2. Obedience is a new-covenant, gospel category.
Obedience is not merely a “legal” category. It is a gospel category. Paul said that his gospel aim was “to bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5).
Paul’s aim was “to take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Parents who do not teach their children to obey God’s appointed authorities prepare them for a life out of step with God’s word—a life out of step with the very gospel they desire to emphasize.
(If anyone doubts how crucial this doctrine is, please consider reading Wayne Grudem’s chapter “Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching” in For the Fame of God’s Name, edited by Justin Taylor and Sam Storms.)
3. Requiring obedience of children is possible.
To watch parents act as if they are helpless in the presence of disobedient children is pitiful. God requires that children obey because it is possible for parents to require obedience. Little children, under a year old, can be shown effectively what they may not touch, bite, pull, poke, spit out or shriek about. You are bigger than they are. Use your size to save them for joy, not sentence them to selfishness.
4. Requiring obedience should be practiced at home on inconsequential things so that it is possible in public on consequential things.
One explanation of why children are out of control in public is that they have not been taught to obey at home. One reason for this is that many things at home don’t seem worth the battle. It’s easier to do it ourselves than to take the time and effort to deal with a child’s unwillingness to do it. But this simply trains children that obedience anywhere is optional. Consistency in requiring obedience at home will help your children be enjoyable in public.
5. It takes effort to require obedience, and it is worth it.
If you tell a child to stay in bed and he gets up anyway, it is simply easier to say go back to bed than to get up and deal with the disobedience. Parents are tired. I sympathize. For more than 40 years, I’ve had children under 18. Requiring obedience takes energy, both physically and emotionally. It is easier simply to let the children have their way.
The result? Uncontrollable children when it matters. They have learned how to work the angles. Mommy is powerless, and daddy is a patsy. They can read when you are about to explode. So they defy your words just short of that. This bears sour fruit for everyone. But the work it takes to be immediately consistent with every disobedience bears sweet fruit for parents, children and others.
6. You can break the multigenerational dysfunction.
One reason parents don’t require discipline is they have never seen it done. They come from homes that had two modes: passivity and anger. They know they don’t want to parent in anger. The only alternative they know is passivity. There is good news: This can change. Parents can learn from the Bible and from wise people what is possible, what is commanded, what is wise, and how to do it in a spirit that is patient, firm, loving and grounded in the gospel.