obedience father and son mowing grass

Building a Heart of Obedience

by Marilyn Boyer

What is our goal concerning obedience? It’s not to have our children do whatever pleases us, but whatever pleases our Savior. Remember this when their behavior is bugging you, and you’re tempted to snap at them to stop whatever they’re doing “because I said so.” Remember how God deals with us as children–firmly, not harshly, with love, and for our good.

We need to make our instructions clear and therefore easier to obey. Children won’t always obey, but we must take care not to exasperate them and make it harder.

If you’re positive and proactive, and praise them for good behavior, you’re on the right track to touching your child’s heart. 

What happens when they don’t obey?

We correct our kids for three things–disobedience (direct defiance to a specific command), disrespect, and irresponsibility.

Obedience Three Aspects

Obedience has three aspects to it. It must be done cheerfully, immediately, and thoroughly. If any one of these aspects is missing, it is not obedience!

Be careful to distinguish disobedience from childishness. Spilling milk is childishness in most cases, and accidents happen to everyone. Remember that your child is a child. Don’t expect him to act as if he had the maturity of an adult. And remember, you spill milk sometimes too!

Obedience Guidelines

Here are a few simple guidelines we follow:

  1. Instruct. We will instruct our child in what we want him to do. If your child is young–a toddler or preschooler–have him repeat the instruction back to you. Get on your knees or pull him onto your lap and look in his eyes instead of just shouting out a command.
  2. Warn. If they disobey, give them the benefit of the doubt and repeat your instruction. “Remember, what did Mommy tell you to do?” Have them repeat it back. Let them know if they do it again you’ll have to handle it as disobedience.
  3. Correction. If your child persists in wrong behavior, you will have to correct him/her. Always be clear and use scripture to define wrongdoing. Example: Kari says unkind words to John. John gets angry and pulls Kari’s hair. Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon wrath.” Time out and withdrawing privileges often bring about decisive change. Be firm, but not harsh.
  4. Show love. Affirm to your child that you love him and are only following God’s plan for instituting discipline in his life, not trying to be mean. If the child has offended someone, he must ask forgiveness or even make restitution. If he breaks someone’s toy, for instance, have him do jobs to earn money to pay for a new one. In the event of anger, instruct him as to God’s way to handle the situation. For example, Proverbs 15:1 says,  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Next time, instead of giving in to anger, prepare a gentle answer, stand back, and watch God work.

What we found, in a nutshell, is that if you invest time in training beforehand, keeping a few simple, easy-to-understand rules, and encouraging the right behavior, then disciplinary measures won’t be needed nearly as often. Each child is different. Temperaments vary, and some are compliant and some strong-willed, but these principles are general guidelines and can benefit anyone.

Excerpted/adapted from Parenting from the Heart by Marilyn Boyer.