Obedience- the Big O in Parenting


She paraded down the steps in her glamorous attire, all ready to go to church in the fancy dress that she had searched so diligently to find.  Not to mention the matching shoes to add to the fashion spectacle.  “Mommy, I knew that there were clothes in the bag that would fit me now.”, she proudly trilled over the other children’s voices.  Everyone turned and stared, including Mommy.  Yet, Mommy’s face wasn’t smiling.  Not one bit.  Not one itty, bit. Why, you may ask?  It was because her daughter had just pulled her entire outfit out of a bag of clothes that she had been purposefully told multiple times not to open.  The bag would be opened later on in the fall, not NOW.

When Mommy confronted her daughter about what she had done, her daughter froze up and said nothing.  She would not admit her wrong-doing.  She remained in her state of rebellion, refusing to apologize to her mother.  Daughter’s punishment was to miss going to her grandmothers for that day and to miss dessert for the evening.

Another scenario: It was the end of the day and he was tired on his feet.  He began picking on his brother.  When mom began to reprimand, he retorted with,”I  want to shoot you in the butt with my nerf-pellets!”.  Immediately mom raised her hand pointing up to his room.  He silently went up to the bathroom, pulled down his pants, waiting for a spanking, and then went straight to his bed and slept for 2 hours.

These are stories that I have recently heard relating to obedience.  I have hundreds of them that I could retell after teaching for 25 years and  being a mother and a grandmother. The bottom line is that children are going to test the limits- push against the boundaries and see how far they can go.  Each school year with each new class I had to set down the rules with the input of the students the very first week, so the kids would know what they could and could not do.  There would always be a percentage of kids who would be obedient from the get-go.  Then there would be another group who would test the limits and once they saw how far I would let them go, they would stay within those limits and obey.  Finally there would be another group who would constantly challenge my authority.

To obey or disobey, which decision are children going to make?  Well- the answer is multi- faceted.  First of all:

  1. We are all born sinners with the compulsion to want to do things the way we want to do them.  You can see the tendency to sin in a 2 year old who says NO when you ask them to stop playing with the electric outlet.
  2. The Bible tells children to Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord God is giving you.”  Exodus 20:12  The Scripture also  tells parents in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” So God is making a point to children and parents about the importance of children honoring their parents, and parents training or teaching their children in the correct way to go.
  3. How do the Scriptures translate to our times?  The dictionary defines HONORas for high respect as for worth, merit, or rank; to be held in great honor .  Therefore a child is to show high respect for his or her parents because of who they are to them.  Parents are their caretakers, their protectors, the ones who brought them into this world, or who lovingly adopted them into their family.  The parents know what is best for their children and children need to respect their parents for that fact alone. As a child learns respect for his parents, he learns respect for others.  He learns boundaries.  He learns to value other’s needs and wants as well as his own.  This helps the child know how to live happily with others as he or she grows into a man or a woman.
  4. What is the definition of TRAIN? -to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of a child by discipline and instructionTherefore, a parent is to develop and form the habits and behaviors of a child by using discipline and instruction so that as a child gets older he or she will continue to live a disciplined life and not turn away from it.
  5. One rule that was the paramount rule in my teaching and bringing up my sons was Matthew 7:12 “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”  This was called The Golden Rule.  It is plain and simple- Treat others like you want to be treated.  Therefore if you don’t want your brother to hit you, you won’t hit your brother.  If you don’t want your sister to tattletale on you, you won’t tattletale on her.  If you want to have a chance to speak at the family dinner time, you will give your sister a chance to speak.
  6. Consequently for a child to obey or disobey, a decision is made within the child as to which way he or she will go.  The parenting that has been in place makes a big difference as to what decision the child will make.  Every child will make mistakes, because every child is a sinner.  Every parent will make mistakes, because every parent is a sinner.  There is no one who gets it perfect.  No straight A students in parenting.  That is not the purpose.  It is o.k. for kids to make mistakes and to make them with you, because you can show them the right way to go after their mistake.  There is so much learning and loving after mistakes in families.  That is what it is all about.
  7. Styles of parenting. I am going to mention 3 styles of parenting. (There are many more.)
    1.   Hands-off Parenting–  This is parenting where the parents give the child free reign.  The child is allowed to do whatever he or she wants to do.  The child calls all the shots.  There are very few boundaries or limits.  When this child goes to school he has a very difficult time adjusting to listening and following directions, because he has not had to do that before.  He has always been able to do whatever he has wanted to do when he has wanted to do it, so he has difficulty in doing the work the teacher asks him to do, because he wants to play instead of working.  This trend continues as the child grows older. He has difficulty making friends, because he always wants to play what he wants to play and won’t play the games that other friends want to play, so he feels left out.  He starts being a bully on the playground to get his way.                                                              
    2.   Critical Parenting–  This kind of parenting sets up boundaries and limits right away.  The parents want to make sure that they are doing it right.  They want to make sure that they are training their children correctly and that their children are honoring their parents.  Whenever a child makes a mistake the child is yelled at and criticized for not doing it right.  There is no conversation, just harping about following the rules to a tee. Children raised under critical parenting usually end up having a poor self-image of themselves, feeling as if they can never get it right.  They feel deflated and are often afraid to try new things because they “know” in their minds that they will not succeed.  There is a cloud of negativity that permeates the household that seems to grow with each failure that happens.       
    3.  Parenting Positively For these parents they set up boundaries and limits right away.  They want to make sure that they are doing the right thing in bringing up their children.  But, they start off with love and positivity as their guides.  For example, when their 2 year old is going towards the electric socket, they distract her with a toy so that they won’t have a conflict situation.  When they see their 3 year old grabbing their brother’s favorite toy, they gently take it away and say,” Oh this is Johnny’s.  Here is your favorite doll.”  They use strategies to prevent conflict.  As the children get older these parents continually use their voices to give praise when their children are being obedient.  Such as:  “I am so proud of Eli for being the first one to be dressed this morning!” or ” Thank you Laura for putting your trash in the garbage can.”, or “I was so proud of you Ben when you chose not to get into the fight with Sam.  You were so brave!”  These positive affirmations do wonders for teaching kids the right behaviors.  Then when a child misbehaves a positive parent makes it a teachable moment by asking the child what other choices he could have made.  There are still consequences for a punishment, but the child learns from his mistakes.

Of course you know that I am a proponent of Parenting Positively.  That was how I  raised my boys and how I  taught for 25 years.  You may ask why?  As a child growing up so many of my teachers used the negative approaches.  Negativity never worked with me.  It made me close down and not think that I could succeed.  As an introvert, I became a keen observer of what I did admire.  What was I drawn to?  The effect that positivity had on children.  It amazed me as I observed the effect of love and positivity on children, and I vowed that the love of God and positivity would be the bedrock of my parenthood.   Another help for me that stayed right on my nightstand was Dr. James Dobson’s Dare to Discipline.   It was my child rearing Bible.  Dr. Dobson’s strategies were priceless.  I encourage you to pick up a copy today.  Those strategies still work!  They are timeless.

Here are some other resources that I think you’d enjoy.

Meaningful Mama

Thriving Home

Strong Willed Child

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith

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