3 Lifelong Habits – The Habit of Obedience
“Mom! Joleen stole something from the store,” yelled my older brother.
My heart thundered in my five-year-old chest. I knew I was in trouble and would have to make it right. The funny thing is that despite a few isolated incidents, I was an obedient child.
So why did I steal a pink bouncy ball from the check-out aisle of the grocery store? I believe I stole out of both desire and ignorance. I saw that the ball was beautiful and I wanted it. Though I knew taking it was wrong, I did not know I was breaking the law until my parents told me so. The consequences that followed helped me develop the will to say no to my frivolous desires and gave me much needed cultural knowledge. After a stern talking to, I was required to return the ball with a note saying I was sorry. Walking into that store gripping my note and tearfully apologizing is a lesson I will never forget. Afterward, my dad hugged me and assured me I was loved and forgiven. I am grateful that my parents did not jump to the conclusion that I was a “bad girl.” Instead, they viewed my actions as a result of an undeveloped heart. I needed their training and their compassion.
Recognizing our child’s undeveloped heart helps us parent with the compassion and authority that will lead them to a lifelong habit of obedience. Here are three signs of an undeveloped heart.
Sometimes we disobey out of rebellion. We’ve all been there. That moment when you think, “I’m tired of people telling me what to do.” So, we just do the thing that we know we ought not to do. If we adults struggle, just think how it must be for a young child. This is why training is so important. Training our hearts to comply with the authorities over us develops strength of character. At first it takes more strength to comply than to rebel. But with practice, doing what is right becomes a habit. We must help our children see that living under authority brings security and peace. Being told what to do can actually free us from the burden of decision making. Letting your child know certain issues are not up for debate will help them move towards the habit of obedience. For example, if you decide your children’s bedtime is 8pm, then that is the law. It’s not up for discussion. There may be exceptions that you as the parent decide but not because you’ve been coerced by your children. They will be free from the decision as to when to go to bed. They will obey as a matter of course. “We go to bed at 8pm.”
The pull of gratifying oneself is often at the root of disobedience. I believe this was my five-year-old mind in regards to the pink bouncy ball. It shone up at me from the little box by the cash register and captivated my imagination. “Oh, if only I had that beautiful pink ball, I would be so happy!” My desire was strong and controlling myself was undeveloped. I needed the consequences and authority of my parents to remind me that I may not have everything I want whenever I want it. Help your child to develop control by expecting them to wait or even forego certain things, such as being first, buying that new toy now, or eating before prayer. These little sacrifices will begin the journey towards the habit of obedience.
Sometimes disobedience is a matter of ignorance. There may be times when children just don’t know what they are doing is wrong. For example, it is possible to give our children the impression that their begging and whining is somehow okay if it produces the result of getting what they want. If my parents had responded with an amused or indifferent attitude towards my thieving ways, I may have had a niggling feeling of wrongdoing but my knowledge of why it was wrong would have left me in ignorance for the societal norms and more importantly of the spiritual ramifications. Expose your children to the Word of God. Instruct them regarding what is right and wrong not only in our society but according to God. Perhaps the joy of walking in obedience is best summed up by one of my favorite Sunday School songs.
“When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.”
When disobedience occurs, think of it as an opportunity for you to do the job God intended—the training and equipping of your child’s undeveloped heart. Walk with them and show them the joy of developing a lifelong habit of obedience. The rewards will be eternal.
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at campingstickkids.org and www.readingwritingtea.com