About this time of year, children start making wish lists for Christmas. Or, if they are like my daughter, they started making one in June. When I was a little girl I had my list like everyone else, but my Dad was a different story. Every year my sister and I would ask, “What do you want for Christmas Daddy?” And every year the answer was the same.
“Obedience, girls. All I want for Christmas is obedience.”
We’d laugh because we thought it was funny. And my Dad would hug us. Didn’t he want anything we could wrap up in shiny paper, complete with a pretty bow?
Now, as a parent, I understand the wish a lot better. Parenting is hard work. It can make the strongest person exhausted. Kids don’t come with an instruction book. Instead, we get a giant 10,000 piece puzzle box—without a picture! Teaching obedience is a crucial piece of that puzzle.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about raising little robot children who are seen but not heard. I love the fact that my kids analyze life and think things through and aren’t shy about sharing their opinions. But when it comes to obedience, it’s a matter of the heart. You can have all the signs of outward obedience and a fiery inward rebellion. So how can we teach the kind of obedience that changes the heart?
How to Teach Obedience
Model: If we want our kids to embrace obedience, it only stands to reason that we look at that trait in our own lives. Are we consistently choosing to obey God?
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. (2 John 1:6 NIV)
We cannot separate our love for Christ and keeping His commands. Do your children see you reading God’s word and applying to your lives? Do they see you choosing integrity over convenience?
First-time obedience: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” This was one of my Dad’s favorite parenting sayings and now I know why. This is definitely one of the hardest things to teach our kids.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:20 KJV)
This seems to pop up the most when we’re asking our kids to do something when they’d rather be doing something else. After a lot of frustration, we required them to come the first time they’re called. When they were able show us that they would follow this routine, they earned the privilege of appealing the request. We aren’t perfect and neither are they, but this method has been really successful.
Special note: We aren’t trying to teach them to blindly obey all adults but are setting precedence in our home and working with them to think critically along the way.
Honor and Respect: I’ll just be honest and tell you my biggest mistake when trying to teach obedience is being disrespectful to my children. If I’m frustrated, tired, and feeling walked on—watch out! All of my best intentions are thrown out the window, right along with any chance of simple kindness.
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 AMP)
- Low tone of voice: Oh how I wish I would have learned this sooner! Even if I wasn’t yelling, my intense tone of voice escalated any difficult exchange.
- Common courtesy: My husband always says that there are two phrases that can help to defuse many situations, or at least to help prevent them from becoming situations which have to be defused at all: “Please” and “Thank you.” Simple courtesy goes a long way!
- LESS WORDS: Anyone who knows me will acknowledge that this is SUPER difficult for me. If saying it once doesn’t work-how about saying it ten different ways? Surely that will convince them that I’m right! WRONG!
It’s never too late to undo the bad habits in you and your children. Humble yourself before the Lord and before your kids. Today is the perfect day to begin again. Teaching obedience is worth the work!
How have you struggled in teaching your children obedience? Which of the above tips do you want to implement?