Children who have never been taught to honor their father and mother will not naturally honor any other authority. This problem seems to afflict the homeschool movement quite broadly. I’ve long been concerned about homeschooled children disregarding all other authorities besides their parents, but I’ve now come to a more startling conclusion. All too often homeschool children haven’t even learned to honor their father and mother as the 5th commandment requires.
Think about the common problem of a boy who is homeschooled, especially from 6th-12th grades. He often comes to despise his mother. Can a boy honor his mother if he despises her? Of course not.
Why is this such a common problem among homeschoolers? I have a couple of theories.
It could be that the parents don’t respect authority themselves. This has been my go-to explanation, for a long time, of the lack of respect for other authorities. But it can also explain lack of respect for the parents. After all, if you instill hatred of authority in your children, as the parental authority, it is only natural that it will come back to bite you.
It could also be that homeschoolers simply honor their children too much, and never teach them their place. If everything revolves around the children, and they are constantly catered to, in educational approach, method, schedule and curriculum, they will think that their success and happiness is the most important priority in the home.
This can also be the case among children in private schools. If all of the priority of the family is bent towards allowing the child to attend the exclusive, expensive private school, and all the sacrifices are made in that direction, we should expect the same problems.
Recently my 6 year old son went ahead of me into a room of adults he had never met. He took his seat, and without me present, he began talking to these adults while they were eating lunch. I entered a few moments later with my food, and somebody commended my son for his social skills. My response at the time was, “As long as he remembers that he isn’t an adult.”
It doesn’t matter if your child’s vocabulary is larger than most adults. He isn’t an adult. He should honor them, and defer to them. The old saying, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” is quite practical advice in teaching them to honor their elders. Adults shouldn’t have to compete with children to have a conversation with each other.
As I look at my own family, I realize how many fewer opportunities homeschoolers have to teach their children that the world doesn’t revolve around them. One way that we have open to us is to teach our children simple manners, making sure to explain the purposes behind them as well. Manners are always about serving other people, and making them and their comfort more important than your own.
To help you brainstorm, I’ll end with a few select lines from a poem written in the early 1500’s, Table Manners:
Listen you children who are going to table.
Wash your hands and cut your nails.
Do not sit at the head of the table;
This is reserved for the father of the house.
Do not commence eating until a blessing is said.
Dine in God’s name
And permit the eldest to begin first.
Do not rock back and forth on the bench,
Lest you let loose a stink.
Do not kick your feet under the table.
Wash your hands,
And return diligently to your business or work.
Thus saith Hans Sachs, shoemaker.