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What Do You Do When Your Children Don’t Obey

tim-and-joshIt was obvious that my son was not going to obey me out of respect, love or fear.  I won’t tell you what I said but let if suffice that as soon as the words come out of my mouth I realized that I had officially gone over the edge.  Never mind that I had been very patient (ok, somewhat patient) with my seven year old for one and half hours about going to bed on a school night.  Never mind that he was in one of his classic passive aggressive moods where he had decided to NOT do what I have asked him to do.  Never mind that both of us were exhausted after another Monday’s daily activity.  Never mind that the natural outcomes of disobedience deserve discipline of some sort.  I still could not believe that those words came out of my mouth.

Now before you start calling the child abuse folks, I didn’t do anything.  The threat of punishment finally won him over and he begrudgingly decided to go to bed.  But, I have thought a lot about that encounter.  As ugly as it may sound on paper I think my experience was a common one for parents.  We give our children a reasonable request and they are not moved to action.  At this point, most of the schools of thought related to parenting are in agreement: something needs to be done.  The spanker school says spank.  The pleader school says plead.  The philosophical school says reason with them.  The passive school says leave them alone they will eventually come to the right decision on their own.  The time-out school says put them in the corner.  The grounder school says ground.  The holler school say holler.  The scream-bloody-murder school says cut loose.  The name-calling school says let them have it.  The patient-salt-of-the-earth-parent-of-the-century school says remain completely in control.  And then there are guys like me who say things that they have to apologize for later.

What is a parent to do?  Nothing?  I don’t think so!  And neither do most of the reasonable folks out there.  It is a parent’s responsibility to take care of their children.  This includes establishing reasonable guidelines to govern the behavior of the child for their well-being.  Big things like establishing safety standards of how to cross the street to smaller things like establishing a bedtime on a school night.  I do think that there is agreement that helping our children follow through on these pre-established standards is important.  My philosophy on this is pretty simple. 

1)      We need to think through what standards need to be established

2)      We need to communicate that standard to our children

3)      We need to seek *input from the child related to the standard (dependent on the age of the child and the nature of the standard)

4)      We need to establish consequences of not following through (child *input on the consequence is helpful at this point as well)

5)      We need to follow through on the consequences

6)      Do all things in a spirit of love and respect for the child


*even though getting the child’s input is helpful, it is still the parent’s responsibility to establish the final decision, that why it is called parenting

Sounds good huh?  Wouldn’t it be great if it was as easy as following a pre-determined path of parenting.  I wish that I always reacted in a mature, respectable fashion.  But I don’t.  I wish my son would always obey out of love and respect.  But he doesn’t.  I wish that things weren’t so hard sometimes.  But that is not reality.  Life is real and so are consequences.


As I thought about my comment to my son, I couldn’t help but be drawn into the similarities of how I interact with my Heavenly Father.  I could imagine Him whispering that to me, “Tim you obviously do not respect Me in this matter, maybe you should deal with some of the consequences of your action.  Maybe then you will fear Me”.  The proverbs say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Sometimes it is only the fear of consequence that keeps us accountable to do what is right.  The insight that I gleaned from this encounter is that I think I parent according to my perception of how God my Heavenly Father guides me.  My concept is that He sets some specific guidelines for me and lovingly directs me along that path.  If I stubbornly refuse to do what he wants He disciplines me. 

I heard this song about a little girl’s perception of her father and the balance of love and discipline carried out by her Daddy’s Hands.  I want to be remembered like this!  But, I guess I better get my tongue under control first.  You think?


One comment on “What Do You Do When Your Children Don’t Obey

  1. RD says:

    Great topic of discussion.
    What a battle is it to win the hearts of those who carry our legacy. I personally struggle in gaining obedience from my wayward children. My issuance of rules broken and expectations unmet leaves the kids feeling damaged and my wife and i paralyzed with little room for a loving relationship that is vibrant/healthy.

    As a man who has failed miserably in parenting coming out of the gate, it drives you to your knees. In my case, the bookstore. There is a myriad of philosophys out there on parenting. Dr. Phil, Dr. Spock, Dr. Dobson … there s even some decent Ammish material. Nevertheless, my favorite is Deuteronomy chapter 11. It lays out the foundation to build upon. I can clearly see in the text, Dad setting clear precepts on his expectations for his unruly kids. I believe it strikes at the cord of equipping youngsters for a devine and abundant future. It hit home for us.

    Some timeless principles that are “walk aways”:

    1. Set clear measureable values. Define what you believe represents your family unit.
    Be simple, for a kid can only retain short statements. Remember, the focus is the heart of the child not a list of rules and regs. For example, (As a member of this family, We will love one another)

    2. Post these things around the house. Turn your creative spouse loose on decorating the home with these. In their bedrooms/bathrooms, carve them on plaques or in the dinner table so you could align conversation around these, stick post it notes in their back packs. I’ve seen a neighbor who painted her family’s values on an antique door and hung it upon the wall of their living room.

    3. Rehearse them with the kids so that they are committed to memory. For example, (What does it mean to be a Howington, little johnny?) Have fun and celebrate with them.

    4. Lastly, live them out before their eyes. A mirror reflects the image of that which looks intently into it, so does the child mimic his/her parents actions/words.

    This has simplified our discipline process in a huge way. We have set 5 core values that reflect what represents our family unit. This is who we are and how we “do – life”.


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