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Teaching Kids to be Respectful (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 03/28/2016

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Author Jill Rigby Garner offers parents practical advice from her book Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. Danny Huerta, Focus on the Family's Executive Director of Parenting, joins the conversation and offers his insights as well. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Jill Rigby Garner: What we need to do is teach our children how to esteem others and in so doing, they find respect for themselves. Every opportunity that our child has to put someone ahead of themselves, I often say to put the needs of others ahead of our wants, every opportunity our children have to make that choice is another opportunity they have to build more respect for themselves.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: Parenting insights from Jill Rigby Garner and she's with us on today's "Focus on the Family" to share more about how you can raise respectful children. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.


Jim Daly: John, respect is something every parent strives to instill in their children and we all want well-behaved polite young ladies and gentlemen. In fact, Jean and I, we have paid to send our boys to Cotillion, which helps to train manners. They went kicking and dragging their feet, but we got the job done.

This is one of the reasons Focus on the Family is here, is to help parents do a better job in this area. We want to encourage you and equip you as parents to help your children become better, more respectful adults, who hopefully, will serve the Lord in the long run.

And to talk about, we've invited author, Jill Rigby Garner, who is an accomplished speaker, family advocate, author and founder of Manners of the Heart, which is a non-profit organization designed to promote manners and respect in our society. Jill, we're so glad to have you with us. Welcome to "Focus on the Family."

Jill Rigby: Thank you, Jim. [I'm] so glad to be here.

Jim: That's a big job, teaching respect in this culture, isn't it?

Jill: Yes, it is. I've often said, I wish that this book didn't have to be written, you know, but I wish it could've been raising respectful children in a respectful world, but unfortunately, that's not the case today, because we live in such a disrespectful world.

Jim: And we're gonna talk about that. I've also invited our new executive director of parenting here at Focus on the Family, Danny Huerta. Before Danny came into this new role, he spent 11 years in our counseling department. Danny, welcome to the microphone.

Danny Huerta: Thanks for the opportunity to be here with you, Jim.

Jim: And you're gonna be here time and again on the parenting topic, so we're really grateful for your expertise and what you bring to the table.

Danny: I hope so. We'll see if it'll be (Laughter) here.

Jim: It'll be there. Let's start with how you founded Manners of the Heart, Jill, because I think if I know the story right, you could see the need for greater respect in children and this is years ago and as we just said, there's even a greater demand today. What observationally do you see when it comes to the lack of manners in our culture today.

Jill: Well, it does vary quickly as soon as you go to the mall. You see it at the mall, right, when kids are on their cell phones and texting back and forth.

Jim: And running into you. (Laughter)

Jill: Not looking where they're going, right? You see it very quickly again in the language. I'm just always mortified really at the language, especially when I hear it coming out of girls, you know. I hate to say there's a double standard and there's not. It's not appropriate anywhere, but particularly, I've watched that level increase so much where girls are so much more free to use language that, you know, 15 years ago, you would never have heard, you know, come from a girl's mouth.

Danny: Well, it's encouraged by the media.

Jim: Yeah.

Jill: So much so.

Jim: Well, the media certainly plays a role in that and we're gonna discuss that, but why do you think people's hearts, young girls' hearts are more prone to that, more willing to talk coarsely? Is it a lack of parenting, that the parents aren't there to say, "Hey, that's not how we talk," as a boy or a girl?

Jill: I think there are a lot of factors for that. One I do think is the media, the influence of the media, whether that's in the written word, in magazines or on television, movies, that they see it so much from role models. And I think that's one critical reason for that.

Another reason I think for that is, because girls have been raised in this last, oh, we can say 30 to 40 years really even, since the feminist movement began and they've been raised in an environment that says to be equal with men in, you know, all areas. And I think that has really played a role into that, as well.

Jim: Well, when you're referencing that "equal," you're talking about even be coarse like guys are coarse.

Jill: That right, uh-hm.

Jim: I mean, and that's unfortunate really.

Jill: Very unfortunate.

