Deference - MetroFamily Magazine
MetroFamily Magazine

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by Gayleen Rabakukk

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

Putting Character First
The Character First! Project is inspired by the work of the CharacterTraining Institute, a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City. Character First! information is used by permission. Call 405-815-0001 for Character First! resources or visit

We’ve all been there—you’re waiting at a stoplight and suddenly the throb of a nearby car stereo makes your fillings vibrate. It’s not that you mind the music, in fact sometimes you can’t even hear the music for the overpowering bass. What’s irritating is that you’ve been robbed of the quiet inside your car. The owner of the obnoxious stereo could benefit from practicing the character trait of deference: limiting freedom so as not to offend the tastes others.

The word deference comes from the Latin word defero—to remove, as in removing obstacles, barriers, and other hindrances. In contrast, the root word of preference is praefero meaning to hold forth or carry in front, like a banner in front of an army. To insist on our own preference is to put our banner ahead of everyone else. This creates division and competition where everyone promotes their own taste and style without regard to others. Deference promotes harmony as we set aside our own preference so we don’t offend others.

In Nature
Timber wolves are powerful animals, standing over two-feet tall and weighing an average of 75 pounds. Though they are the largest member of the canine family, a lone timber wolf’s diet would probably consist solely of small mammals. But most wolves live in groups called packs where each animal has his own rank. Rank is determined by age, strength, health, and craftiness. As a pack, wolves are able to hunt larger animals including elk, caribou, and bison. Wolves illustrate the trait of deference by respecting the leader of the pack and limiting their individual freedom in favor of the needs of the pack. When each member does its job without competing or fighting, the pack succeeds.

Teachable Moments
Deference is a subtle trait that is often more about what not to do than what to do. Here are a few exercises to encourage deference at home. This month, as your child is making Valentines, challenge him to personalize cards for friends and family with words of encouragement like, “You’re a great soccer player” or “You’re a thoughtful friend.” When we take the time to notice the positives and take action to share those thoughts, it creates harmony. Children can sometimes be loud and disturb those around them. Knowing what voice to use in different situations can be a challenge, especially for young children. Discuss the importance of behaving appropriately by using the word game below. Match the venues on the left with the voice levels one would appropriately use there.

Library                  Talking
Dinner table          Cheering
Sporting event       Silence
Church                  Whispering

I Will Statements:

  1. Notice those around me.
  2. Respect the feelings of others.
  3. Not use offensive language.
  4. Not play loud music in public.
  5. Be careful about how I dress

Gayleen Rabakukk is a freelance writer who spends her time in Edmond keeping up with her teenage and preschool daughters. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a regular contributor to MetroFamily Magazine. 

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