Begin with the Bible & The Circle of Protection
Read Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:20, and Ephesians 6:1-3, out loud, from your Bible. Talk about what it means to honor someone - how actions and words can either honor or disrespect. Give examples, including those that include tone of voice and body language.
In Shepherding Your Child's Heart (a book every Christian parent should read - more on that in a future post), Ted Tripp explains "the circle of protection," which is a helpful way for children to understand biblical promises about children obeying their parents. The child is within the "circle of protection" as long as she honors and obeys her parents - and therefore honors and obeys God. But as soon as the child is disrespectful or disobedient, she is outside that circle of protection and can expect the opposite of what Ephesians 6 promises.
To illustrate this, draw a large circle (at least 19 or 20 inches in diameter) with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Have your child stand it in, then use a hose or squirt gun to spray water around - but not on - your child. Say, "As long as you're in the circle of protection, you won't get wet." But as soon as your child steps outside the circle, give him a fun spray of water. Say, "Ah! You stepped outside the circle. What happens when you do that?"
The Keys to Obedience
There are actually several import parts of being obedient. Every child should understand that being obedient means:
* Doing what's asked of him immediately.
* Doing what's asked of him cheerfully.
* Doing what's asked of him completely.
* Doing what's asked of him without complaining.
Sometimes I also give my children of examples of how true obedience looks and can thwart bad things from happening to them. For example, when we watch The Sound of Music, I always point out how the littlest VonTrapp child is told to be quiet when they are hiding from the Nazis. She obeys perfectly. I ask, "What might the consequences have been if she'd disobeyed? Or complained? Or asked 'Why?'"
A good way to help your kids remember aspects of obedience is to make paper keys with each step listed on them. You'll find complete instructions for doing this at The Better Mom.
Who's In Charge?
It's very important for children to understand that obeying you is obeying God. It's also important for them to know you are in charge (and the disciplinarian) because God gives you that responsibility - and punishes you if you neglect it. (See also 1 Samuel 3:13.)
First, explain who's the boss: God. Then explain that God put Daddy in charge of your household. Mommy and the children need to obey him, because that's what God says, and we want to honor and obey God. Next in line is Mommy; the children must obey her, as well as Daddy.
Then you can either create a family mobile, showing everyone's position, or you can simply draw some circles on a piece of paper and have your children draw a cross (or some other symbol of God) in the circle at the top of the page; then a portrait of Daddy in the circle just below that; then a portrait of Mommy in the circle just below that. Finally, have circles for portraits of each child at the bottom of the page.
Your children also need to know they can make an appeal - as long as they do it respectfully. If your child wants to make an appeal, he must:
1. Obey immediately, cheerfully, and without complaint.
2. Ask respectfully if something else is acceptable.
For example, if I ask my child to go clean his room, he should say, "Okay, Mama" and head toward his room. On his way there, however, he could respectfully say, "Mama, I thought you said earlier that we were going to the park this afternoon. Can we do that before I clean my room?"
These activities are a great introduction to the concept of obedience, but you shouldn't talk to your children about this just once. Bring it up in daily or weekly conversation. Let your children see you submitting to your husband, and your husband submitting to God. Whenever you discipline your kids, remind them God commands you to correct their actions - and for their soul's sake's. Remind them that by disobeying you, they are disobeying God.
Our society delights in disobedience. Even influences as seemingly innocent as Disney fairy tales thrive on the notion of children disobeying their parents - and adults doing whatever they think best. But this is contrary to what God says is best for us. Remember:
"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death."
But its end is the way of death."