Reverence and respect: teaching children forgotten principles
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When Primary leaders are asked to share some of their challenges in Primary, they often say it is a lack of reverence and respect. Children are growing up in a world where reverence for God and civility toward one another are rapidly diminishing. Incivility and irreverence can become normal and accepted by our children unless we teach them otherwise.
Children are not born with a natural inclination to be reverent. President Marion G. Romney said, "By and large, children . . . will be just about as reverent as they are trained to be, and no more" ("Reverence," Ensign, October 1976, p. 3).
What can parents and Church leaders do to encourage and nurture reverent and respectful attitudes and behavior in children?
Teach children the true meaning of reverence and why it is important.
When a Primary boy was asked, "What is reverence?" he responded, "It's when you fold your arms and be quiet." Reverence is much more than sitting still and being quiet. A Primary song teaches:
Rev'rence is more than just quietly sitting:
It's thinking of Father above,
A feeling I get when I think of his blessings.
I'm rev'rent, for rev'rence is love.
(Children's Songbook, 31)
Reverence is profound respect and love. Children are capable of understanding that reverence is a feeling of love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that it shows in their attitudes and behavior. They can be taught to maintain an attitude of reverence even when they are participating in fun activities and movement.
Set an example of reverence.
Example is always the most effective and best way to teach children. Children notice when reverence is a part of our way of life. They notice how we speak about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, how we treat others, and how happy and grateful we are. They observe how we value the scriptures and live the gospel. They learn reverence as they listen to us pray and as we help them pray using the appropriate language of prayer (such as the pronouns Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine). Children are more influenced by what they see us do than by what they hear us say.
Foster reverence through love.
As children feel our love they are more receptive to the Spirit, which leads to reverence. We can show our love by expressing an interest in each child. Often it is the child who is least reverent who needs our love the most.
One teacher was having problems with some misbehaving class members.
She was counseled to select one of them and then show that person in five different ways that she loved the child. After doing this, she reported that the child she had selected stopped misbehaving, so she selected another and did the same thing. Over the next few weeks, she selected three different class members, and each one ceased being disruptive after she showed she cared about them. Love softened hearts (see Teaching, No Greater Call , 31).
Provide opportunities where children experience reverence.
President Harold B. Lee said, "Reverence is a quality of the soul which needs a proper climate in which to flourish." Reverence begins in the home. When parents and Church leaders unite their efforts to create a climate of reverence where the Spirit can be present, it provides an opportunity for testimonies to grow.
For Church resources that offer specific suggestions on how to foster reverence, see:
Teaching, No Greater Call
LDS.org" TARGET="_blank">class="bullet-item">LDS.org (Primary, "Teaching Responsible Behavior")
"Reverence" page in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org