Jim: We should be tryin' to get guys to behave better. That would be a good thing, as well. You talked, Jill about three types of parenting. Let's kinda start there, so we can branch the discussion off from that concept. What are the three types? You mention, in fact, I think the first one is a parent-centered relationship. What does a parent-centered parenting approach look like?

Jill: I'll share a little story to illustrate that. I think it's the easiest way to see that. I was teaching a confirmation class at our church on a Sunday and one of my little girls, 12-years-old, as soon as she walked in the door, she was just in tears, fell apart. And I said, you know, "Honey, what's wrong?" And she said, "Oh, I saw things and I heard things that I shouldn't and I've been asking God to forgive me."

And I said, "Well, let's sit over here and talk. Where were you? What happened?" Well, the story is that her father and yes, this was in church, but her father took her to the movies the night before to catch up with some of her friends, her little friends to watch a movie that they should be seeing.

And something happened and they didn't connect with the little girls and he had planned to watch a movie while the girls were watching their movie. And he at a thoughtless moment, took his daughter in to see the R-rated movie that he had planned to see, 12-years-old. And so, she did hear and she did see things that she should not have been exposed to.

Now this was one of the moments when I wanted to, you know, leave my manners at home and (Laughter) go, you know, punch him in the nose and take every tooth out of his head for what he had exposed his daughter to.

But I use that illustration to point that, that's a parent-centered parent, right? In that moment, he was more concerned with, you know, his plans and doing what he wanted to do, than putting the best interests of his daughter first.

Danny: Which is a natural thing that parents have, right? It's natural as humans to have that tendency to want to take care of ourselves first. So, it takes a lot of discipline on the part of the parent to be aware of their daughter's need in that moment. That's hard.

Jill: Very much so.

Jim: What's another example where parents need to be careful not to be parent-centered? Either one of you, I mean, what are some other things outside of the movies—that's a great example—but what things do we do day to day where we're not thinking about that for our children?

Jill: I'll give another example. Another example is tryin' to live through our children, you know. (Laughter)

Jim: Okay, that's a good one.

Jill: Yeah, I know, ouch, living through our children, you know. If I didn't make the cheerleader squad, I'm gonna make sure that my daughter does, whether that's, you know, her interest or not, you know. If for a man, you know, sports of course, is a big one, right?

Jim: I played on the football team, therefore my boys—

Jill: Right.

Jim: --will play on the football team.

Jill: You know and that parent-centered parent really shows itself in that whole area when we are trying to accomplish through our children maybe an emptiness, you know, that we feel and we're trying to live vicariously, you know, through our children. That's being totally blinded to what maybe God's plan was, you know, for our children.

Jim: Yeah.

Jill: We're just trying to want them to do what we want them to do or what we want them to become, rather than taking into account, you know, what they are outfitted for and what they're suited for and not, you know, checkin' in with God to see what, maybe He had in mind.

Jim: Hey, Danny, let me ask you this, because so many times and I'm thinking from a dad's perspective, but like you said, you know, moms and daughters and moms and sons have these same issues. But sports is a great example and a lot of dads will be saying, Christian dads who are committed to the Lord are saying, "Yeah, but kids, they may need a nudge." How do you distinguish between a nudge and a trampling? You know, you nudge your child to try sports, versus you're trampling over them to say, "Hey, come on; how come you didn't make the basketball team," or the football team. "You gotta try harder."

Danny: Well, a parent has to be aware of why they're encouraging their child to do better. Is it's so that I look better? Or is it really for my child's benefit? That's a big one. That takes insight. That takes time inside, right—time in, looking at where is my heart? What's my—

Jim: What's driving me?

Danny: --intention here? Right and many times children will let you know what they're interested in and parents have to decide, am I okay with that or not? Can my child thrive in this? Does my child have skills to do this? Is this his or her skill-set? And with sons, we want them to do very well, because as man, we find value in what we do and we have to balance that. We have to learn how to be okay with failure and many kids don't learn [that], don't know how to handle failure early on.

