thoughtful and kind and put her needs above your own, and I promise you that she will catch on to that. And she will bend over backward to be 10x as nice to you. That's how girls are made. God made us to be responsive to your leadership."

And something amazing happened. He nodded his head and said, "Okay, Mom."

Not the usual arguing or frustration that 'Mom just does NOT understand.'

And that's the kind of respect talk I am learning from this book. And it's sparking life and responsiveness in my son in a way I have never seen before.


Now here I am several weeks later and feeling a tug on my heart to finish this article. BECAUSE, this morning as I am doing my quiet time with God, my son behind me brushing his teeth and getting ready for soccer camp, I decided to open up another respect-talk conversation. I spun around in my chair, took him by the hands and said:

"First of all, I want you to know I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your consistency in waking up early and getting yourself prepared for camp all of these mornings so far. And I'm also very proud about your performance at camp. I can see that you're getting more muscular and fit!

Also, I know now that you are a teenager and with the oldest group at camp, that you are around kids who are swearing and probably doing all kinds of bad things to try to be cool. But I want you to know that I believe in you and the young man that God is creating you to be. A young man of honor."

He looked to the side and nodded and understood. And a second later right before he walked out the door, he spun around and told me some goofy story from camp with a big smile on his face. He was energized. And then he said a quick, "thank you" as he walked away. "Thank you"? From my 14-year old? Unsolicited? These words as a knee-jerk reaction (rather than having to think about his manners or what he should say), well, so so rare. And NOT a coincidence. 

I believe my words spoke to his masculine heart. They sparked something, and he responded. 

And for me, I am learning that this is something I must cultivate and learn, because it does not come naturally to me. 

The loving part? Well, yes of course! Loving my family is my native tongue! But the respect talk? God is continuing to teach me. 

And if you have a heart to see your son grow into an honorable young man, and would like to open up better communication between the two of you- I would highly recommend focusing on this approach!

Based on Vicki Courtney’s book “5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son”.

A one-page sheet highlighting the main bullet points.