Why Should we Expect Obedience?

Can I be honest with you about something?

Sometimes I yell at my kids.

It is an ongoing struggle in my heart – I know it is sin, and yet I keep doing it. *

It’s the kind of struggle that makes me think “I’m failing as a mother.”

The kind of struggle that makes me think, “How can I expect that they obey me, when I mess up all the time? How can I tell them that yelling is not a kind way to speak, when I yell at them sometimes?”

It makes me feel like such a hypocrite.

What authority do I have to instruct and train and discipline these little ones?

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Expecting obedience from our children can be a controversial topic these days.

My generation of parents tends to shun authority for the sake of authority. Perhaps we have bad memories of being told “because I’m the parent, that’s why” when we were kids. Perhaps we felt locked down and constrained by (seemingly arbitrary) rules. Perhaps we felt shamed into behaving a certain way.

So we can be left asking, “Why should I expect my child to obey me?”

But as Christian mothers, we need to base our parenting on God’s word, the Bible.

And the Bible is quite clear that children should obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20 and 1 Timothy 3:4).

But why?

Is it because grown ups are better behaved than kids? Is it because we “did our time” being kids, and now it’s our turn to be the boss?

No, the authority given to Christian parents – like everything given to us as Christians – is a gift of God’s grace. It is not something we earn. It is not something we deserve. It is not based on our own merit or goodness.

This is so encouraging to me as a Mum who struggles with sin, even the horrible, ugly sin of yelling.

I don’t need to listen to the voices of doubt or the accusations that I am failing as a mother, that I don’t deserve to have these children under my care.

I am a sinner deeply in need of God’s grace, just like they are.

I don’t have authority over them because I deserve it or I’m better than they are. I might be further along the road than them in my walk with Jesus, but we are on the same road.

And when I sin, I don’t need to pretend I’m always right or be bull-headed with them. I can be free to humbly come before them and say “I’m sorry for yelling at you – that was wrong. Please forgive me.”

Because my authority does not come from myself. It doesn’t come from how good I am personally.

It is a gift from God for their protection, their training and ultimately to point to a good and perfect Father in heaven (in contrast with their imperfect earthly parents).

And that’s how we can expect and train our children to obey. We don’t appeal to “because I’m the parent, that’s why”. We teach them, “because God gave you parents to love you and train you, and obeying us is what God wants you to do.”

I know, it will sound weird and awkward at first. We live in a very anti-authority society. As we train our children to love and submit to God’s good authority, we often need to re-train our own brains as well.

I would just encourage you, whatever parenting articles you read or ideas you mull over, always take them back to the Bible and see whether they match or contradict what the Bible says.

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* On the issue of yelling, I’ve seen many articles across Facebook and various blogs about how parents can stop yelling using a number of techniques like reducing stress, connecting with your kids more or finding different discipline techniques so you don’t use yelling as your fall-back option.

Most of these suggestions are good and helpful things – I definitely notice that I yell less when I take the time to be more connected, less rushed and more proactive on the discipline front. But there is a problematic assumption here – that yelling is merely something caused by outward circumstances, and if we just change those circumstances, then we won’t need to yell any more.

But the Bible teaches us that our mouths can only bring out what is already in our hearts – no one and no circumstance can “make” us yell or get angry. We yell and get angry because there is sin in our hearts. And that can’t be changed by following ten easy steps or doing yoga every morning.

Sure, we might seem to stop yelling as much and on the surface, it looks like those techniques work. But we have failed to deal with the deeper issue of a sinful heart. Jesus is the only one who can change hearts. The Bible prophecies about life in Jesus in the Old Testament with this amazing promise:

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

So let’s not settle for surface solutions to heart-deep issues!

Here is an article from Jess Connell about tackling the sin of yelling at the heart level, if this is a struggle for you also. I’ve personally found this article really helpful: http://jessconnell.com/make-no-provision-for-your-yelling/

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Your Child is a Sinner

And they need true grace.


There is some popular parenting advice out there these days that claims when small children act out, they aren’t actually being “naughty” or doing anything wrong, they are just trying to come to terms with their place in the world, and perhaps finding some aspect of that challenging.

This parenting advice says that they don’t need discipline, they just need your love and understanding and gentle guidance.

As Christian Mums, we always need to weigh parenting advice carefully against the Bible to see if it is consistent with the gospel, or opposed to the gospel.

The problem with this new parenting advice is that it is based on the philosophy that humans are basically good at heart. And this is a denial of the truth we see in the Bible, that humans are sinful at heart, even from birth.

I definitely agree that children need our love, understanding and gentle guidance, but because they are inherently sinful, those things alone will not cut it. You cannot love a child into being a good person – you are not God.

Sometimes I struggle with this parenting philosophy too. I’m tempted to make excuses for my kids’ sinfulness, blaming it on tiredness, hunger or over-stimulation. Those things certainly make self-control harder (even for me, as an adult!).

But how does God treat me when, in my tiredness, I lash out with harsh words to my husband? Does God say, “Oh, don’t worry about it – you’re only speaking harshly because you’re tired. All you need is a good night sleep.”?

No. He responds with gentle, loving correction. “You are tired right now, and that makes it harder to control yourself. Instead of leaning on yourself for the strength to do the right thing, you should lean on my grace. I have all you need.”

You see, the Bible teaches us that our actions are the overflow of our heart. No one can “make” us shout in anger, if the anger wasn’t already in our hearts. No one can “make” our children snatch a toy in selfishness if the selfishness wasn’t already in their hearts.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

…the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18

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Sin, at it’s heart, is rebellion against God. To say that our children are inherently sinful means that they are naturally set against God in their hearts, and the actions that spring forth from this rebellion are opposed to what God has set out in his law.

No one, on their own, can stop sinning because it is in our nature. And although I don’t do it perfectly, keeping this in mind has great benefits in my attitude to my children.

  • It means I’m not shocked by their sinfulness. When one of the kids comes out with a tantrum over not getting their way or shouts at me in anger, I don’t think “Where did that come from?!?” I know where it came from – their hearts.
  • I don’t take their bad behaviour personally. I know that they aren’t struggling with sin because of my failure as a parent, but because of their sin nature. I let them own their own behaviour, and then point them to the One who can help them to overcome it.
  • I don’t think I’m better than them. I can relate to them as a fellow sinner in need of God’s grace. And I can say this to them too! “Mummy needs Jesus to help her do the right thing.” Just the other day, my daughter said, “Mummy, maybe you can pray that God would help you not to yell at us today.” It was a real bitter-sweet moment! I might be a little further along the road than them, but we are on the same road.

 

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Comparing Bible translations 🙂


 

My husband and I read something once that said when your spouse apologises to you for doing something wrong, you should resist the urge to respond with “It’s okay.” The reason for this is, saying “it’s okay” is saying that what they did wasn’t really wrong at all. If they actually did something wrong, it’s much better to say, “I forgive you”. This acknowledges that they wronged you and by extending forgiveness, you are both agreeing to leave that wrong behind and move forward in grace. Saying “it’s okay” merely papers over the offence; it doesn’t actually bring you closer to each other.

True grace can only come when sin is looked at and acknowledged, unflinchingly. Making excuses for our kids or explaining away their bad behaviour with external circumstances might make us feel like we are being kind and extending grace, but this is not true grace.

True grace says, “Your heart is hopelessly wicked, but God can change you.”

True grace says, “Sometimes you do the wrong thing, when you know the right thing to do, but I forgive you.”

True grace says, “Come. Meet my Saviour, Jesus – I need Him just as much as you.”

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Stunning sunrise out my kitchen window the other day.