Do Not Aim For External Obedience

My fourth child is Tiana.
She is a charming 3 year old and she knows it. Tiana will flutter her eyelashes, twinkle those big brown eyes of hers and flash a disarming smile, and voila! you forget that she needs to be disciplined for something. But Edric and I need to make sure that she doesn’t miss this critical stage of discipleship and discipline, which is largely about obedience. We want her to learn to obey because it is for her good and protection.

Since we have a lot of kids, the challenge when it comes to discipline is consistency. Each child may need a modified or personalized approach but we want the same end result — internalized obedience. Obedience is preached, practiced, and applied in our home, so we cannot allow Tiana to be an exemption.

For example, some time ago, the kids and I were hanging out at my parent’s place. And while I was putting them down for a nap, their cousin came in to rest with them. This would have been fine had my niece calmly gone to sleep. But she was singing, humming, buzzing, and trying to get their attention. I told her that if she kept that up, she would have to take a nap by herself. Well, she did not listen, so I took the kids out of the room and let them sleep elsewhere.

My niece is a sweet girl but she is not my daughter so I can only control what I do with my own kids. I wanted my children to see that I meant what I said and I would follow through. Their cousin wailed for a while because she was upset that she could not nap with everyone else. The kids could hear her in the other room but they understood why I couldn’t let them stay together. No one would be able to sleep.

After about fifteen minutes, my own kids settled down and were hitting that point where their eyes glaze over and they fall asleep. However, Tiana was moving about on the bed and playing with her pillow. So I told her, “If you do not obey mommy and lay down quietly you will be disciplined.” She acknowledged this but didn’t take me too seriously. As a result the other kids were unable to fall asleep. They knew that Tiana wasn’t obeying me and they were waiting to see how I would handle the situation.

I looked over at Tiana who was sitting up on her side of the bed, fiddling with the zipper on a memory foam pillow. She was not lying down. Honestly, I did not want to spank her. I was seated comfortably across the room looking up recipes on my Ipad. But I knew that if I didn’t deal with the situation, she would think, “I can get away with this sort of thing.” And there was the matter of her brothers looking on to see my next move. They knew that if they were in her shoes, they would have been disciplined.

So I picked her up, took her into the bathroom and explained to her that she did not obey. As a result, she would be getting a spanking. Edric and I don’t spank our kids a lot. We can count the number of times each of our children has been spanked. But when we do spank, our kids know that it is for disobedience. It is a rule that is clear to our children.

Tiana got a spanking. Afterwards, we talked about it and she said sorry for not obeying. She also laid down quietly like I had asked her to previously.

I love my kids and I don’t like to spank them. But because I love them, I want them to understand what it means to obey and submit to authority. It is for their greater good. Some people may not agree with using spanking as a form of discipline. In our home, however, we have used it in the context of a good relationship with our kids. It is not done in anger. It is primarily used to correct disobedience, especially while they are between the ages of 1 and 6. We also use other forms of discipline like withdrawal of privileges and natural logical consequences.

Harold Sala wrote, “You can discipline without love, but can you really love without discipline? ​Discipline is an integral part of love. Although discipline is actually a very old concept, there are many, today, who consider any form of discipline to be punishment. There is a vast difference between the two. Centuries ago, the writer of Scripture declared that discipline is the result of real parental love, just as God’s discipline for His children is the result of His love and concern for our lives.”

“My son do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

It’s interesting that discipline makes our children feel more secure because they know their boundaries. When parameters are set, our kids are aware of what we expect from them and what they need to work on in their character. They don’t have to guess or figure out what is right from wrong as they go along. As parents we tell them what is right based on God’s word and then make them accountable and responsible for choosing to do what we tell them to.

Tiana is still young so we have a lot to work on with her. As for her three older brothers, we are trying to ingrain in them the higher motivation for obedience — the desire and will to love the Lord and please him. After all, we aren’t after mere external compliance but the peace of knowing that our children will follow God’s word even when we aren’t watching them.

Someone asked me very recently, “How do you make your children obey?” I had a problem with that question. First, my goal is not to MAKE them obey. I want them to embrace obedience as God’s plan for their lives– for blessing, protection, and an abundant life. During the early years, we teach our kids that obedience is doing what we say, but eventually we teach them that obedience is doing what we say with a cheerful attitude. It is about the heart.

Second, obedience is something I want my kids to see modeled by Edric and I. God has established a chain of command in the home. Edric is the head and I am under his authority. If I don’t submit to Edric or if I do so with a bad attitude, I distort my children’s concept of obedience to authority. Furthermore, my authority over them is established only if I exemplify what I ask of them. If I ask them to obey me but they see me contradicting, disrespecting and undermining Edric’s authority then I can’t expect them to understand obedience from the heart.

