Sunday, February 17, 2013

Teaching Obedience is Not About Behavior

This weekend I loaded up my three kiddos and took a short road trip to visit my grandmother.  My mom also accompanied myself and my husband, Denver so we could have a 1 adult : 1 child ratio.  My grandmother's house is a life sized menagerie.  She is an avid "collector" of all things, varying from vast collection of tiny spoons to a large accumulation of live animals, the fowl species particularly.  These birds currectly reside on her 5 acre plot in NW Oklahoma:

-chickens, geese, ducks, guienea, emu, peacocks, banty roosters/chickens (which she seriously sent me home with 10 dozen eggs... thats 120 eggs people!)

Yes, this happened.  That's my grandma on the right and my oldest son Daxx when he was 2 riding her pet Emu, Myrtle. 

It is a mental chore going to see her with my children because inevitably they want to see the animals, play with ALL her cool toys, and eat the candy that has been sitting in the candy dish since 1988.  But, the short trips are worth every painstaking second because she is worth it.  Much of who I am is because of her.  I was able to spend many days and nights with her as young girl, and her chaos is comforting to me.

I, of course was assigned to the youngest child, since I wear him like a necklace these days.  (I don't do infants well, I like my space!)  Since, the littlest man is crawling (fast, faster than lightening) I was kept on my toes watching for him to get into something life threatening.  We were not there long when he found the baby kryptonite in a large bowl under the piano.  PLASTIC GRAPES, lots and lots and lots of plastic grapes; big grapes, medium grapes, teeny grapes, red, yellow, purple and blue grapes, all piled up in a ginormous antique dish on the floor just waiting to be chewed by little baby gums.  I already knew that this was a weakness for the Duncan offspring, my other two children had the same fascination.  Due to their thick layer of petrified dust, the very fact they are a CHOKING HAZARD, and once saw a snake slither out of the very exact bowl, I don't allow the kids to play with them.

This is an example of the decor that graces my grandmother's living room.
Cabbage man!
So, Dutch spied the giant bowl of grapes calling his name.  I said no.  He crawled to them.  I picked him up, placed him away from the grapes, and said, "No Touch!".  He looked at me, smiled and crawled back to the grapes and grabbed them.  I picked him up, said "NO Touch!" and sat him back down.  He looked at me (a little mad) then looked at the grapes, then looked at me, and started crawling back to the grapes.  I said "no", but allowed him to keep crawling to see where he would go... of course to grab the grapes.  (Did I mention he is a fast booger?)  Well, this time I picked him up, patted his hand, and said "NO Touch!".  Of course he screamed, cried and threw himself back like his life was over.  What else did I expect him to do?    Look at me, smile and OBEY?!?

I started pondering this question: What would the purpose of my role as a mother or parent be if my children came into this world obeying every word I said, never seeking their own desires and requiring little to no guidance and direction?  

Void of the responsibility to train and discipline my children I would simply exist to feed, clothe, and bathe them.   How boring would that be?  But it seems the very thing we avoid most often is the most important.  If our only duties were the bare essentials we might as well work on an assembly line, manufacturing little human robots.   Instead, we are tasked with the greatest responsibility of them all: "to train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

I say all this because we should not act surprised when our children throw tantrums, we should not act blindsided when they run away from us, and we shouldn't take offense if they don't want to do what we ask of them.  Why do we get so frustrated and upset, when they are just acting the way they are supposed to?  They are, after all, tiny humans, with a tiny (but mighty) human nature.  They are inclined to do what is fun, what feels good, what they want, because they are not born with a moral or safety compass, we must intervene if not for sole reason for saving their life (i.e.: choking on petrified grape decor from 1977 at my grandmothers)

Its amazing the expectation I put on my children.  When my kids are acting out I will say things to myself like, "They should know better!", "We do not tolerate behavior like that!", "Where did they learn to throw a fit?"...etc, then I get tense and mean.  But honestly, they are just acting the way they were designed.  It is the job of the parents to intervene and direct/discipline so we can train them up in a way that is "right".   Why do we dread this part of our jobs so much?  The job that is the most vital?  Why do we put the blame back on our children, when really the responsibility lies in our own hands? (Oh, because Satan is sneaky...that's why.)

The Bible gives us many scriptures on parenting, (some listed at the bottom of this post) mostly focusing on discipline, talking about the Lord, making disciples, but NEVER does it say to make sure your children eat organic veggies, wear Baby Gap and have wooden chew toys. Think about all the mental effort and hard earned money we put into those things, yet we look the other way when we see our child misbehave or we are just too tired to follow through with the threat we scared them with minutes before.   (obviously my threats don't scare my children, maybe yours do?)

So.  Today I resolve to move direction and discipline to the top of my priority list.  I will make a conscious effort in following through with the consequences I set before my children and I will not make threats that I cannot keep.  (For example:  "You are never watching TV again!"{yeah right!})

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?  You might be asking...

Because, not only does our hard work and determination pay off by producing well adjusted adults, BUT most of all, teaching a child to be obedient at a young age prepares them for the most important relationship off all, their relationship with the Lord.  We must prepare the soil of our children's hearts so that when the time comes for the Holy Spirit to lead them, they will be obedient and follow.

Obedience is not simply about behavior, it is an issue of Salvation.  

When we look at parenting through the lens of eternity, we must prioritize our efforts.  Even though the grape incident with Dutch was small, I now realize its a tiny building block in laying a foundation of obedience.  A foundation that I hope will be strong and stable, so the Lord can take it in due time and build a great man of faith.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Proverbs 1:8-9 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 6:23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life,

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.

Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Proverbs 15:5 A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.

Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.


  1. I am so enjoying your blog! You are so eloquent and bring such important things to mind. In this season of feeling overwhelmed I need these reminders. You're a good Momma, friend!

  2. Yes and amen Heather girl! You were meant for blogging :) Thanks for another important one!

  3. Thank you gals, your comments mean more than you know.

    Its something I must remember daily, especially on those hard days when all you want to do is be the fun parent and let them get away with the small things.

  4. Heather, I enjoy your blog so much! This post is great, I haven't ever thought of parenting in this perspective. Thanks for sharing!


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