As we wait on our family values list to be created by interested participants, we thought we would kick things off with the family value “obedience“. Obedience is an important value because it deals with a child’s’ physical safety and their understanding of God. There are times when the consequences of disobedience are not just inconvenient, but deadly. Sin is death, yes, but so can be an untimely sprint across the parking lot.
If we aren’t careful with the way we describe and enforce obedience, we can become rule-focused rather than character-focused. The kids could have a hard time connecting obedience to anything other than the removal of privileges or an appropriately-delivered spanking. Beaver Cleaver getting “yelled at” comes to mind.
The Obedience We Want
What we want to see is the child understanding that a heart of obedience extends and honors relationship. Obedience is not something we always do blindly, but when there exists a relationship with love, this can also be a part of the equation. A “leap of faith” can be an obedient response to God asking us to do something that doesn’t make complete sense. And there will be times that obeying daddy isn’t completely understood.
None the less, obedience is critical to safety and our understanding that God has not compelled himself to remove consequences when we do not obey him. The old testament and the new testament provide plenty of examples of God allowing someone to experience destruction as a result of their disobedience. We do reap what we sow, don’t we?
One of the most obedient set of children we have ever seen are the kids of J.J. Barto. I believe his kids respond out of their love for the parents and a whole understanding of the definition and value of obedience. I can tell you first hand, his kids stop what they are doing and come running with any call of their name. They don’t have to be asked more than once. J.J. and Charlotte don’t remember exactly where they found this, but their whole family can recite it at any moment:
Obedience is doing what has been asked or ordered all the way, right away, with a good attitude.
J.J. affirmed this definition works in a recent email to us:
This has held up very well for us over the past 5 1/2 years with both our children and us.
Family Value Modeling
And that brings up a good clarifying point. What is required of our children should be required of us as well, right? If we want the kids to live out these family values, we must submit our own selves to them and model them. We need to be faithful to obey God and defer our preference to those who love us (our spouse, our teachers, our mentors) in front of our children. While this deferment isn’t exactly obedience, it shows our own willingness to submit ourselves to others gladly.
Over the last month we have been using a variant of the definition J.J. provided. Our definition for the girls has been:
“To obey means to do the right thing, the first time, with a good attitude.”
Our idea was to abstract out the “asked or ordered” portion such that there is an understanding that Biblical truths, government laws, and complementary family values must be obeyed even without an explicit ask. We also wanted to include an aspect of our belief that there is absolute truth/right. Now that we look at it though, it seems we have dropped the “all the way” portion. Complete obedience is indeed a critical component of obeying.
Another variant of these same definitions that our friend Reagan Swank mentioned once could be the original (source yet unknown but it sounds like Babywise): “Obey all the way, right away, and with a happy heart”.
The “happy heart” part might be a little unrealistic? When we obey God, it isn’t always bringing glad tidings and with a smile on our face. As we said above, the hearts condition is critical to obedience, but I am not sure it can be instituted or enforced.
What About Your Obedience?
What about you. How are you defining and talking about obedience within your family? Should obedience be a family value? It is up to every parent to implement the obedience process with those who are caretakers of their kids, but what works for you? Can you think of a time where the value of obedience was made clear to you through specific language, a metaphor, or an event?