The idea of parenting has undergone a radical transformation in our culture today. As the current moral and ideological revolution tears through our society, parenting is just one of a long list of victims that have undergone a radical deconstruction. As Christians we have the source for what is true, right, and good. Our God has spoken. We must speak out on this generationally important issue. This article is one small start.
In our current culture parenting is popularly portrayed at best as helpless people just trying to “do their best” or, at worst just babysitting and survival (Note: we are not including abuse or obviously poor parenting). Our culture has deconstructed parenting and is destroying our families and society because of it.
The Church needs to step forward as the source of life that many young parents need on this topic. Many, because of broken relationships or fatigue with older parenting models, do not have sound advice coming to them from parents or grandparents. Many Christians seeking to do good give bad advice. Burdening parents with guilt or failing to equip them for godly success and a life of joyous parenting. Parenting is hard no matter how you slice it; but parenting without godly goals, direction, and practical how-tos will make parenting insufferable and our children miserable.
It is my goal to help a few change that trajectory. In this article I will start with a foundational block that I believe is essential to parenting little ones. I define littles as one to three or four years old. The key foundational blocks you lay down in these early years will set the tone for future years. This essential foundational block is obedience. This idea is often despised by our society and recoiled back from by some Christians as seemingly “anti-grace”. But, I firmly believe that requiring obedience is biblical and of utmost importance as you begin the early years of raising your children.
Requiring Obedience Keeps them Physically Safe
The most obvious reason you should require obedience is because it is an important part of keeping them physically safe. If a child will not listen to you when you give them instructions or commands they can put themselves into physical danger. Whether it be running into the street or leaving your site: they are ignorant of danger and need habitual obedience to keep them safe.
Requiring Obedience Helps the Family Flourish
Obedience is an essential part of a flourishing family. We are not talking about drill-sergeant level obedience. I am speaking to the right and good God-given respect for authority. What are the ways that having a culture of disobedience or disregard for authority are dangerous to the development of a family?
As a husband and father I need my children to obey the demands of my wife. She is a full and equal authority in their life and our children must recognize that. If our children are out of control when I walk out of the room I am harming my wife and my children.
How do my children treat each other and enjoy each other? Conflict is an opportunity for character development and the tightening of relationships. Certainly we need to take advantage of every conflict as a chance to teach and correct. But, if my children never listen to our instruction, follow our most basic rules of right behavior, and are never taught to think about others–then how will my children flourish together and as individuals? They will not. They will suffer and their future relationships with each other will suffer.
A chaotic, out-of-control household is not one where children excel. Each child needs to know that when a child does do something egregious (hitting, pulling hair, screaming at their face) that there are severe consequences and that it will not happen again. A child needs to know that certain behaviors and attitudes are not acceptable and are experienced minimally. An obedient home is a safe home. A safe home is the cornerstone for a joyous home.
Safe does not mean conflict never occurs or that children are kept from dealing with conflict or pain; but a reasonable expectation of good and right behavior should be supported by parents.
Requiring Obedience Models God’s Demands on Them
In an article that inspired this post John Piper touches on this point (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/parents-require-obedience-of-your-children) and I would like to briefly mention it. Obedience is required and demanded by God. The grace God gives us in Christ is not anti-obedience or a disregarding of obedience. Read James, 1 John and understand the flow of Paul’s letters and you will understand that obedience is an essential requirement and demand of God for all people.
Do not fall victim to the claim that being “gospel-centered” in your parenting means that obedience is secondary or unimportant. Obedience is at the very center of our response to the gospel. Obedience is at the very core of what it means to be in relationship with God.
Model well what God demands of us by demanding that of your children. The goal is to get them to obey joyfully from the heart. But, while parenting littles, begin with simple obedience.
Requiring Obedience Teaches Right and Wrong
Godly obedience also teaches what is right and what is wrong. Not every issue of obedience is an issue of right and wrong, but many are and many lead to that. Do not be soft on obedience and give your children the impression that what is right and what is wrong in the world is up for grabs or unimportant.
Requiring Obedience Obeys God’s Demands On You
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:1-4
There are many passages in Scripture that I could reference that imply parental authority. God values and demands that children submit to the authority of their parents and thus, by implication, you must be that authority. In the Old Covenant a stubborn and disobedient child could have been stoned. While this is not in force for us today it does illustrate how important it was to God for his people that this was true. For New Covenant believers we are given many instructions with implied parental authority. Parental authority and the requirement of obedience is an essential part of Biblical parenting.
Therefore, being soft or inconsistent on obedience means you are not in line with God’s demands of your parenting. Fathers lead in this and be a pillar of strength on this issue.
It is not my intention to take you on a guilt trip. In my mind there are too many improper guilt trips out there. But, if you are not making obedience an important part of parenting your littles then I plead with you to examine your approach. Require it when it is hard and require it when it is not perfectly delivered. Obedience is too important to be soft on. Do not let our culture and current parenting models keep you from requiring obedience. Require obedience for the flourishing of your home, the safety of your children, to model what God demands, and to submit to God’s demands of you as a parent.