What are your goals as an effective parent?
I’d like my kids to pursue careers they’re interested in, have healthy relationships with friends and maybe a spouse someday, and eventually (in a long while) bless us with some grandchildren.
But ultimately, no matter what they do, my husband and I hope they choose to follow God and the plans He has for their lives. I want them to obey their Creator.
In his Effective Parenting in a Defective World series, Chip Ingram says, “You must recognize your child’s primary responsibility is to learn obedience.” The first time I heard this I thought, “Really? That’s their primary responsibility?”
But as Chip explained more, it made sense. When a child learns to obey their parents, they’re laying the groundwork for learning to obey God as adults.
And if you look at the Bible, we see this theme of children and obedience repeated over and over again. Here are a few examples spanning the Bible:
What is Obedience?
The definition of obedient is, “Complying with or submissive to authority.” Or, as Chip put it, “obedience is teaching your child to come under the hearing of your voice…[it’s] the channel where God’s biggest plans are delivered.”
It’s submitting with a good attitude and good heart the first time–not because of fear or threats, but because we love the one we’re submitting to. This is what Jesus explained in John 14:21.
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
If our children learn how to obey us because they love and respect us, it will make it easier for them to choose to obey God because they love and respect Him, too.
How to Teach Obedience
So how do we teach our kids to obey? According to Chip, calmly and with consequences.
I also like how Chip pointed out that none of us just innately obey; it’s a learned behavior. Even Jesus needed to learn how to obey. Luke summarized his growth by writing, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
- Wisdom: he grew intellectually
- Stature: he grew physically
- Favor with God: he grew spiritually
- Man: he grew socially
Our Role in Their Development
How do we help our children learn? Chip explained it’s important to understand where they are developmentally. As our children grow, our role changes. While we start as a commander, we move to instructor, coach, and–ultimately–consultant. He broke it down like this:
Spiritual Formation and Mental Development
As your kids get older, it’s important to ask yourself these two questions Chip presented:
- What do my kids need most from me at this stage in their development?
- In light of their current stage of development, what do I need to adjust in my parenting?
Just as our children are regularly growing and developing, our parenting methods need to grow and develop alongside them.
Remember that obedience is a developmental process, too. They won’t just all of a sudden do everything they’re told the first time with a wonderful attitude. We need to recognize where they are and what they’re capable of.
Resources Your Children Need
How do we do this? We focus on character rather than achievement. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gives us a good framework for this:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Chip used this to passage to show five resources your kids need from you:
- Doctrinal truth (the Lord is one, the Bible)
- Personal devotion (Love the Lord your God)
- Biblical knowledge (shall be on your heart, teach them diligently)
- Systematic instructions (short, brief stories, read it on their own, talk about it)
- Teachable moments (throughout your life, in every circumstance)
How do you know how your kids are doing? When they start turning to Jesus for love, submission, and dependency, you can see it by them:
- Making wise decisions.
- Following through on commitments.
- Genuinely caring for others.
Covering the Process in Prayer
Effective parenting requires a lot. But in a culture that presents a million ways to be a “good mom,” I found it really helpful to have a biblically driven focus for how I interact with my kids.
I still have a lot of growing to do in this area. But I pray God helps and guides my husband and me along the way as we try to help them learn to obey us, so they can ultimately learn how to obey God. I pray He helps and guides you as well!