But don’t you have to make them “obey” you? The Bible definitely says that, doesn’t it? It doesn’t. It says, “Children, obey your parents.” Nowhere does it say, “Parents, make your children obey.” Nowhere! I would challenge you to look for yourself. These Scriptures are talking to the child and the child must be old enough to understand them and to choose to comply with them. Willing obedience is what God desires of us, and what we should desire of our children. How can we expect more of our children than God expects of us? Isn’t it more rewarding when our children willingly obey? That’s the only way to know what is in their heart on a matter. A child may be coerced or forced to obey, but that reveals nothing of the heart. I especially get lost in the logic that when your child has learned, through repeated punishment, to do what you say that they have learned to willingly obey. All they have learned, in reality, is how to avoid being punished.
On the issue of obedience it is a very popular thing to demand what is called “First Time Obedience” and this is defined as “the first time, every time, with a happy heart.” This is most definately not an idea found in Scripture and the suggestion that this can be, and should be, demanded of young children is very troublesome to me. There are no examples at all of God expecting first time obedience from anyone, and yet there are many examples of the faithful who did not respond with first time obedience. Moses argued several times about all the reasons why he didn’t believe he was the right person to go to Pharaoh, Abraham and Sarah tried on their own to produce the child of promise, Jonah ran the other way but was still the prophet chosen to deliver God’s message, and Jesus himself requested three times that the cup be taken from his hands before he prayed “Not my will, but thine be done.” Even then there was no happy heart but a broken Lord who cried and sweat blood.