Jim: Ah, that's so true. Jill, let me ask you this. You also talked about, in addition to parent-centered parenting, you talk about child-centered parenting. Is that the helicopter parent?

Jill: (Laughing) In some ways, yes, that's the helicopter parent—the parent who puts, you know, the child at the center of everything.

Jim: But they're so cute, Jill.

Jill: Oh, right.

Jim: How do we not put them at the center of everything?

Jill: They are so cute. They are so cute. That's such a good (Laughter) point. They are so cute, but the "but" I'll interject there is, but if we're not careful, we can raise and I'll use a term with great affection, but "arisobrats," is what I call them.

Jim: Aristobrats. (Laughter)

Jill: Aristobrats.

Danny: Oh, wow.

Jill: Yeah, we can actually raise aristobrats. You know, there used to be a time when our children were born and we crowned them and we crowned them the prince or princess of the home, right? And that's okay, 'cause it kept the authority line in order, right?

Jim: Right.

Jill: But too often today we crown children the king or queen of the home and instantly, you see that creates just a mess, because that knocks the authority line out of order, right? So, if they're our children, if we make them the king or queen of the home, then that puts us in a subservient role to our children. And one of the hard truths is, that when we bow before our children, we actually can become an obstacle to our children bowing before God one day.

Jim: How do we dethrone them, if we've made the mistake and they're now 5-, 6-, 7-years-old and they are walkin' around like they are king or queen?

Jill: Right.

Jim: How do we say to them, "Okay, you're now just a prince or a princess?"

Jill: (Laughing) It's kinda hard to do, isn't it? None of us like to go backwards, right? But the best way to do that is, that you begin to help them become other-centered. Because what's happened is, they've become very self-centered in that role, right? Because their world is all about them and their needs and their wants. They're the rulers, right? So, what we have to do to undo that is to do the reverse.

And that's that they need to be put in subservient roles. For instance, a 6-year-old that might have a 3-year-old [sibling], can be the one to serve the juice. Can be the one to retrieve the shoes. Can be the one to really help and to serve that younger sibling.

You begin to get them outside themselves, where instead of saying, you know what? It's time to clean your room so your room won't be a mess. No, we would say, "It's time to clean your room so that no one comes in and trips over your things." You begin to change their focus and get them outside themselves more into looking at how my actions affect those around me. Bring them into an "other-centered" view and get them out of that mirror.

Jim: Jill, we've covered two of those. What's the third parenting style that I think is the ideal one?

Jill: The third is character centered and that character-centered parent, that's the parent who makes every decision today, based in how is this gonna help my child become who God created them to be? Which means there are times we say no, even when at the moment, "yes" might seem easier, because we would pacify them.

But sometimes we have to be willing to say "no" in the moment, not because it's gonna make 'em happy, 'cause happiness is not our goal in raising children, should not be. Our goal is to help them become humble and holy, not happy.

And so, we have to say no at times. We have to parent, what I call it, with a long view, with eternity in mind. So, every decision is based in, if I give in to this today, how is this gonna help my child become all they're meant to be. If it's going to be a hindrance in any way, then that's how you determine that decision today.

Jim: When you look back on those three, which one did you fall naturally toward and why? And then how did you overcome that parenting trap and achieve the character-based one? I'm assuming that you learned that as a parent. You're typically not born to be a good character-oriented parent.

Jill: Right. Ouch. (Laughter) Ouch.

Jim: You're in the hot seat.

Jill: I'm in the hot seat. I learned it the hard way. I have identical twin sons, who are now, you know, grown men and one getting ready to become a dad himself now. But when those boys were young, in kindergarten into first grade, we went to a little birthday party for a friend of mine's daughter. And afterwards I get this beautiful phone call. "Jill, I love you so much," from my friend and I said, "Oh, dear. (Laughing) What's coming after that comment?" And she said, "I love you so much that if you don't get a handle on those boys, they're gonna be in jail before they're 10-years-old." And I said, "Oh, were they that bad?"

