A parent’s job is more than just discipline. It is more than just making sure our kids are always happy. It is more than a list of arbitrary rules. Parenting is a proactive, preventative, purposeful activity where a child’s character is pursued over his happiness.
Today we are going to explore another parental role: encouraging our children with conversations and illustrations about the blessings that come from obedience.
Deuteronomy 28 is our model for this concept (you can read the chapter in full here). In the preceding books, the nation of Israel was miraculously freed from slavery in Egypt, saw the mighty hand of God at work in their protection and sustainment (remember the Red Sea, manna from heaven, the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night?) and experienced God dwelling in their midst (the tabernacle). It is with this backdrop that God shares the multitude of blessings they will receive if they obey. These words take place during a time of peace and when the nation has a soft heart toward God.
Let’s now apply this to our role as parents. Today, we will look at the blessings your children can expect to receive if they choose a path of obedience. You will notice that these blessings are not in the form of material rewards, gifts or treats. While there certainly is a place in parenting for these types of rewards, as a general rule they are a cheap substitute for the substantive, internal blessings that come from obedience. Feel free to add your own ideas for blessings in the comments section below. Here are some things you can point out to your child regarding obedience:
1) You will hear more yes’s than no’s. The next time your child is in a good place of obedience and asks for a privilege, say “yes.” Then say to him, “See how much more likely I am to say ‘yes’ when you are being obedient?” Help him connect the dots.
2) You will feel joyful. Obedience actually feels better. Point out to your child how you see an obedient heart reflected in their overall mood. You can say, “I have noticed that you smile more when you are obedient.”
3) You will enjoy a positive family mood. The old saying, “one rotten apple can spoil the whole bushel” is true in families as well. Ever notice that even one family member can affect the mood of the whole family? You can ask, “Isn’t the whole family mood happy and upbeat when everyone is making good choices?”
4) You will be trusted to do the right thing. Children who are choosing obedience are more easily trusted. Tell them, “Yes, you can take that package to the neighbor’s house. I can trust you to be where you are supposed to be because you have been making good choices lately.”
5) You will experience forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes. Soft, remorseful hearts are easy to forgive. When you see repentance personified, tell them you notice it. You can say something like, “The way you apologized really showed me how sorry you are. I can tell that you have a sad heart about what you did wrong. I accept your apology.”
6) You will feel like you belong. Disobedience brings separation. Obedience brings people together. You can point out to your children that making good choices keeps them engaged in the family relationships and activities. You can say, “Look how much fun we are all having together as a family. Everyone’s good behavior makes this possible.”
Notice that all of these acknowledgements of blessings come during times of peace. Using them as a threat or a “carrot” will be less effective (ie: “Well, if you listened to me, I would be able to trust you more, but since you don’t listen, I can’t trust you.”). Once your children can effectively connect blessings with behavior, you will see change.