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Not just about Obedience - Issue 248
May 04, 2012
Hi there! ....

This week we have had a great study week. I noticed – because we have been consistent – that we are actually getting through the book we are reading. So often I feel that it takes so long to get through a book but reality is, that is because I let things distract us from reading together daily. Little by little we do actually achieve much. I do hope I am learning my lesson and will be diligent and self-controlled myself to keep this pace going. I have been reminded of the phrase – with freedom comes much responsibility. I am thankful for the freedoms we have but I must be responsible as well!

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Not just about Obedience

Obedience is one of the first things we want our children to understand and do. And yet it is not the only character trait we want our children to live by. It is very easy as a parent to make obedience the heart issue for everything we ask of our children.

  • You are expected to greet people with a smile
  • You are expected to do your chores quickly
  • You are expected to put your backpack and shoes away

And though we can claim that should our children not do what is expected of them they are being disobedient (after all – you have told them what to do), it is helpful and often wiser, to look broader than just obedience.

  • Maybe it is an issue of shyness which can be addressed by talking about respect for the other person
  • Maybe it is an issue of diligence or self-control so that they don’t get distracted and dawdle during chores
  • Maybe it is an issue of orderliness that they need to understand and put into practice

Not everything needs be about obedience.

Have you hit a brick wall in the training of child in a particular area? Do you throw up your hands in despair and are tired of the disobedience in your home? Maybe looking broader than obedience may give you more strategies to pass onto your child.

Often our child does not have the wherewithal to do the thing we ask of them.

For example a shy child will struggle with saying hello. Have you just given them the expectation – the family standard of good manners to greet people or have you helped them with strategies that they need to be able to do this and overcome their shyness? Expecting them to be obedient won’t actually help them. Teaching them to be other focused though, helping them see the hurt in the other person’s eyes when they are ignored, helping them see the joy they bring by smiling at others will be the beginning of strategies that will help them to overcome their shyness.

A child who dawdles and gets distracted during chores can simply be told off for disobedience or we can look at their heart and see that they are really struggling. They don’t want to be disobedient but life just looks so inviting!! We need to lay out the expectation for focusing during chores, but we also need to teach them to put aside what they want to do and do what is right, we need to teach them to walk fast, we need to give them step by step instructions and stay in touch with them, we need to teach them to report back when a job is done and that the job is not done till it is finished, packed away and reported. These extra strategies will help a child gain self-control and focus so that they can be obedient.

A child who leaves their shoes, backpack, hat etc in the wrong place will not learn to be responsible or orderly by you simply demanding obedience. They need habits to be changed. When you do the right thing once, it is easier to do it again, and then again, and then again. When we just expect obedience we tend to stand afar from our children and dish out the expectation instead of standing beside them and helping them gain the habits that will help them be successful.

Obedience, though it has its outward workings, really is an attitude of the heart where our children recognise our authority and are willing to work with that. I wonder how many times I have ranted about disobedience when my child’s heart wanted to work with me, they just lacked the skill.

It comes back to training. There are three simple steps:

  • Teach – show them, model to them how things are to be done, teach them by breaking it down into bite size pieces so they can master it.
  • Practice – as they practice what you have taught them, stand beside them to guide, encourage, and realign what they are doing so they get it right
  • Expect – once they can do it we can expect them to do it consistently.

I am not at all diminishing the importance of obedience in our family – it is the cornerstone for harmony. But I do encourage you to not put every discord, every lack or every niggle down to the lack of obedience.

I remember coming home one night from a church potluck and I was at my wits end. I declared (to myself) that my children had zero obedience. Zero. I was so disheartened. It was late and I went bed – I woke up the next morning with a slightly better perspective but I still recognised that there was some work to be done. As I thought about our previous evening I realised that there were some things that I could teach my children that would help them be obedient when we were out at other people’s places. Because my children really did have a heart to obey me, I was able to teach these things and the next potluck things went a lot smoother.

Our role as parent is to give our children the strategies they need to be successful in life. God says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord,
for this is right.
Honor your father and mother
(this is the first commandment with a promise),
that it may go well with you and
that you may live long in the land.
Ephesians 6:1-3

Obviously obedience is important so I’m not removing that importance but rather helping us break it down so that we can train our children towards obedience instead of just demanding it in and of itself.

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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