A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.
Two of our boys are preteens - old enough for my husband and I to see some fruit from our years of parenting labor. Wondering if some of the outcome was ripe or rotten, I asked my husband a show stopping question in the car the other day.
“Do you think we have raised leaders…or instead, obedient children?”
He was a little confused at how I would juxtapose these two traits. Especially since our many long conversations and agreements about how we would raise our little dynasty merged both compliance and independence - I know...it sounds silly even saying it. “Raise cookie-cutter kids AND stand-out dynamos.”
Nevertheless, we taught our kids “first-time obedience”. A term made uber-popular by a conservative parenting curriculum that was well shared in my circles when my boys were small. We have employed many of their biblical principles, like our variation of this one; true obedience is 1) the first time, 2) right away, 3) and with a joyful heart. All my kiddos could recite this little ditty with their eyes closed and hands tied behind their backs. The idea is that teaching this tactic to little kids, where you as a mama can tangibly see responses to directions like “go”, “sit”, and “no”, will condition them. The intended result is that as your kids grow, they will obey like they are on auto-pilot. Yes, please!
After years of repetition, our kids are of course not perfect. But, they are very well behaved and incredibly respectful. And while I have reveled all these years in being able to go and do with five kids in tow without stressing over how they would behave in public, I wondered out loud this day if “obedience” (and sometimes, for the purpose of benefitting me alone) should have been our highest aim.
I laughed a little at Aaron’s face. It was clear he questioned if I had broken our sacred pre-parent covenant. After all, I was threatening all we had agreed on and prayed for all these years by recklessly polarizing what are arguably two very Godly and noble qualities.
“Just hear me out, Babe.” And then came the end-all, be-all argument as I recounted how my own unwavering obedience to perceived authority landed me in situations where adults took advantage of my childlike innocence, my physical boundaries, and my personal wishes.
“I guess what I’m really asking is if we have taught our kids obedience at their expense; obedience apart from discernment. Have we set our children up for failure by making them “Yes men” and not “Yes to God men?”
I cannot say for your family, but based on some of our kids’ temperaments, if not careful, we could be raising them to oblige every adult, authority figure, and maybe even predator because of our focus on black-and-white rules over their understanding - their holy-spirit gifted discernment.
Children will be susceptible to others’ manipulation or mastery unless we teach them to discern – using as their benchmark the nature of a God who always has their best interest at heart. While obedience and leadership are situational, obedience and discernment must be constant.
I love today’s verse in Proverbs that speaks plainly about how important it is to appreciate balance as something God delights in. Aaron and I realized there had to be a balance, a middle ground, that didn’t disregard these parenting principles, but simply added to them. While the conversation about the tension between raising leaders and “obedient kids” could have easily been a book, here are five take-aways:
If we define obedience as a will to follow and leadership as the courage to lead, the two will never be mutually exclusive. Every leader will always be subject to someone they must obey or follow. 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Requiring obedience as parents should be done in a spirit of ultimately training our kids’ hearts to hear God’s. If Ecclesiastes tells us the whole duty of life is to fear God and keep His commands, our motive as parents should not be domination, but teaching our kids to move at the mere whisper of God’s directive. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Teach discernment by first defining ‘God’ and then ‘authority’ for your kids. This will give them a grid to determine what and who aligns with God’s character. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)
God desires obedience not sacrifice. We must raise thinkers, not just machines. We don’t want outward “sacrifice” or behavior modification, but true hearts that long to listen and follow after God. (I Samuel 15:22
Lastly, pray for your children’s hearts. Make concessions when able; ask forgiveness when appropriate; and seek wisdom always.
We still want to raise obedient children, but not cookie-cutters. We desire leaders that love the Lord. We seek balance so we are more mindful now to engage with context; to remind our kids that they are a vessel of the Holy Spirit able to hone their discernment, as well as know God’s character by studying His word. We walk with Jesus not just for our sake, but for our children’s also. We want to know Him personally so we can teach His character to our children, because their knowledge will protect them as well as make them sensitive to even the whisper of God’s whim.
Your fellow Able Mom,
Amanda C. Florczykowski
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