Jim: What a friend.

Jill: "Were they that bad?" And she said, "Well, Jill, rambunctious is one thing and I understand this, too. I understand they're identical boys. I understand, you know, that creates its own issues, you know. They play off each other. But Jill!. (Laughter).

And so, I had been reading, you know, when I became a mom, because as you said, I mean, we don't come into this world knowing how to do that. And unless we are parented really well and have, you know, that wonderful, you know, example in front of us, you know, then that kinda starts us even at a deficit. If it hasn't been good, we're even starting not at zero, but at a deficit.

Danny: Which is a frequent reality, right, Jill?

Jill: Which is very much a frequent reality and so, I had been reading everything on the market. You know, my boys, they were born in '82, which was the height of the self-esteem movement and the feel-good stuff and the Dr. Spock and all that.

Jim: Trophies for losing.

Jill: Oh, all of it and I (Laughter) mean, that's what I had been doing, you know. And so, I made a decision in that moment, all right, okay, the best way I can do this, the faster way I can learn I'm doin' everything wrong is, I'm gonna do the opposite of basically everything I'm bein' told to do. So, if I do the opposite, maybe I'll get closer to doing what God really intended to do. If I've been doin' everything man's way, I've gotten lost in this somehow.

And so, all those books went in the trash and I got back in Scripture and consulting Christians parents and saying, "What are you doin' that's different than what I'm doing?" And really started siding against that self-esteem idea of building their self-esteem and instead, building their self-respect, which only comes from first, a respect for others.

So, as I mentioned earlier, you know, everything they did I started connecting it with how do your actions affect those around you, to get them to have this more other-centered perspective. That's really where it started for me.

Jim: That's good and it's scriptural. You know, what—

Jill: Absolutely.

Jim: --a great place to start. You're listening to "Focus on the Family." I'm Jim Daly. Today we're talking to Jill Rigby Garner, author of the book, Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. Love the title. Also with us is Danny Huerta, our executive director for parenting here at Focus on the Family. It's great to have Danny at the microphones, as well.

Let me push a bit on this balance. I would think that some parents, you know, kids are, I think, pretty much born self-centered. I mean, it's part of our sin nature. It's the fallen state of humanity. We're constantly trying to find our own best interests in any situation. And hopefully, for the Christian, that's where you temper that and you serve others. That was the clear message that Jesus gave us, to love your neighbor. If you want to be a No. 1 in the kingdom of God, you've gotta be last. You know, very counter concepts to our fleshly nature.

And for that parent who wants to raise that child, long view, long term, we've talked a little bit about some of the service-oriented things they can do. But give me some age-specific things that puts some handles on it. I mean, my boys are 15 and 13 and you know, these are obviously things that you're always thinkin' about. Are they others-centered enough at this stage? But what should we look for as parents at ages 3 to 5 and 7 to 10 and 12 and 13 and then 17, 18?

Jill: Right. I'll give you a really neat example that we've always gotten a lot of feedback on when people, you know, have been to a seminar, have heard, you know, what we teach, we've always gotten really good feedback when people have tried this.

And so, when you go to the grocery or well, we'll use the grocery. When you go to the grocery and well, first you have to back up. If you've gotten caught in the trap of your child getting a little treat, you know, every time you go to the grocery, first it's gotta stop there.

Jim: (Laughing) That's right.

Danny: That's a dangerous place.

Jill: And we gotta get out of that and you know when you've crossed that line when your child has an expectation. That's when you know you've crossed the line. When you've given too much and expected too little, you know that's happened when you go to the grocery and the child is already picking out what they're gonna get when you walk in the door, right? Because they know, "I'm walkin' out with something."

So, that's your first indicator, uh-oh, I've given too much. I've crossed the line, because they have an expectation. So, that's the first time.

So, then you have to decide, I have the God-given authority to undo this, because I am the parent and I'm supposed to be making these decisions. So, you decide, "I'm not doin' those treats anymore." And you're gonna have to deal with what's gonna come.

Jim: And what will come? It'll be ugly.

