Over the next several months, the Faith-Building Fun ideas will focus on how to open your child’s spiritual windows. For additional insights about ways to nurture your child’s faith, read the book Opening Your Child’s Spiritual Windows by Cheri Fuller.
The Obedience Window:
When I was a little girl and was disciplined by my mother, she would regularly say, “You’re still standing up on the inside.” I knew without explanation what she meant because I knew it was true. I may have stopped doing what I was doing and succumbed to her correction, but I was not doing it willingly. I still wanted my own way; I was still “standing up on the inside!”
Every parent wants an obedient child. Not an outward “I’ll obey because I’ll get punished if I get caught” obedience, but obedience from the heart. Obedience from the heart reflects an attitude that recognizes that doing the right thing, making the right choice, may not be what I want to do, but it’s better in the long run. How do we as parents guide our children to embrace that perspective? Josh McDowell, and others, have said, “Rules without relationship will yield rebellion.” Love, balanced with grace and truth, is the key to effective discipline.
Disobedience from children is inevitable; long-term rebellion is often preventable. How can parents help children develop obedience from the heart that results in self-discipline? The starting point lies in the hearts of the parents as they confront their own beliefs about God and his discipline of his children. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). These two verses help us see that discipline is necessary for spiritual maturity and that obedience flows from love.
So why do we discipline our children? The answer to that question lies in another question: Why does God want you to obey? He wants obedience for the same deep-down reason that a parent wants it: he knows what happens when rules aren’t obeyed. He knows what happens when we run after things that aren’t good for us. He knows that in our foolish, childish behavior we will make choices that have negative consequences. So, he disciplines us so that we can be trained to make the right, self-controlled choices that produce maturity in all areas of life. And that’s what we do as parents. We guide our children to learn to make wise decisions. With that perspective, discipline is not just about punishment, it is also about instruction and correction. Recognizing the broader goal of discipline helps parents guide children to obedience from the heart because the children are learning that the parents can be trusted. When love is at the core of discipline, children are able to feel secure in the relationship with their parents and ultimately are able to respond in a more positive way.
It’s important to remember, however, that children aren’t robots and parents aren’t perfect, so obedience is not automatic or formulaic. Simply doing the right things as parents doesn’t mean that children will magically obey. However, over time, the outcome tends to be more positive with children embracing a desire to do the right thing.
Obedience and discipline aren’t just for the purpose of getting our kids to exhibit right behavior, but to help them develop self-discipline. During childhood, there is a window of opportunity to lay the foundation for this fruit of the Spirit to be built into the life of children that will continue into adulthood. Be strong in your resolve to first be obedient to what God is asking you to do, then discipline your children with the same perspective.