One question we get asked frequently is,
How do I get my kids to listen?
The Bible is clear that children should obey their parents,
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1 (KJV)
But how does that happen? Do children naturally obey their parents because the Bible says they should?
Umm, we all know that doesn’t happen.
So whose job is it to ensure that children are obedient? The parents’, of course.
So, the next logical question is,
If kids aren’t obedient, whose fault is that?
Yup, the parent’s.
Well, it always begins with the parents, and the first step is for you, the parent, to be submitted to God and have His Spirit abiding in you.
If you don’t do this, you will likely follow your natural inclinations, which will be to be harsh and exacting, or permissive. Neither of these will result in true obedience.
You will lack harmony and unity because you will each be operating on your own ideas instead of being submitted to God and allowing Him to lead.
So, the first work to be done in a Christian home is to see that the Spirit of Christ abides there – by having Jesus in the parents’ hearts.
Moms and dads need to represent God’s disposition and to expect obedience – not with a storm of words – but in a firm yet loving way. You want your kids to be drawn to you, not driven away.
Once this first requirement is in place, you can follow God’s three step plan for obedient children.
This plan is found in Leviticus 26 (go read it!):
God had clear expectations and He warned of consequences (His plan) if His people did not obey, and then He followed through. When His people obeyed Him He blessed them abundantly, but when they disobeyed God followed through on the warnings He had given them.
God did this, not for revenge or out of anger, but to make His children see they were on a wrong path and needed to come back.
Let’s take a closer look at the three steps and how you can implement them in your home.
Think about what you want from them. Are you ok with having to entertain your child with stories just so they’ll sit still long enough to eat, or would you rather have them sit quietly and eat without being coaxed and distracted?
You will get what you expect. If you don’t expect a higher standard, your child won’t reach a higher standard.
God laid out His expectations clearly. He gave a long list of consequences for both obedience and disobedience. His people knew exactly what would happen either way.
For older kids you can communicate your expectations before the time – “From now on I want you to stay at the table and eat until your lunch is finished.”
For younger kids you can communicate your expectation in the moment. Look them in the eye so you know they are listening and have heard you. Get them to repeat back to you if they are able. (Now you know they’ve heard you and you’ll be able to apply the next step if they don’t obey without doubting.)
This is a commanding voice – not an angry or harsh one, but one that gives the message, “I mean what I say.” Don’t beg, plead, coax, or cajole. State what you want clearly, firmly, decisively.
This means consequences. Your voice of authority must be backed up by the hand of authority – consequences, or your children will have no respect for your authority.
It may feel unkind to apply consequences, but if you change your view of them you will see that consequences are meant to motivate a child to change, not just to punish for wrongdoing. See them as a rescue mission.
If you feel it’s unloving or unkind to give consequences, consider what Proverbs says:
“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)
That word ‘betimes’ means to be early at a task with the implication of earnestness.
Ecclesiastes confirms the results of not giving consequences:
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Ecclesiastes 8:11 (KJV)
In the long run it is kind to give consequences.
“We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” Henry Cloud
Make a list of consequences so you have ideas (create your plan). I created a list to help you get started:
You must do what you say you will do. Every time. There’s no point having a plan if you are not going to follow it. Remember God’s example in Leviticus 26? He followed through with what He said He would do – either blessing or bringing hardship on His people.
As a parent, you must say what you mean calmly, move with consideration (put thought into what you are doing), and carry out what you say without deviation.
NOTE: There may be times you wonder whether you should follow through with a consequence because it seems like a little thing. The issue is not the size of the disobedience, but the disobedience itself. That is what you give consequences for.
Don’t be afraid to aim high. Your children will come up to whatever standard you expect from them.
You get what you tolerate.
It is your God-given responsibility to raise obedient children. And as you teach them to obey you, you are teaching them to obey God.
What are you tolerating? Why are you tolerating it? Are you making your expectations clear? Do you have a plan? Do you follow through?