Jill: Oh, it's gonna be ugly. It's gonna be a tantrum probably. The stronger-willed child, the more the tantrum and the louder and the more embarrassing it's going to be. And the answer is not to stop taking your child. A lot of parents just say, "You know what? I don't want to deal with it. You know, I'm not gonna take my child to the grocery anymore. It's just too much trouble." You are missing such a great opportunity for training.

So, you go and you go and you come back until finally and if you will stand in your place of authority, your child will stop asking. When that day comes and your child has stopped asking, now you're gonna drive 'em crazy, 'cause you're gonna say, "Honey, why don't we get a treat today?" (Laughter) After you (Laughing) … right, after you've undone it. But that's your way, one way of taking back that authority, that role of authority so your child understand, you know, that's for you to determine, not for your child.

And so, you give 'em that opportunity and here's the catch to it. Let 'em take a treat and then pick out a treat. Then put the coins in their hand or the dollar bill, I guess today, in their hand and let them pick out a second treat. It'll take a few extra minutes, but I'll never tell you parenting doesn't take time. And let them buy their little treat, pay for it themselves and then turn around and give it away. Let them give it away. The experience your children have in the moment of how much better it felt to give than it did to get is such a lesson in itself.

Jim: That's a great idea. That's clever. Jill, you talk about the difference between the child's purpose and to focus on that and not their performance. That can be really hard and I'm speakin' as a parent, that so often, you know, I'm tryin' to help 'em with their homework or you know, they're lagging in something there. And it is performance based. This world frankly is very performance based.

So, how do I have a healthy approach to that, recognizing that is gonna be the environment? You're gonna be reviewed in your job. That's a performance review, they call it. How do I prepare that child without breaking them in that performance versus purpose area?

Jill: I like to think about that in terms of teaching our children how to not just compete, but how to cooperate. And I think that is so important, because our purpose is always to be engaged with others. Our purpose is always, you know, the blessed to be a blessing concept, right? So, whatever we have, whatever we learn is always to be used to help others.

So, to try to keep that balance between performance and purpose, there's always that reminder that we want our children to do their very best. We want them to really master a skill, to achieve the best that they can possibly do in their given areas of interest and their purpose.

But to take it beyond a performance, we want to take it to the point in the area of purpose by helping them recognize that by doing really well and mastering this, it's not so that you're No. 1. It's not so that you're competing with everybody else. It's certainly not so that you're beating anyone else. It's so that you've mastered something in order that now you can share it with others, so that you can take all this information you're gathering and all this mastery that you've accumulated and then turn around and help transform the world.

You can turn and if you've mastered this, your great privilege and your great reward isn't that award that might come, right in a trophy or the certificate or the accolades. The deeper reward that's much more important and long-lasting is the ability now to turn and help someone who hasn't gotten it, who doesn't understand that math or, you know, who can't get those, you know, algebraic equations and all of those tough stuff, but you can. You've mastered it and so, you can help someone else.

Jim: Do you have a story about a track meet or something like that, that relates to this?

Jill: Yes, it's one of my all-time favorite stories. I use this story in so many, many ways. We even do business training around personal best for businesses and this is the story that we anchor that whole concept to.

My boys were track runners and when they were juniors in high school, we were at the state track meet and it was the last heat of the last race that was gonna determine the whole top three, you know, winners for the whole state track meet.

And our guy is comin' down the track and he just happened to be in the center lane and there were five of 'em out there and the two guys on either side were just, I mean, they were breathing, you know, if you're looking from the sideline, you know, shoulder to shoulder, looked like one person flying down the track.

And they get really close, right close to the finish line and our guy couldn't stand it and he glanced to his left and the guy is, you know, really shoulder to shoulder and he took a few more steps and they're right on the tape and he glanced to the right and the guy on the right was just a hair off, so much so, he had to just really turn his neck all the way. And when he did, what do you think the guy on the left did?

Jim: He won.

