Tips To Get To The Heart Of Obedience With Your Children
Raise your hand if you want to help your kids obey the first time. Me me me! I think that’s a desire for most parents.
I want to share with you some helpful tips to encourage obedience in your children.
They’re not complicated or perfect and won’t produce magical results.
This simple statement, when broken down, is very effective in getting to the heart of obedience with your children.
Since kids learn so well by repetition, using this statement early on can pay off tremendously as your children get older.
Let’s learn and grow together!
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How to encourage obedience in your children: Obey right away, all the way, the happy way.
Step 1: Obey right away
It’s important when parenting kids that they first understand what obedience is (looks like/sounds like) and why they need to obey.
You can help your kids understand what obedience is with these descriptors:
- Listen and do what Mommy or Daddy are asking you to do
- If I say, “Bring me your cup please,” you bring me your cup
- Obey the first time
- Follow through, don’t ignore
- Help me know you heard and understood me by saying, “Yes Mommy.”
Obedience looks and sounds like: kids listening to what they’re parents asked, not crying or whining, responding with respect, and completing the task that was requested of them.
You can also use Scripture!
We tell Addie that she needs to obey because it honors God and it honors us. The verse Ephesians 6:1-2 is a great one to share with young kids: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with a promise.”
This is helpful in providing a foundation for obedience.
Tell your children that regardless of whether they like what’s being asked of them, obedience to you is also obedience to God.
What does it mean to obey right away?
After you’ve defined obedience with your kids, you can start to introduce the 3 parts to obedience.
First, explain what it means to obey right away.
Children need to understand the importance of listening to their parents and doing what they say immediately.
Help Your Kids Obey: Sample Conversation!
Me: “Addie, when Mommy and Daddy ask you to do something, you need to obey right away.”
Addie: “What do you mean?”
Me: “If I ask you to come here and talk to me, I expect that you will stop what you’re doing and obey.”
Addie: “So if I’m playing in my room or watching a show, I need to stop what I’m doing and go to where you are?”
Me: “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”
Addie: “I can’t finish what I’m doing?”
Me: “I’d rather you just come right away and finish later. Do you understand sweetie?”
Addie: “Yes Mommy.”
The conversation doesn’t always go like that, but you get the point.
Some people think that kids need to be rewarded every time they do something right. While it’s great to praise our kids and thank them for their obedience, it’s also vital that they understand that obedience is expected.
You don’t get a reward in life for every single thing you do correctly. That’s not reality. Kids need to know this early on in life.
Addie: “Mommy, can I get a treat for listening the first time?”
Me: “That’s a nice thought sweetie, but you don’t need a reward for listening and obeying. Your reward should be in knowing that your obedience pleases the Lord and pleases Mommy and Daddy. Okay?”
Sometimes Addie gets rewarded for certain things, but not all the time.
She knows that happy obedience is expected whether there’s a reward or not.
Think about all of the different stories from the Bible where instant obedience was expected:
There are plenty of examples in the Bible that you can share with your children about the importance of obedience!
Help Your Kids Obey: Tip for Toddlers!
When Addie was 1-3, I made up a song to help motivate her obedience. It’s to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell. It was SO HELPFUL in her toddler years!
Listen and obey
Listen and obey
It makes Jesus happy
When we listen and obey
(Repeat MANY MANY times with your children!)
That’s the entire song. Sing it on repeat with your little ones. I hope it helps you and your kids like it helped me when Addie was young!
Step 2: Obey all the way
The second part in helping your kids to obey is teaching them to obey all the way, to complete the task.
This is something that my sweet 7 year-old is continually working on. We are helping her understand the difference between doing part of a job versus completing the task.
For example, one of Addie’s jobs is to fold her laundry and put it away every week. She’s very good at folding her laundry. I’ve never seen a child be more meticulous with the folding! It’s the putting away part that sometimes eludes her.
Many times I will go up to her room to check and see if the laundry was indeed put away, only to find the neat piles laying on her floor or shoved in her drawers.
Some language we’ve been using with Addie recently is:
- Finish the task
- Complete the job
- Get it done
- Be a finisher
- Don’t do it halfway
- Can’t move on until it’s done
- Partial obedience is disobedience
I want to camp out real quick on that last point, partial obedience is disobedience.
Sometimes our kids might say, “I folded the laundry like you asked, why does it matter if it sits on my floor?” Another comment might be, “You asked me to pick up the toys in my room, and I did. Why is it such a big deal how I do it?”
These are both fair statements, and rather than getting frustrated with our kids for their comments, we should look at these times as teachable moments, both for ourselves and for them.
Both of these situations are dealing with half-hearted obedience.
Here’s your chance as parents to talk about doing everything that is asked of your kids, even when they don’t understand why.
