What Do You Need in Order to Obey?

What do you need in order to obey?  In my last post, I suggested that sometimes courage is needed. Obeying always involves thinking, choosing, and following through.  As a child, I loved my parents and teachers and did not question authority. Pleasing them was important to me. As a compliant child, maybe I didn’t need as much courage in order to obey as a stronger willed child might need. I have noted that some children are not motivated very much to obey by the love they do have, so they need more external motivation. We all have different temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses. Those differences need to be considered when directing a child. I’m not suggesting that we change our standards according to temperaments and personalities, but we need to approach individuals differently.

My mother was a student of her girls, observing us, asking us questions, seeking to understand us.  She cultivated the “gift of understanding.” Yet, she was a tough disciplinarian.  She expected us to do right, to obey, to be respectful, and to be kind. The key was that she applied her expectations to us as individuals, tailoring her guidance to who we were.

I was totally opposite of my big sister.  She was quick, sharp, and independent in spirit. I was slow, cautious, and took a long time to figure things out. Using the term of the time, I was a “slow learner.”  My mother learned to respond differently to each of us girls while holding to her expectations.  Mom did not expect the same results from me that she did from my sister, though she never said this.  She listened attentively to my thoughts as if I were an equal rather than a silly child. As a child, I noted this, though I couldn’t put it into words.  I felt respected by Mom which about saved my life.  I’ll explain this in another post.

What does this have to do with obedience?  For one thing, it means that as we treat children attentively, uniquely, and respectfully, they tend to acquire more strength to do what is right – to obey, to take initiative, to follow through.  And I suppose this is courage.

Piano lessons were not an option for my sister and me.  Piano came easily to her, but hard for me.  My mom set the expectations. I had to practice a half hour a day, tears or no tears, even though I stumbled through my music.  She never criticized my ability or performance — at times finding something to admire — but held up an expectation of effort which I could not cause her to change. I had to work at it faithfully, no matter the results. This was tough love tailored to me.  In my adulthood, playing the piano has brought me great joy plus a means of blessing others.

What can you learn from my mother’s example? How can we expect obedience of our children, grandchildren, or students and still be attentive to their uniqueness?  How do you help a strong- willed child to obey?   I’d love to hear from you.

Categories: Parenting, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “What Do You Need in Order to Obey?

  1. Kathy

    Karen, thank you for your thoughts…..your writing is very enjoyable to read and thought-provoking. As we’ve raised our children, we both have always tried to spend time set aside for each of the children to do special activities together to build relationships with each of them. I think if you have that relationship with them, it makes obedience more desirable in his/her heart…..Kathy S.

  2. Debra

    As a home-educating mother of four children,and one strong-willed child, I certainly agree with what you have written. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom from the Word, the Lord helped me to know my children and what levels of expectations to set. I would sit down with the child to establish the goal. Then consistency was the key to their/our success. I would also say that the expectations need to be re-evaluated.

  3. kltolsen

    Thanks for your input, Kathy and Debra!
    You are both experienced and wise moms!

    Debra, you close by saying that expectations need to be re-evaluated. When should this be done? Why? How has this been helpful in your family?
    Thanks for sharing your insight!

  4. Debra

    From my own personal experience, the evaluating process sometimes was a daily basis. With one child we would evaluate at the end of a week, another it was a month, and with another it was daily. And to be perfectly honest, sometimes my requirements were too high and based upon frustration and tedium. The Lord would do the re-evaluating with my heart that night 🙂

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