Doug and I have been leading a parenting class over at the church for the past couple of months. It's been a really great study, although all three of the couples in the class agree that the topics we've covered have been "bien dificil" (VERY difficult!).
The book we're using is called "To Train Up a Child" by Mike and Debi Perl. Great stuff!
It's been beneficial to us to go through this book with our friends. We have been reminded (several times!) of things we used to be more faithful about in the training and disciplining of our children.
One thing which we feel we've become pretty lax on is "first time obedience". The idea is that when you tell your child to do something, from a simple request to a complicated job, he should obey without question. When the kids were little, disobedience was met with a spanking. When the kids reached 10, 11, 12 years old, we no longer spanked for disobedience and consequently the first time obedience ratio dropped.
Now, don't get me wrong. We don't feel like our kids became rebels overnight simply because we stopped spanking them. Generally speaking, all 6 kids do what they're told when they're told with a good attitude. The problem comes when you have 6 youth in the house who all have an idea of how a certain situation could or should be handled and also have a deep, burning desire to share that opinion with you. Usually, they want to share that opinion right after you've instructed them to do a specific chore or errand. At that point, their opinion can border on rebellion.
So, we began teaching first time obedience in our parenting class. Have you ever noticed that when you're teaching a subject -- from Math to History to a chapter in the Bible -- you as the teacher learn a lot, too? As we taught our students, we began to enforce it at home once again.
Our boys had a hard couple of days as they were reminded of the concept. We didn't just "spring it on them". They were all warned that from this point forward they needed to obey without argument or excuse, and they needed to do their daily chores without reminders.
I took these photos of the guys working, not to embarrass them or to laugh at them, but because God showed me a spiritual application I wanted to share.
Everything we teach our kids when they are young has an application when they are grown. For instance, we teach our kids to clean their room and put their belongings away so that when they are adults they will know how to keep their house in order and be good stewards with their belongings. We teach them to cook, sew, work with tools, play music and do their school work so that they will become responsible adults who can contribute to society, not be a drain on it. We require that they finish projects so that they will develop perserverance. Teaching honesty develops trustworthiness. You get the picture.
So what life lesson are we teaching when we require that our children obey us? On the surface, we are teaching them to respect authority, follow the rules, be "good". But what is happening deeper inside?
By learning to obey us without complaint or argument, they are strengthing their "obedience muscle" which will enable them to obey God more easily when they are adults.
If I don't obey my parents request to do my jobs every morning, I'll be pulling weeds for an hour in the blazing sun. If I don't obey God and spend time meditating on His word every day, sin will begin to creep into my life, and God will be doing the weeding.
If I disobey my parents and am unkind to my siblings, and cause them pain, I'll be cleaning cactus for an hour. If I disobey God and am unkind to people around me as an adult, the prickles I'll have to suffer may stick deeper and last longer than those of a nopal cactus.
If I ignore my father's instructions and try to do a job according to my own wisdom, fire ants might have my feet for lunch. If I turn my back on my heavenly Father's wisdom and decide to live my life on my own strength, more than just my feet will burn.
Teaching our children to obey us the first time, not because they fear us or the punishment to come, but because they trust us and trust that we do have their ultimate good in mind, will train them to obey God the first time also. They will (hopefully!) recognize that God also has His ultimate glory and their eternal good as His main purpose. When they hear God speak to them, they will respond with obedience, because that is how they were trained to respond.
These are life lessons. These are lessons which we parents are privileged to be able to share with our kids. So, from experience let me just say that requiring first time obedience from our kids is not a curse on them. It is a blessing.
I hope you're encouraged today to live your life in obedience to God and to teach your kids to do the same!!!