Over and over again I find that instilling obedience is important not just for my children’s future blessing but for their present safety and survival.
Edric and I took the kids biking yesterday afternoon. We reminded the boys that they needed to stop at every intersection, even if the pedestrian crossing light was green. I would see the boys go off on their own, but I didn’t feel nervous because they did as we had told them. They would bike to an intersection and wait for us to catch up to them so we could all walk across together. In contrast, there was little Tiana, who was walking beside me and would wander off at random moments. She had to be watched constantly.
Two polar experiences were demonstrated by the boys and Tiana. I felt relaxed and at peace as the boys biked around, knowing that they would heed our guidelines. However, I was tense when Tiana would run off towards the edge of a sidewalk or towards the end of the street. Why? At any moment, Edric or I could call out “FREEZE!” to the boys and they would stop immediately. Tiana’s response, however, would be completely different. If we told her to stop, she would keep going. As a one year old, she has yet to internalize obedience.
Our children may not realize that one of the blessings of obedience is their protection. Obedience has saved their lives many times! Ephesians 6:1 – 3 is indeed true when it says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.”
I think of how God has set principles for us to follow, and if we don’t recognize how much he loves us, we see these guidelines as obstacles — rules that stand in the way of what we want for ourselves. But his desire is always for our greater good. When I became a parent I better understood this about the heart of God.
Obedience is the first frontier that parents need to conquer to make parenting easier. We started teaching our boys obedience as toddlers and now, it’s Tiana’s turn. In fact, she received her first spanking yesterday evening — one memorable swat on her buttocks for disobedience. Edric teared up when he gave it but it was necessary. He had told Tiana, “Do not open the bottle of cologne. Obey.”
Prior to this he had spent the week explaining the word obey to her. Both of us noticed that she was beginning to show signs of defiance and rebellion. But we wanted to make sure that she understood the word obey. After numerous dialogues and situational illustrations where we would tell her things like, “Tiana, you don’t do that. You obey,” we knew that her days of getting away with cuteness were numbered.
She was not supposed to open the cologne bottle because she was putting it to her mouth. So when Edric told her not to open it, she responded with “okay.” For a few moments, she did obey, but then she snuck off to a corner to open the bottle, looking at Edric while she did so. He picked her up, brought her to the bathroom and said, “Tiana, you did not obey. Daddy told you not to open the bottle, but you did. Daddy has to spank you.” Tiana knew she was in trouble and started to cry.
The Bible tells us, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)
After spanking Tiana, Edric hugged her and reassured her that he loved her. Then, he carried her back to me. I held her tightly and said, “Daddy spanked you because you did not…” She finished the sentence on her own with the word, “Obey.”
It’s not easy to train an 18 month old child to obey. But with consistency in the implementation of rules and follow through of consequences for disobedience, I’m trusting that like our boys, Tiana will one day get it. After all, God promises that the fruit of discipline is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. And Edric and I certainly want that peace for all our children!