3rd post in the series:
Seeing the correlation between obedience and true faith, it is imperative that we train our children to mold their hearts after obedience. As Paul points out in Ephesians 6, the way children obey God is to obey their parents.
Since we are responsible for training our children to love and obey God, we are responsible to hold them to God’s standard. Anything less is an injustice to them. When we count to three, give ultimatums, or show inconsistency in our expectations, we do not give our children a clear picture of our unchanging, holy God. If we give our children a set of rules and expectations that they are capable of following, how will they ever come to see their own depravity and need for redemption? They must understand that there is a law higher than themselves and that they are unable to attain to that law on their own.
This idea is pervasive in Ted Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart. In it, he gives an excellent definition of obedience for small children: without delay, without excuse, and without complaint. When such a clear definition of obedience is expected, it is easy for both the parent and the child to see when that standard is not met. Thus, if dedication to the task is present, discipline and correction are straightforward.
In an effort to simplify it even more, we have shortened the definition in our household and turned the negative descriptions into positive ones: obey immediately, and with a good attitude. If either of those components is missing, we must correct (and it is painfully obvious when we are slack to do so).
Tripp’s book also deals with other aspects of godly parenting as it relates to teaching obedience (such as making only reasonable demands, being easily entreated, and avoiding disciplining mere immaturity), but the part that has been most helpful to me has been his challenge to uphold God’s perfect law as the standard for our family. It is not I who demand such obedience: it is God. When my children do not meet that standard and I must discipline them, I have the perfect opportunity to speak to them about Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, being transparent about my own sin and failure in the process.
It is my prayer that as we uphold a high standard of obedience in our household, our children will learn to humble their hearts before God and seek to obey His commandments–not only for today, but for their children’s children as well.