Praise your kids for doing part of the task. Kids love affirmation!
But now you also have a chance to either address the partial obedience or just let it slide and move on with your day.
You can let it slide, but you’re also teaching your child that partial obedience is okay, when biblically it is seen as disobedience. You have to obey all the way, not partially.
Imagine if Abraham would have brought a ram to sacrifice instead of his son. Do you think God would have been pleased?
Adam and Eve decided to eat from the ONE tree that God had said was off limits. How did that end for them? I’d say not well. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden, sin entered the world, and the brokenness from that decision is seen all around us today.
Complete obedience is important!
Let’s aim to encourage our children to obey all the way, starting from when they’re very little. It will help them as they grow and mature, and it honors the Lord!
Step 3: Obey the happy way (with a joyful heart)
There are many verses in Scripture that talk about our attitude, which God desires to be joyful, cheerful, without complaining or grumbling, and our actions done to the glory of God. (Colossians 3:17, 23, Philippians 2:14-15, Proverbs 17:22)
If these things are true, our parenting and instruction of our children should reflect those biblical standards!
How do I encourage my children to obey the happy way? Their attitudes are awful sometimes!
This is a fair statement and feeling. But let me challenge you with this: How is your attitude on a daily basis? Do you do everything without complaining or arguing? Are you holding your children to a higher standard than you hold for yourself? Just a thought!
Sometimes I think we forget that our kids are kids, and we are expecting them to act like tiny adults, neglecting to realize they are still growing and developing both physically and emotionally. We need to extend some grace!
Encouraging your kids to have a good attitude when obeying requires lots of repetition and setting the standard from day one.
Here are some ideas for helping your kids understand how to obey the happy way:
- Model happy obedience
- Model a grumpy attitude (this can be humorous!)
- Give them two examples and have them pick which one is correct behavior
- Ask them to give you words that describe what happy obedience looks like (ex: joyful, smiling face, no eye rolls or big sighs, kind tone of voice)
- Role play with your kids (older ones obviously, this would be hard for a 2 year-old!)
- Read Scriptures that talk about having joyful attitudes, commit some to memory
Whatever you do, just make sure to check for understanding! Remember that a 2 year-old’s level of maturity and understanding is very different from a 5 year-old. Adjust according to their needs.
Help Your Kids Obey: Tips for Teens!
I’m not expecting you to have your 14 year-old sing the Listen and Obey song, that would be a bit humiliating.
However, teens need to be held to the same standards in their attitude as the rest of the family.
Asking questions can go a long way with your teens, especially if you’re wanting them to take ownership of their choices and do some self-evaluation.
Here are some helpful questions when confronting teens about their attitude:
- Are your choices right now loving or unloving?
- Are your words to me right now respectful or disrespectful?
In the Bible it talks about speaking in a way that benefits those who listen (Ephesians 4:29). Are your words benefiting me or your siblings?
- When you roll your eyes or ignore me, do you think that reflects love to me?
- Is your attitude right now wise or unwise? If God desires His children to be wise, then what needs to change for you to be walking in wisdom?
Questions can go a long way with your teens and tweens!
What is the end goal with all of this?
It’s important when parenting our kiddos to have an end goal in mind. Why are we even striving for obedient hearts each day? Does it matter?
It totally does!
You need to ask yourself what your end goal is with parenting, instruction, and discipline.
What kind of children are you hoping to raise? Why is it important for your children to learn to listen and obey the first time? Will this help them as adults? Are you willing to do the hard work each day, following through on consequences and conversations to help your kids understand what you and the Lord are asking of them?
I heard a mom on a podcast once say that her goal in parenting is to teach her kids that God is the most amazing person in the world and their greatest treasure. That’s a great goal! She felt like if her kids grew up knowing and believing that, the rest would take care of itself.
Teaching our children the importance of having cheerful obedience now will hopefully pay off in dividends in the future.
Here are some character qualities you are helping to develop in your kids when you encourage them to have obedient hearts:
- Good listening skills
- Good work ethic
Who doesn’t want any of these things for their kids? That’s just the tip of the iceberg!
Let’s Wrap It Up!
Teaching your kids to obey right away, all the way, the happy way is invaluable in the lives of your kids!
We need to do the hard work of the heart work when they’re young and continue to pray that God grows those seeds to produce beautiful godly fruit in their lives.
Is any of this easy? Absolutely not.
Is it always fun? Nope.
But is it what the Lord has asked us to do as parents? You bet.
I’m right here with you on this one friends! This is tough stuff. But it can be done.
Let’s aim to encourage obedience in our children, starting today!
Leave me a comment with one idea that you use with your kids that helps encourage obedience. I’d love to know!
Lots of love to each of you,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” ~Romans 15:13