How can we expect children to understand and practice “Love thy neighbor as thyself” if we treat them with anything less?
The most common criticism I hear of young people these days is, "They don't treat anyone or anything with respect." The truth is that children learn respect or disrespect from how we treat them and how we treat each other. Ironically, even Christian parents often try to teach children to be respectful by treating them disrespectfully. When children live with disrespect that is what they learn. When they live without grace or love, the same principle applies. We can teach these only by modeling them.
Children are born with human dignity as God’s image bearers; to treat a person with disrespect is to devalue that. Unconditional love and respect from a parent communicates to children that despite their shortcomings, mistakes, misdeeds, or accidents they are still valued human beings. Healthy, nurturing parents respect their children as human beings – interacting with their children by extending the same grace and consideration they would like for themselves.
Since children have long been treated as "less than," or even as possessions, many adults carry "narratives" of disrespect from their own childhood. Learning to treat children with respect, love and grace may require a change of heart and conscious effort. Our first step may be accepting God’s grace and love ourselves.