Recently my husband and I had opportunity to reevaluate our lives and come up with a list of 10 goals we wanted to work on in our home. These goals included my committing to create a monthly menu plan, so we could do the majority of our shopping one day a month and save money by buying to the menu instead of “stocking a pantry”, and use the money freed up by this approach to then stock the pantry. My husband stated in writing his commitment to going back to college in the fall so that he can earn a degreeand get a job in a field he will be able to commit to for a career. Among these 10 goals was the one I consider the most important . . . “We resolve that kindness to our children is more important than their obedience.”
We resolve that kindness to our children is more important than their obedience.
This resolution has revolutionized our home.
See, we’d gotten into the trap of thinking, “I’ve taught you this, you need to do it!” And we were allowing our frustration in other areas to prompt us to demand obedience from our children because we wanted parenting to be easier. We were thinking (not consciously, but as we explored this line of thought we found the root), “I’ve spent so much time investing in you, things are tough now and you owe me.” And in “demanding” obedience we were demanding more from our children than we were doing ourselves.
We are God’s children and God has set a standard for us. As believers we are called to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and to show Love (that is patient, kind, keeps no record of wrongs, rejoices in truth but not in evil, etc.). God doesn’t look at us and ask if we’ve made someone else obedient today, He asks if we have been obedient ourselves. And we are called to the standard of kindness to others.
In “demanding” obedience we were demanding more from our children than we were doing ourselves.
By demanding our children be obedient, we weren’t being kind. We were demanding they be patient NOW. We were yelling at them to give us peace. We were losing our tempers and demanding their self-control. Does anyone else see the twisted logic here? Or does anyone wonder why we were failing even at motivating them to be obedient? Not only were we not being kind, but in not being kind we were guilty of provoking our children to anger (and insecurity).
This resolution came quickly for us. We’d only slipped into this pattern over about a month and once we realized what we were doing we committed to stopping. I’m so grateful that God has taught me enough about parenting to realize when I’m falling down on the job. And no matter how tough the rest of life is, parenting has to take top priority. It’s our primary ministry and as we seek God first, and trust that all these things shall be added unto us, we have to come into obedience to God’s Word.
No matter how tough the rest of life is, parenting has to take top priority — it’s our primary ministry.
Demanding obedience reveals something about our hearts that isn’t pretty. The word itself, “demand”, carries with it the reality of a lack of patience and self-control. It is impatient and “other controlling.” Yes, children are instructed to obey, but it’s an instruction between them and God. When I get myself in there I am violating the very next stated instruction by Paul and provoking my children to anger. It’s more difficult to stay out of the instruction for children to obey, but it’s also healthier and more boundaried.
There is one thing we can do that will move our children closer to fulfilling the commandment to obey us while fulfilling the requirement of us to not provoke them to anger — that is to realize that WE are also children and the commandment to obey applies to US as well. We are obligated to honor our earthly father and mother, but more importantly our Heavenly Father.
Demanding obedience reveals something about our hearts that isn’t pretty.
When I say that “kindness is more important than my child’s obedience”, it is because when I show “kindness” I am being obedient! In the very act of showing my child kindness I am modeling for them obedience!!!!! What an amazing concept! I can teach my child obedience simply by being obedient myself. We must remember that children are watching and they hear our actions louder than our words. If we demand obedience and are not obedient ourselves then our demands will fall on deaf ears (and ears that are provoked to anger).
So we started exercising self-control. We began showing our children kindness. We made a point to be more patient with them and to take each encounter with a fresh attitude (instead of keeping a record of wrongs). We were gentle. We looked for ways to bring joy into our encounters. We sought peace first in our own hearts and then in our communications with them. We began to DO good instead of requiring it.
When I show kindness, I am being obedient!
Is everything in our home perfect? I’d be lying if I said it was. In fact, we’re still facing those big struggles and lessons that were causing us to lose our focus in the first place. But we have God’s peace in our home in a way we didn’t during our attempts to get it in our own strength. We are being obedient to God and, amazingly enough, our children are back to being obedient to us — and even more than they were before!
Through our efforts to resolve things without demanding obedience we found areas where we thought we’d taught them completely but we’d forgotten some aspect, or they were experiencing confusion about our instructions. We stopped projecting our anxiety onto them and they stopped magnifying it back to us. We started working together to find a common good instead of expecting “them” to meet ”our” needs. Life is good. We’re a team again.
This will require you let go of the picture in your head of perfect children and a perfect family that you’re trying to press everyone into.
If you are having more conflict in your home than you’d like . . . If you are spending all of your energy trying to make your children obey . . . If you’re wondering where the peace is that God says is there for HIS children . . . Perhaps, as His child, you need to look for areas where you can fulfill the instruction to obey your Father so that things will go well with you in the land God is giving you. This will require you let go of the picture in your head of perfect children and a perfect family that you’re trying to press everyone into. That is hard. I understand. But in doing so you will be able to work with God towards your own perfection, and you can trust God to keep working on the other people in your life. You can know that by being obedient yourself you ARE teaching obedience — but in the best way, through modeling it to your disciples.