If we have to keep MAKING our children obey there may be something wrong with our approach to discipline.
We may be focusing too much on the behavior and punishment instead of discipling the hearts of our kids. Discipline is necessary but we need to reinforce character instruction, highlight the blessings of obedience, and remind our children that when they obey us they are ultimately pleasing God. Furthermore, if our children aren’t obeying us we need to look at our own example. Do we obey the authorities in our lives with a cheerful attitude, especially our husbands? 🙂

11 thoughts on “Do Not Aim For External Obedience

  1. Hi!
    Am really blessed with your posts. And thanks for sharing this. Im still single though but I can use this in discipling my siblings 🙂
    May God continue to bless your household.

  2. Thank you for pointing this out. Just yesterday I encountered a post on a Natural Parenting page where they are lobbying to have books which promote spanking or “using the rod” to be removed from Amazon. Then a certain person commented saying she’s a Christian said that these books actually had it wrong. She narrates that the rod in Bible times was actually used by the shepherd to lead and guide the sheep and not beat them with it, which should be the context of people understanding the “use of the rod.” While she does make a good point, I still think that spanking done in the proper manner and explained well to the children is actually a good discipline. How else would children understand the wrong they are doing if they do not feel the “physical” consequence of the disobedience they did.

    Speaking of which, when do you think is the right time to start disciplining with spanking? I have a one year old and he’s beginning not to listen anymore. I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s too young or too distracted with what he’s doing that he just ignores when we call him out or he’s already doing it on purpose. You think spanking would be good for him this early?

    1. Hi Ms. Normi, Im a Psychology graduate and no theories in Child Development elaborated regarding the right time to start disciplining kids with spanking. But I believed, your son is still too young to experience that. 😀

    2. You have to distinguish between a mistake of the heart and mistake of the mind. A mistake of the heart is will full disobedience and defiance. While a mistake of the mind could be forgetfulness or distractedness. But let’s say you give a very clear rule like, “Don’t throw blocks at your brother.” And five minutes later, your child does so with anger and malice, then you can spank for that. But, if two kids are laughing and playing and one throws a block at the other in the context of play, that’s a mistake of the mind. There was no ill-intent.

  3. Hi Joy, my son is 20 months old. He does not speak yet but seems to understand a bit. He recently started becoming very fussy at mealtimes and likes throwing food around. If we stop him, he throws a tantrum. When he gets irritated or upset, he tends to throw his toys down as well in frustration.

    How do we discipline him? The rules of spanking are that he should be able to understand the rule, repeat it back and also acknowledge responsibility and confess. I don’t think he can fully do that yet. But I do want him to be more behaved!

    I should also mention that he has a twin sister. She’s very well behaved now but previously it was she who was the tantrum-throwing twin. They seem to alternate between being behaved and misbehaved, but thankfully they do not both misbehave at the same time.


    1. Just take away his food when he starts throwing it around. If he fusses afterwards, let him stay in his high chair until he stops. Even if takes a while let him realise he’s not going to get food or be allowed to get down if he doesn’t change his attitude. You don’t always have to use spanking for everything. There are other ways to discipline and train a child. Also, he could be experimenting with cause and effect so give him something “safe” to throw as an incentive for eating the food on his plate.

  4. Hi Joy! My son is 2yrs 5mo. and is going through extreme terrible twos now. We are having a hard time disciplining him. I have to mention though that I recently found out that I’m pregnant with my second baby and we recently hired a new helper for him last week. I’m a stay at home mom and I am very hands-on with him especially for the past three months that we didn’t have a helper. Needless to say, my son does not like the new helper and he would not even let the helper feed/give him a bath/play with him. There were times he was mean to the helper (hitting/kicking) so I really had to punish him.

    We noticed that ever since the helper came, he became extra clingy to me and became really stubborn and rebellious. He would say no to simple things like wearing his slippers and be adamant about it until I get really angry. He wants to be carried by only me a lot of times and whines/cries if I don’t. I do my best to extend my patience and talk to him nicely but i always end up getting really frustrated and angry at him. He recently started school in Philippine Montessori and for the first two weeks he was happy and excited to go but since last week, he cries whenever he goes to school. Moreover, the teacher said he’s also naughty in school. 🙁 My son can really be a bit naughty but he listens and follows easily but I just find him really rebellious now and would do things that he know would make me angry on purpose.

    I am really having a hard time how to handle this–pregnancy and a terrible two with separation anxiety. Have you had any experience on this? Hope you could share some thoughts. I don’t like to keep on getting angry at him as I get really emotional easily these days and tend to just “burst”. Really need some advice. Thanks!

    I really enjoy reading your site by the way. I learn so many things 🙂 Thanks again! God bless!

  5. Hi Joy! Your post has reminded me of what real obedience is. As it has blessed me, I know it blesses also others. Please continue doing so. God bless us all!

  6. Right here is the perfect blog for anyone who would like to understand this topic.

    You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic which has been discussed for a long time.
    Wonderful stuff, just excellent!

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