Teaching Obedience: How to Help Your Kids Make the Choice to Obey
My assumption is that any writer who sits down to write about parenting is humbled by the task. It's natural to see a writer as someone with wisdom, experience, or authority. However, I assure you that I'm not that person. The following thoughts about loving ways to teach children the value of obedience come from a place of camaraderie with you. I'm in the trenches. I continue to learn how to teach my children that obedience is good for them in the same way I continue to learn how to teach myself that obedience is good for me as well. We're all in this together. May that encourage you before you start reading.
Recently I received the best insight into how to teach my children the value obedience. A Christian counselor explained that our goal is to train our children instead of control our children. Control is appropriate when a dangerous event is about to occur. For example, if your child were about to run out into the street, you would control her by grabbing her arm or picking her up. You wouldn't say to her, "You have the choice to run into the street, but you might be hit by a car." Control is necessary for this situation.
However, as adults, no one controls our behavior. We have the choice of whether we go to work, obey traffic laws, and pay our taxes. We know, though, that if we choose not to follow these structures in our society, then we will face consequences.
As parents we want our children to choose obedience. We want them to choose obedience because we know that obedience on a practical level will keep them out of trouble. More importantly, on a spiritual level choosing obedience shows trust and love for God. This is why we must train our children in the value of obedience instead of controlling them into being obedient.
Here are ten benefits of obedience to train our children to understand:
1. Obedience Displays Our Love for Jesus
The biggest value of obedience is that it shows our love for Jesus. Jesus tells us this in the book of John. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) and "Jesus answered him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).'"
2. Obedience Helps Us Identify with Jesus
Many times obedience is not pleasant. It's good for our children to understand this. However, it's also important for them to understand that obedience wasn't pleasant for Jesus either. The Gospel teaches us that God became one of us - experiencing every bit of suffering we experience, even to the point of death. "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). We identify with Jesus by being obedient to Him. "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:24).
3. Obedience Shows that We Are Jesus Followers
Obedience, especially to a God whom we cannot physically see, makes no sense to people who are not Jesus followers. However, this is what shows that He is our Lord. Following Jesus means obeying Him. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46)."
4. Obedience Gives Us a Testimony of the Gospel
Our obedience to God is our testimony to the world. It's how we take Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, into our culture and how we are the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). As mentioned above, obedience to Jesus is counter-cultural. It turns heads and causes people to ask questions. When these questions are asked we have the opportunity to answer them and lead people to Jesus.
5. Obedience Proves Trust
You might be familiar with the hymn "Trust and Obey." One line in the hymn is "Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." Notice that trust comes before obedience. We're willing to obey people we trust. Our children must trust us that we have their best in mind when we give them rules and guidelines to follow.
We establish trust with them by being fair and consistent with our requests and our rewards and consequences. For example, if one day our children are allowed to eat a snack on the sofa and the next day they get in trouble for eating a snack on the sofa because we're in a bad mood and don't feel like cleaning up the crumbs, we do not build trust with them. Our children don't know if our rules are for the best interest of them and the family or if they're fleeting based on our emotions. When we're fair and consistent our children begin to trust that their mom is making wise requests of them based on everyone's best interest.
When my children first started understanding disobedience I began using this language with them. I would say to them, "Trust mommy and obey mommy so that as you grow you'll learn to trust and obey God." Trusting and obeying parents is children's practice for trusting and obeying God.
6. Obedience Shows Us that It's For Our Own Good
Since the Garden of Eden, we have been deceived into thinking that God's order is not for our own good. The enemy tells us that God is holding back from us the best life has to offer. An example of this in today's culture is the lie that what the Bible has to say about sexual ethics constrains and oppresses us. However, what I tell young women is, "The closer you get to complete obedience to God, the closer you'll get to your fairytale." Obedience shows us that it's the path to receive everything good God has for us. He wants us to have His best. In order to receive it, we have to obey.
7. Obedience Brings Blessings
Obedience to God gives us the abundant life we seek. It brings blessings (Luke 11:28). However in God's economy blessings are not only material, relational, and physical. We may be obedient and also poor, alone, and sick. God's blessings are much deeper. They're the blessings that nothing on this earth can give. God's blessings are qualities like peace, joy, contentment, wisdom, and hope. The biggest blessing being the hope we have in Jesus that no matter what happens we will eventually spend eternity with Him in heaven.
8. Obedience to Our Parents Trains Us to Obey God
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord" (Colossians 3:20). This is the first Bible verse my children memorized. Every time they're choosing between obedience or disobedience, I say this verse to them.
What's important about this verse is that the emphasis is on pleasing the Lord. I want my children to understand that the goal of their obedience is not to make me happy. Instead, it is to please God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I explain to them that one day I will not be with them reminding them of what to do and not do. They will have to know God's Word, listen to His voice, and obey Him directly. Obeying me is their training for obeying God.
9. Obedience Teaches Us to Value Authority
As much as our western culture values autonomy, everyone is under the authority of other people and systems whether it be law enforcement, the government, a boss, a spouse, or a parent. The Bible tells us that all authority is God-ordained (Romans 13:1). This is hard to understand when the authorities over us are not honoring God; however, we must remember, and teach our children, that God is sovereign. Obeying the earthly authorities in our lives is how we obey Him.
10. Obedience Teaches Us Dependence on Jesus
The Bible teaches us that even our best efforts to obey and our most righteous deeds are still not good enough (Isaiah 64:6). Because we are sinful people, nothing we do can ever be good enough for God. Except that Jesus came. His bloodshed on the Cross covers us making us righteous in God's eyes. This truth causes us to be dependent on Jesus and His Spirit within us. It is only through the power of Jesus within us that we can sustain obedience. Obedience is hard. We have to call out to Jesus daily to ask for His help.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.