One night shortly after David started walking, Lee and I sat across from each other and tried to get him to “come” from one parent to another. I even had candy to make it fun. Our dear son who does not perform on cue sensed a performance atmosphere and did not cooperate in his lesson. It didn’t more than a few minutes before Lee and I realized that teaching a child to obey wasn’t going to be a single lesson.
I had more difficulty teaching Bethel to obey. The biggest problem was that I was always distracted. I frequently lost track of commands and much later realized she didn’t obey. She is distractible like her mother, sometimes getting off track a mere two steps from the command. I couldn’t always give her undivided attention and asked her to obey much less frequently. Maybe I asked David to obey more than he needed; I’m not sure, now that I think of it.
Now we come to Laurel. She’s a bit more laid back than Bethel (who in spite of her distractibility is quite feisty). As I begin teaching Laurel to obey, I’ve been looking at my older children, who are, as far as children go, pretty obedient. But they’re still learning different iterations of obedience. I’ve been fascinated how many different obedience lessons there actually are to learn.
- Obeying parents is obeying God.
- Jesus says we will be happy when we obey God.
- A child must learn who to obey– God did not tell children to obey their siblings (I’ve told this to David more than once!)
- Mommy and Daddy have the authority to ask baby to obey (We all obey God, Mommy obeys Daddy, and David and Bethel and now Laurel must obey Mommy and Daddy).
- Obedience means stopping what you are doing to obey.
- You must obey even when you don’t want to.
- You must obey even if you don’t understand why.
- If you don’t want to stop, or if there’s a good reason you shouldn’t obey, it’s okay to ask Mommy if you can obey later.
- You must appeal respectfully, but Mommy still has the authority to say no.
- If you face some obstacle to obeying, you must either fix the problem or tell Mommy. Going outside to play is not an acceptable alternative.
- You must obey even if mommy is not paying attention.
- You must obey even if brother/ sister is not obeying.
- A child does not have to obey unlawful orders from an adult. This one is a little tricky, but I want my children to learn it. If an adult (or teenager, or child) tells you to do something that is not right, you must not obey.
As I think through this, I realize that these lessons aren’t exactly easy to learn, either. How many times do I know what is right, but choose to disobey God because I don’t want to stop what I am doing? Knowing how often I fail can help me to have compassion on my child as I help them to understand obedience from God’s perspective. Looking at how many lessons there are to learn can also help me avoid unrealistic expections that they will learn “obedience” in a single day or season. Obedience is a life-long lesson. We’ll probably be reinforcing this lesson for the rest of their lives at home.