Character Notes - Obedience

The character trait of Obedience is often the very first trait we want to teach our toddlers. Often their safety is dependent on them stopping when told to, or coming when called. But Obedience doesn’t stop at early childhood; it is a trait that we all need to develop in our lives – children and adults alike.

Cheerfully carrying out the directions and wishes of those who are responsible for me.

Character First

Links within this page:

Obedience as a leader or parent - What is the parent’s role in obedience?
Obedience: It is a choice - and there are consequences
Obedience: Summarised by Daniel (8yo)
Situations for Training Playing Games
Stories to Read that teach Obedience

Obedience as a leader or parent

There is a two-fold aspect of Obedience for leaders.

  • That they are obedient themselves to their own authorities
  • That they command obedience in a just and respectful way

Though we quote, Don’t do what I do, do I what I say a little glibly I wonder how much of it, at our heart is wishful thinking. The truth is that our children will copy our behaviour, our attitudes and our character. We must be leaders worth following.

We teach our children that obedience is

  • No complaining, no questioning, no arguing
  • Have a cheerful heart
  • Do it completely
  • Do it immediately
  • Respond with a verbal commitment (Yes, Mum)

We also teach them to report back to say they have completed what was expected of them and that they have the opportunity to go the extra mile.

As parents we have some responsibilities to make Obedience work. We must remember these pointers:

  • Don’t ask the to do anything unless you expect a response (both verbal and physical)
  • Call them to you first so you can establish eye contact
  • Be prepared for disobedience, and know what you are going to do about it.

Whenever we do something, or don’t do something, we are teaching our children to value something. Which means, whenever we call them to obedience and yet don’t really require it (follow it up) we are teaching them that obedience isn’t that important. This is not the message we want to give them.

Obedience – it is a choice

I asked my children, When mum or dad ask you to do something – you have a choice. What is that choice? They knew the answer very clearly:

To do it or not to do it! To obey or not to obey.

There will be a consequence though for every choice. When we make a wise choice and do the right thing there will be a good consequence. When we make a bad choice and do the wrong thing there will be a bad consequence.

It was a new thought to my children that consequences can be both good and bad. The Bible talks of Blessings and Cursing though these words aren’t a part of our everyday language the message is there that when you choose good, there will be a positive consequence, a reward, a blessing. When you choose bad/evil, there will be a negative consequence, a penalty.

When we give our children a consequence it confirms to them the value that we place on that choice. When we reward good choices we are confirming the value of that choice. When we ignore a consequence though for a bad choice we are lowering the significance of that value/trait of that choice.

Giving consequences is not about getting even, or being annoyed or embarrassed about our children’s behaviour. After a child has been through a consequence (time out or loss of privilege etc) there should be recognisable learning having taken place. A consequence need to teach and remind our children of the character issue that was missing in the first place. A consequence needs to change our children’s heart so that the next time they will make a wiser choice, a choice based on character.

It is only after our children make a choice to walk in the paths of character that they can truly so they have that trait in their lives. Knowing it in our heads is not going to affect our lives, hearts must be changed.

Obedience – Summarised by Daniel (8yo)

Do it Now

No fuss

Happy heart

Finish it

Do more

Situations for Training:
Playing Games (both board games and sport):

Playing board games/sporting games need to be played by the rules. It can be confusing for the younger kids if we change the rules because they are younger. We prefer to keep game rules as per the box (though this hasn’t always happened). This helps in two ways

When the younger kids learn to play by the rules they aren’t out looking for special treatment. In our family this means we do have some games that the younger kids don’t play. Playing a game is not their automatic right – it is a privilege earned. They earn the freedom (privilege) to play by showing us that they can play by the rules and have a happy heart if they lose.

The second way playing by standard rules helps our children is especially important if they are going to play the game outside of the family. Life is just so much easier if you play it by the rules!

To bring this lesson home you can set up a game of cricket or rounders in the backyard. Tell everyone that they can play with their own rules. I have found it easier to ask them before hand How would you like this game to be played? to prep them to go their own way. Otherwise, they tend to hold back and wait for a leader, which kind of defeats the whole exercise. We want chaos! We cannot live in a world where everyone lives to his or her own rules.

This is a very significant discussion to have with your pre-teens/teenagers as they start to see the impact on society where rules are flexible and people do live their lives however they like – regardless of any set of rules (namely, The 10 Commandments)

Stories to read to young children:

Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack

Poky little Puppy (Little Golden Book)


The boy who cried wolf – Aesop’s Fables

Bible stories – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, I don’t think I need to write a list – the Bible is full of stories where people chose to disobey rather than obey God’s commands

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