Honoring parents is one of the select mitzvahs featured in the Ten Commandments. The Torah tells us, “Honor your father and mother,” and it tells us, “Honor your G‑d”—​implying that honoring parents is on par with honoring G‑d!

After all, no matter how much respect we give our parents, we can never repay them for their part in bringing us into this world. But that’s not the only reason to honor them: it’s also a mitzvah, and that’s reason enough.

Actually, two mitzvahs: honor and respect. What’s the difference?

Honor means:

  • Serve and assist your parents however possible and whenever necessaryWhen Mom or Dad enters, stand up. Remain standing until they sit down or are no longer within eyesight. Or they tell you to sit down.
  • Serve and assist your parents however possible and whenever necessary. Feed them, dress them and provide them with transportation.
    [If your parents can afford these things, you are not obligated to pay for them. In fact, parents feel better when they can support themselves financially.]

Respect means:

  • If your father or mother has a special place to sit, don’t sit there.
  • Don’t contradict your parents to their face. There’s always a discreet way to work with this. When not in their presence, you can express an opposing opinion, but in a respectful manner.
  • “I think you’re right, Dad!” is also disrespectful. Mom & Dad don’t require your approval.
  • Unless you are asked for your parent’s name, don’t call—or even refer—to your parents by name, even posthumously.

Technical Details:

  • Parents who are psychologically unstable must still be respected. If it’s getting just too hard, get hired help.
  • Parents can forgo honor due to them—for example, to allow children not to rise for them.
  • We are also obligated to respect stepparents, parents-in-law, grandparents and older siblings.