Obedience vs Compliance

 I think we all want our children to obey us, out of respect and love and a desire to please (just as we should all desire to obey our Father in heaven).  

I've been thinking a lot about childrearing lately and about obedience from the heart versus compliance.  I think compliance comes from a place of fear, fear of punishment, fear of failure... that is not necessarily a bad thing in general.  We should comply with traffic laws, for example, or we may get a ticket and have to pay a fine, higher insurance rates, etc. 

But do we want compliance from our children?  Do we want them to fear us?  Fear and respect are not the same thing. Compliance also speaks of an outward action, to me, not of a heart-forward action. 

As with all parenting, discipline must come from a place of desiring to teach and instruct our children, to disciple them. How do we accomplish this?

First, we must realize that teaching our children to obey us will help them to obey God in their lives.  Our hearts must be right with the Lord and our desire to raise our children for His glory must be first in all we do.

Second, we have to make our expectations realistic (to the child's age and ability) and clearly communicated.  It is often a good thing to give a child a directive and then ask them to repeat it back to you.  This will ensure that they clearly understand what is expected of them. For very young children, or ones with difficulty with attention to detail, I often would give one instruction at a time.   "Clean your room" is overwhelming to any age child!  So I would say "Put your toys in your toy box and come back to me".  Then I would give the next instruction, one at a time.  The goal is not to have a clean room but to learn how to clean a room. This mindset is behind the very important part of homeschooling -- teaching your child how to learn. 

We teach our children immediate, cheerful obedience with no questions when they are little.  As they get older and mature, they are allowed and encouraged to respectfully say "May I ask why?" about something they are asked to do.  If it is a good time, we will take the opportunity to explain our request, our reasons, etc... because they need to learn what our thought processes are.  It's part of teaching them.  If it is not a good time for us to explain, we reply "Not now" and they go about their merry way.

Teaching the why behind the do... this is essential to parenting.  It's essential to our children's growth and maturity to learn "why" we do what we do, say what we say, believe what we believe. It ties heartstrings and strengthens relationships. 

Obedience, joyful obedience, is pleasing to our Lord! And that's not just obedience in relation to our children to us, but us to the Lord. 

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Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I care what you think! ~Dana