Jill: He did. He fell into the tape. Well, our magnanimous track coach, who generally keeps a real calm head, lost it. And he came bounding out on the track to have a private moment with the young man, but of course, that can't happen when everybody's hanging over the fences, right?

And I'm so glad we all heard it. And he comes up and he pounds the kid on his chest and he says, "How many times have I told you that you took your eye off the goal? How many times have I told you, you are not competing with everybody else on the track? You are only out there to compete with yourself. Now I've got a question for you, young man. Did you get beat or did you lose it?"

What a moment and I vividly remember it. I mean, I get emotional just replaying that and that's 20 years ago. But to think, what a lesson that was, that we are only competing with ourselves and isn't that what Scripture teaches us, that we are only competing with ourselves. Every day we can be a little bit better than the day before. Every day we're out there, not to compete with anyone else. And the fact of the matter is, we're only striving to be our best, I mean, to become the very best that God created us to be, 'cause there's really only one No. 1, right? I mean—

Jim: Yeah.

Jill: --and it's the Lord God, Himself.

Danny: But society has created a stigma that competition's bad. But performance offers opportunity for growth in a person and I think we've equated it with personal value and that's where it's gone wrong. And so, now you get the programs that, let's not keep score. Let's keep everybody happy, right?

Jill: Uh-huh, right.

Danny: But with boys especially, the competition is huge for personal growth if it's directed correctly and that's what you're talking about, Jill.

Jill: Exactly.

Jim: Jill, it's a great illustration. We're at the end of the day and there's more to talk about in your book, Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. I want to talk about the boundaries issue, talk more about the media influence in today's culture, maybe about selfies and digital stuff, because that is overwhelming us as parents. And there's just so much more. Let's stick with it and come back next time and Danny, with you, too. Appreciate both of you bein' with us.

Danny: Thank you.

Jill: Thank you so much.


John: Well, some great insight from two good guests--Jill Rigby Garner and Danny Huerta and I'm looking forward to more of what they have to share next time about raising respectful children. This is something every mom and dad can benefit from. And Jill's book, as Jim mentioned, has wisdom and practical advice that can help you in your parenting. She offers stories and examples to guide you to building godly character in your child. And once again, the title is Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World. Learn more about the book and a CD or mp3 of our conversation at Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

And every day Focus on the Family is here to help you in your family with parenting and marriage questions and concerns. We've got trusted advice and a lot of great resources and we can only help families because so many contribute financially to the work here. We'd invite your support today and when you give a gift of any amount, we'll send Jill's book to you as our way of saying thanks.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we hear more from Danny Huerta and Jill Rigby Garner, talking about how to discipline your child with love.


Jill Rigby Garner: Twice as much love as discipline, I think is the balance. When children truly know that we only have their best interests in mind, I think that goes a long way in healing those broken relationships.

End of Excerpt

John: That's next time, as we help you and your family thrive.

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Woman: No, no, no, Jamie, you stop that right now.

Man: That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard you say. If your head wasn't attached to your shoulders, young man, I'm sure you would lost it.

Announcer: All childrenneed correction, but how often do you praise your kids for doing something right? Don't forget to parent your kid the same way God parents you, with grace. Find more practical and spiritual encouragement for your family at

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More Episode Resources


Jill Rigby Garner

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Jill Rigby Garner is a speaker, a columnist and an author of several books. She is also a family advocate and the founder of Manners of the Heart, an organization that seeks to transform homes, schools and communities through character education. Jill's books include Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World and Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World.Jill is the mother of two grown identical twin boys, and she resides in Baton Rouge, La. Learn more about Jill by visiting her website,


Danny Huerta, MSW, LCSW, LSSW

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As vice president of the Parenting and Youth department Danny oversees Focus’ initiatives that equip parents to disciple and mentor the next generation, so that they can thrive in Christ. He is a bilingual, licensed clinical social worker. For many years, he has provided families with practical parenting advice. He specializes as a counselor and spokesperson in the treatment of ADHD, conflict resolution, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, trauma, communication, media discernment, the brain and healthy sexuality.