Photo by Jesse Dodds on Unsplash
Photo by Jesse Dodds on Unsplash

The Foundation of all Great Parenting

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. – Romans 12:10 (NAS)

“I don’t want you to go on the Big Red Boat!” At 12:30 a.m., the words of my five year-old daughter, Taylor, didn’t quite register in my mind. “Please…” she begged, “don’t go on the boat.” There it was again. This time I knew I wasn’t dreaming. As I sat up in bed trying to gain focus, Taylor again pleaded with me not to go on the cruise ship. Even though her request itself was bizarre, the thing that most puzzling was the fact that I had no plans to set sail on the Big Red Boat.

“Honey,” I gently inquired, “Why don’t you want daddy to go on the boat?”

“I don’t want you to get hit by an ice burg and drown,” she explained. Oddly enough, at 12:30 a.m. that actually made sense. “Taylor,” I attempted to clarify, “The Big Red Boat floats in water that is too warm for ice burgs. They would melt long before they reached the ship.” Taylor stood there for about five seconds and finally said, “Okay.” She then turned without another word and headed back to bed.

My wife and I shared a good laugh the next morning. But since that time, Taylor’s fear of me sinking like the Titanic has made me think about what creates a solid foundation for children. I truly believe that the most effective parenting is built upon a foundation of Honor. My father, Dr. Gary Smalley, made this concept his lifelong ministry. Honor is the lighthouse, the beacon, the mighty rock onto which every fulfilling relationship is built and every shaky relationship destroyed. When an adequate amount of honor is present in a relationship, family members can withstand the roughest storms. When honor has been destroyed, like the Titanic on course with the ice burg, the family is destined for disaster.

The best definition of honor that I’ve heard involves two extremely important parts. First, honor is anytime we “confer distinctive value” upon someone. When a college bestows an honorary doctorate degree, the school is conferring distinction upon someone. When an audience applauds or an individual bows before someone, they are conferring distinction.

The second part of honor is deciding that your child’s opinions, concerns, and expectations are just a little more valuable than your own. The highest level of love and maturity is when parents prefer their child’s feelings and needs above their own. Honor does not involve the belief that your opinions, concerns and desires are somehow superior to your child’s. Conveying a superior attitude is the biggest killer of a family and produces the most frustration, hurt, and fear within a home. Honor is a “lifting up,” a holding up of your children with reverence. It's the selfless process of proclamation: in honoring you are telling your child that he or she is paramount in your life and his or her status in your hierarchy of values is above all other things. Honor is permanent, unmovable, and forever. It will keep your family boat afloat for generations to come.

Bringing Honor Into Your Home

  1. Confer valuable distinction upon each of your children. (Imagine that your child’s smile is God’s autograph)
  2. Choose to highly value your children just a little above yourself.
  3. Observe and then make a list of your child’s best qualities and positive characteristics.
  4. Share the list with him or her on a regular basis.
  5. Praise him or her in front of others.
  6. Give gifts to express your delight.
Greg Smalley, PsyD
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Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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