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Following Instructions - Issue 172
October 22, 2010
Hi there! ....

One of the things I have been thinking about this week is seasons in our child’s life. Not the seasons dictated to by family life such as mango picking season and Agricultural Show season, and holiday seasons – but more on the big picture side of things. There are seasons in a child’s life for learning character and family identity, for learning knowledge and skills that will enable them to participate in the world they live in, for learning skills and knowledge to be fruitful for the purpose for which they were created. I’m being vague here on purpose because I don’t want to be prescriptive; it will look different in each family. But the idea is that we keep true to the season that our child is in – and that the activities and commitments we take on are serving that season. The other challenge is that we don’t need to teach and train them for everything now – there is a purpose for this time in their life, and there will be other seasons where other things will be taught and practiced.

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Following Instructions

When we consider following instructions we immediately think of the soldier – following instructions is what they are good at – they obey, no questions asked - and this is necessary for them to be effective with the task at hand. As a Christian I should have this type of response to anything God has to say to me, and I’m not talking about the little things He prompts me in my heart (rhema) though they are important to obey too, but His Word is an instruction list to me – I should be quick to obey all that is written in it – no questions asked, no qualifications, no delay! That is a challenge as I think about teaching my children to follow instructions.

Following instructions is obedience but I am going to talk about ‘following instructions’ because we can get so familiar with the idea of obedience that we slip into mediocrity and don’t see what is really going on in our homes. When we look at things with a different pair of glasses we see different things. So today we are going to look at following instructions.

When we give instructions we are teaching – taking our experience and passing it onto our children. There comes a time when we will no longer give instructions – they should know how to do these things and what used to be an instruction becomes a nag; what used to be teaching now becomes a lack of confidence in the student. We need to be sure that we grow and change as our children grow and change. But the first stage is giving and following instructions.

Some key points in giving instructions:

  • Know clearly what it is you want your child to do (and why)
  • Tell your child what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do
  • Give them an understanding of why this is the right thing to do (moral reason why)
  • Say it once, expect a response – be prepared to give a consequence when there is no appropriate response. Don’t repeat, nag, or threaten.
  • Watch them – this isn’t a matter of trust (that comes after they’ve learnt to follow instructions) this is a matter of you being on hand in case they need more training along the way (or if they do well, you are there to give them encouragement!)

The biggest threat to our children being able to follow instructions is our ability to give instructions. We can give commands which sound a bit like a Commanding General and has no relational aspect to it at all – the command is barked out and expected to be obeyed. Our children may well obey but we aren’t teaching them to have a heart towards following instructions. Secondly we can stop giving instructions altogether, and start giving suggestions. This only feeds the child’s selfish desires to rule their own life their own way! We need to give clear, firm, realistic instructions and yet always considering our deepest desire is to reach and train their heart.

There are many aspects in our daily life that will give us and our children an opportunity to follow instructions. It is more than just getting our kids to do the things we want them to do. Instructions are all around us – in math books, on medicine bottles, in recipe books, in sewing patterns and hobby kits, sign posts on the side of the road etc. Having our toddler stop when we say is just the beginning of a life of following instructions.

There will be clues in your home life that will tell you if instructions are not being followed:

  • Disasters – things just don’t happen the way they should when instructions are not followed. Mess happens - cakes flop – hobby kits are twisted – plants don’t grow. There are natural consequences when we don’t follow instructions – it is pretty obvious to see. We need to teach our children that when we don’t follow instructions and things are broken, or become unusable it is a matter of poor stewardship. Instructions are there to help us learn and do things right.

  • Danger – We can shrug off the importance of instructions and say “Men don’t read instructions” or “I’m a person who likes to find out for themselves” or “Don’t have time” or “I know what I’m doing” and in many cases these ways of thinking may pull off and we get away with it – but….there will come a time when you should have followed instructions and it will be costly that you didn’t. We need to train our heart response to that which is willing to follow instructions.

  • Disobedience – before we jump on them for being disobedient ask yourself – have I given clear, encouraging instructions? Have I ensured that those instructions have been heard and understood? Does my child know how to do what I have asked? Disobedience is a heart issue and we need to be sure what we are dealing with - it maybe a practical issue and knowing the difference will determine our reactions.

There are two overarching attitudes that will be at the heart of following instructions or not. One is humility – the recognition that we need others in our life and the second is other-centeredness which is recognising the importance of others in our life. Unfortunately a desire to rule our own life and selfishness challenges these two positive attitudes every step of the way.

Humility – when we don’t listen to instructions we exhibit the attitude that we know it all, that no-one can teach me anything of any value. This is very arrogant and will hinder true growth in many areas of our life. An instruction is given by a person of experience and wisdom whether it is given verbally or written in a book or on packaging.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

Other centeredness - when we do things our way, we are only thinking of ourselves. Often the person giving the instructions has something in mind that we are not privy to – this is an important aspect to pass onto our children, especially our teens as they start to have some degree of responsibility and initiative. When we do give instructions they need to understand that it is still our prerogative to do so and we may know a bigger picture than they do. For younger children it is more about obedience and respecting authority (a bit more black and white).

Everyone doing their own thing, their own way, in their own time is a picture of chaos. Our family and home needs to be a place of peace and order. This can only happen when a leader steps forwards, gives instructions and others follow. Is there are degree of independence in your home, disregard for authority and others? Now that is a hard question because I am sure most of us would not say our children have a disregard for authority and yet what do their behaviours show us? Do they niggle against following instructions? Do they prefer to do it their way? Are they stubborn in accepting instructions?

Instruct a wise man and he will be wise still;
Teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.
Proverbs 9:9

Have you ever visited my blog? It is a place where I write throughout the week – sharing my days, my thoughts and things I am encouraged with along the way:

Blogging Thoughts this Week:
Simplify Simplify Simplify – Keeping things simple and yet still reaching my goals
A Perfect Day – All mixed up! - I share our day that didn’t go as planned but it sure was a good day.
When is knowledge knowledge - Knowing what we mean by knowledge will help us in setting goals.
Some Days go to Plan - The other day we had a day that didn’t go to plan, but today did.
Do you know what you want for Christmas - be intentional as you celebrate Christmas this year
Internet Reading - I share some of the things I’ve been reading online this week.

A test for your family: For those who can read, this is a great family time activity – Can they follow instructions?

Discovering the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas This workshop style e-book helps you decide how to celebrate Christmas with your family and keep Christ as the center of all that you do.

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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