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Obedience Requires Communication - Issue 265
September 07, 2012
Hi there! ....

This week we started with our study routine - meaning we tightened up our morning routines so we could be focusing on learning at 8.30am and we kept at it till 12.30. We also tidied up our afternoon routines making sure we were using our time wisely. You can read about some of these things over at my blog.

Last night for our family night we started to play table tennis but we put it aside for dinner - which we ate outdoors on the veranda and somehow a quick meal became a long drawn out fun time together and we never got back to the table tennis. I don't know what it is about eating outside but it always seems to make everyone relax and not worry about the time. A good thing for family night!!

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Obedience Requires Communication

We are talking about obedience in our house this week. I chose obedience as a character trait to specifically talk about because I felt we had obedience issues (or disobedience issues) happening around here. But my children are older now and lessons on obedience need to look different.

The main issue I had with my kids is that I didn’t know where they were at when I asked something of them – they didn’t indicate that they heard, that they were willing, that they were moving, or that they had finished. I told them that obedience requires communication – and this has become our catch phrase.

When I thought about it some more I realised that when my kids were young I expected them to answer me with a “Yes, Mum” or “Coming Mum” – this was a level of communication. They were telling me that they heard, that they were willing. Though a “yes, Mum” may not fit their teenage image, respect still needs to be a part of who they are. It is an issue of respect and courtesy to acknowledge that someone has spoken to you, or asked you to do something. Obedience, even as a teenager, still requires communication.

Another aspect of communication is helping me see the context of their situation. We’ve taught our children to acknowledge the request, to confirm their willingness to obey and then to respectfully ask if they could say something. More often than not we listen to what they have to say. They are not arguing, nor are they giving excuses but rather helping us to understand their situation. This has become more relevant as the children grow older and understand the balance between obedience and our relationship.

Of course there is often plenty of negative communication – otherwise known as excuses and whining!! These attitudes come from a heart full of selfishness as opposed to a heart that is submitting to being a part of a family. When my children offer this type of communication I simply ask them to sit it out and think about what is going on in their heart. Sometimes they come up with selfishness, but other times they may be angry, they may feel things are unfair, or they were distracted and had their heart set on something else. They need a little heart tweak. Sometimes this is simply time to think about it and rearrange their priorities, other times we need to talk, and other times they may need some extra time and consequences to help them see the need for obedience.

When they were young we used the 5 Keys given by Character First - Cheerfully, Without complaining, Immediately, Completely and Go the extra mile. In the older material (for teens/adults) these keys look a little different:

  • Get full instructions
  • Have a good attitude
  • Act Immediately
  • Go the extra mile
  • And I’ve added
  • Report back when done

Each of these keys requires communication.

  • Get full instructions – it is easy to think that obedience is robotic like behaviour. An instruction is given and the child turns and obeys. Our children need to know that they can ask for clarification – if they don’t understand or if they are confused then they need to pause and ask a question. Of course, they need to do this with a happy attitude otherwise it sounds like complaining! Doing the wrong thing with the right attitude, just because you misunderstood, isn’t really obedience. As parents we can make this step easier for our kids by asking them – Do you understand? Or, Do you have any questions? Or for younger children we can simply get them to repeat our instruction back to us so that we know they know.

  • Have a good attitude – attitude is the response we have to situations. Though attitude is in our heart, it reflects on our face and in our voice. A good attitude can be shown by a cheerful response when asked to do something. A good attitude can be shown by a smile or a song while actually working on your task. Communication isn’t just the words we say but it is as much about how we say it – the tone and the body language.

  • Act Immediately – Once again our communication isn’t just about the words we say. Our actions often speak louder than our words. Proverbs tell us what is in a man’s heart – so is he. What is in your heart will direct your actions. If you have disobedience then you will drag your feet, if you have a heart for obedience then you will cheerfully turn and do.

  • Go the Extra Mile – sometimes we can see something that needs doing and we know we can just jump in and take the initiative. Other times though we need to clarify with someone that it would be okay for us to go ahead. Our children tend to see that taking the initiative means doing it in secret, but that isn’t necessarily so. Checking with an authority figure first doesn’t remove the initiative it is simply clarifying that you haven’t overlooked anything.

  • Report back when done - is another area where we need communication. When the children come back and tell me that the task is done it helps me with the overall management of whatever we are working on. This is the same for any delegated task – there is a bigger picture and we need to support our authority by keeping in touch with where we are at with the things we’ve been asked to do. Touching base like this also gives an opportunity to ask if there is anything else you can help with.
This balance between communication and obedience is important if we are going to grow in our relationship with our older children. When we look at our own life can we see people who we ‘obey’. Of course there is civil law which we obey without much communication at all – for example we simply obey road rules, tax rules and the like. But there are other spheres in our life where we obey a person we have a relationship with.

For example, we may be a part of a team organising an event. Think about how you relate and respond in a meeting when the chairperson asks you to do a specific task. You would make sure you understood, you try and keep a good attitude even if you’ve pulled the short straw for the task no-one else wanted, you get to and do the task in the time frame given, if you see something else that can be done you may take the initiative and do it or you present it to the team as an option, and when all is done you report back to either the chairperson or the committee. This is obedience in action in an adult’s life and it requires communication.

When we break down obedience in our own life, and we see the level of communication that it requires, it is easier then to teach our children from this perspective. Obedience is a trait that we all benefit from in our life – it is not a thing of childhood. We need to maintain an expectation of obedience from our older children but it needs to be balanced with communication – it needs to be balanced with our relationship.

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Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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