One of my least-favorite responsibilities as a dad is disciplining my children. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather just feed them ice cream, play games, and wrestle all day long! However, there are many biblical reasons why it is essential that we train our kids to obey.
Most importantly, as was discussed in part 1, God commands us to do so (Eph 6:1–4). Also, training our kids to obey is gospel work in that it exposes their sin natures bent on self-rule and points them to their need to submit to the Savior as Lord (2 Cor 5:15). One day, our kids won’t have us as their authority, but we want them to always submit to God’s authority. These are the primary reasons that we teach our kids to obey.
However, in case you’re still not convinced, here are three additional reasons why training for obedience is important.
1. Obedience is foundational.
Obedience is the first lesson your children need to learn.
When God gives a command to children in the Bible, it is usually that they honor and obey their parents (Ex 20:12; Prov 1:8-9; 3:1-2; 4:1-4; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). This means that submitting to authority is one of the most important lessons children and teens need to learn.
Some parents argue, “But if I always tell my kids what to do, they won’t develop discernment.” This argument is not without merit. Eventually, your children do need to learn discernment; however, they first need to learn submission.
Teachers often refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy and the levels of critical thinking. Remembering facts is the most basic level of critical thinking. Evaluating concepts, on the other hand, requires much more maturity. No teacher should be satisfied with students who merely regurgitate facts. However, if the students don’t learn the facts, they will not possess the tools necessary for application and analysis.
In the same way, no parent should be satisfied with teens who merely obey the rules. However, trying to teach discernment to rebellious teens is pointless. That is why learning to obey authority is a lesson best learned at a very young age.
Paul David Tripp goes so far as to say, “You could argue that if you don’t deal with this fundamental heart issue [the issue of submission to authority], all the good things you seek to accomplish as God’s tool in the life of your children will not work.”1 Obedience must come first!
We dads must understand very clearly what is at stake here. When your two-year-old throws a fit about eating her peas, don’t think for a minute that it’s ultimately about peas. It’s about who is in charge. Even if she’s unable to verbalize these words, your two-year-old is saying, “You’re not the boss of me.” In moments like these, we’re often tempted to throw up our hands and say, “It’s not worth it! After all, it’s just a couple of peas.” We must realize that it is about so much more! It is vital that you as a father win that battle—not for the sake of the peas—but for the sake of your daughter’s heart. Your daughter must learn to submit to authority, and you must teach her that lesson.
Obedience is foundational, because authority is a tremendous discipling tool.
Have you ever wondered why God gifted churches with pastors who serve as authorities?2 It is because discipleship is best fostered in the atmosphere of loving authority. If you have no authority over a person, you can still influence him, but your ability to disciple him will be limited.
Dads, God expects you to be more than just friends with your kids. He expects you to be the parent. But we surrender the tool of God-given authority when we fail to teach our children obedience.
We must teach our children to obey because obedience is foundational. Second, we must teach our kids to obey because obedience brings blessing.
2. Obedience brings blessing.
Ephesians 6:1-3 — Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
In Exodus 20:12 God promised to bless the honoring of parents. Fascinatingly, Paul applies this promise to New Testament Christians in Ephesians 6! This promise applies to us today!
In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp refers to the “Circle of Blessing” or the “Circle of Safety.”3 I used this illustration with my daughter Anaya one time, and she has never forgotten the lesson. I drew a circle with a little stick figure of her inside it. I explained that God gives us commands in His word, including the command, “Children obey your parents.” When we “stay in the circle” of obedience, God promises to bless us and keep us safe. Next, on the outside of the circle, I drew a little lion. I explained that the devil is “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). When we leave the circle of safety and blessing by disobeying God or our authorities, we open ourselves up to all kinds of dangers. Biblical discipline is God’s prescribed means for parents to guide their children back into that “circle of blessing.”
If we want our children to be blessed, we will teach them to obey. The third reason we must teach our children to obey is to prepare them for life.
3. Obedience prepares our children for life.
God’s word repeatedly emphasizes the importance of submitting to authorities. Besides bringing glory to God, submission also keeps us from harm’s way!
Ecclesiastes 8:2–5 — I say, “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.” Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment….
Matthew 22:21b — “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Romans 13:3–4 — Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Titus 3:1 — Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work….
1 Peter 2:13–17 — Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
The fact is that all of us are people under authority. You never outgrow the need to submit on one level or another. Even adults have to obey their bosses, abide by speed limits, and pay their taxes! If our kids don’t learn to submit now, they are in for a lot of pain.
In our society, authority on all levels is under attack.4 This means that as a Christian dad, demanding obedience from your children may be one of your more countercultural moves. However, it may also be one of the most important actions you take as a father. With God’s help, let’s train our children to obey.
Paul David Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 112. ↩︎
Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” ↩︎
Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 1995), 131. ↩︎
2020 clearly emphasized this fact. ↩︎