OBEY Is Not A Four Letter Word

In response to a comment that was left on my blog post 10 Tips For First Time Obedience, I would like to say that OBEY is not a four letter word!


Apparently one person who came across my post thinks teaching kids to obey is a bad thing. Read the comment that was left:

I just googled first time obedience as it was something sprouted by a friend of mine and I wanted to understand what she meant. I could not be more shocked by what this page has had to say. Are you raising children who are encouraged to think for themselves? Entrepreneurs? Children who will grow as adults who think for themselves? From the little I have read, I think not. I feel so very sorry for you and your family. Good luck raising free thinkers who are truly happy. First time obedience is certainly not something I would encourage as both an educator and parent.

I would like to point out a few things  in response to this comment.

The reasons that we taught our children to obey

1. Obedience is GOD’S plan. 

The Bible clearly tells children that it is RIGHT to obey their parents, and that by honoring their parents they will be blessed. They will not only have a long life, but things will also go well for them — God will bless them for their obedience.

I don’t know about you, but I want God’s blessing on the lives of my kids!  I have also seen His blessing on their lives in many ways as they have become young adults who understand the importance of obedience.

2. We wanted them to learn to obey the first time, so when God spoke to them they would obey Him without question.

If God were to speak to my child’s heart about inviting a friend to church, we didn’t want them to argue or question but rather say “Yes, Lord.”

That will never happen if our kids haven’t learned to obey us, their parents.

3. Safety reasons.

There was a time when my oldest son was about three years old, and quick obedience protected him from danger. He was walking on the sidewalk to go up to our porch, when my husband turned and saw a guy riding his motorcycle down the sidewalk, and coming right towards my son.

My husband called his name, and because we had taught him to obey and come when we called him, he immediately turned and came to my husband, and thus getting out of the path of danger.

There are many common instances where it makes sense to teach obedience to keep your kids safe –whether it’s not touching a hot stove, or stopping when we tell them to as they are about to run into the street when a car is coming.

Requiring obedience and having boundaries or rules gives our children security, and they are ultimately happier.

No matter what ages our kids are, they need to be obedient. However, it will look different in different ages/stages.

When our kids are toddlers and preschoolers, they don’t have the maturity to make wise decisions, so that is the time where we have a lot more rules and boundaries. In fact, we pretty much are in control — we choose what they can eat, where they can go, what they can watch, when they go to bed, etc.

The process should be that we move our kids from that stage (parent control) to the self-control stage, at which point they can make more choices. If they choose not to obey, they learn from natural consequences.

At that age we should do a lot more explaining of the reasons behind our requests or the rules we have in our home. Understanding the why makes it easier for kids to obey, and have the self-control to do what is right.

The goal is for them to then move forward to God-control, where they obey and make wise choices because they have given God control in their lives.

As they leave the parent control stage, we can teach them to make respectful appeals.

The thing to remember is that we shouldn’t ever take advantage of our authority, but always show love when we require obedience.

Our kids needs to know we love them and want what is best for them. We want them to obey, so God can bless and protect them.


1. Lack of a good relationship between the parent and child

Often we strive for compliance and forget the relationship that will bring that compliance. Relationship is KEY.

When we have a good relationship with our children and we have their hearts, they want to please us. They know we have their best interest in mind, and even though they may not like some of the rules, they will be more likely to obey because of that relationship.

On the other hand, when there is no relationship, they resent the rules and have not desire to please you or obey the rules. As the saying goes, rules without relationship breed rebellion.

Requiring obedience to the rules or boundaries is not the problem. The relationship – or lack of relationship – is the real problem.

Obedience is hard when parents unreasonably force rules when there is a broken or neglectful relationship.

2. Lack of consistency

Often our kids don’t obey us because we’ve trained them not to by our inconsistency. We repeat our commands three or four times, then get mad and yell, which gets them to THEN do what you’ve asked.

This isn’t fair to our kids! It teaches them to take chances, wondering if you really mean it this time.

Don’t threaten your kids and not follow through. If you say it, mean it.

Often our lack of consistency leads us to harsh, angry parenting because we have trained our kids not to listen until we yell or get angry.

You and your kids will be happier if they know you are going to be consistent, and that you mean what you say and will follow up with consequences if they don’t obey.

3. Lack of training

Often we make the mistake of expecting our kids to obey when we haven’t ever taken the time to teach and train them, making our expectations clear.

It is important when giving them instructions or commands to require a response. We taught our kids to reply with “Yes ma’m or Yes Sir.” Others use “Yes Mom.”

It really doesn’t matter which you use. What is important is that you get a respectful response from them, showing they heard you and are having a good attitude about doing what they have been asked to do.

This takes training and practice!

We started by teaching our kids to come when we called them. We’d have them go across the room and tell them “When we call you, you say “Yes Ma’m or Yes Sir” and come running. Then we’d call them, and when they answered and came running we would praise them.

We made a game out of it to make it fun, while also practicing with them so they knew what was expected.

When they responded wrong, like with a “Why?'” or “I don’t want to” or no response, we would say, “Let’s try that again.” This is for the younger kids, and the more you practice and train them at that age, the easier the other years will be. Of course, sometimes the older kids might get slack about answering, and we would have to remind them.


The truth is that you can have a lot more fun as a family, and everyone will be happier doing things together when the kids have learned to obey.

Who wants to go out to eat with kids who won’t listen, and won’t stay in their seats to eat? Or what fun is it to take them shopping if they won’t listen and are running off the whole time?

Obedience makes for happier families!

And for the record, my kids are all adults now, and they DO know how to think for themselves. They have learned well how to process information, make decisions, and form opinions. Guess what? They are also happy!

OBEY is not a four letter word. God’s way is the best way, and obedience to God brings His blessing and protection. So teach your children to obey!

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks Lee Ann! That’s a good thought, and very likely.

  2. Good article, Kathie! I wonder if perhaps those who are opposed to asking obedience of children have themselves been through some type of abuse which has caused inner wounds and fear. Blessings! ~ Lee Ann

  3. Of course you want children to think for themselves – with help from their parents when necessary. That has nothing to do with obedience. In our home obedience is only achieved when it is done the first time, to the best of your ability, and with the right attitude – all require thinking skills. Children are given parents for a reason. They need the life experience that their parents have to live a good life, to help with wise decisions and simple guidance.
    Children seem to have been given adult privileges without the responsibilities that go along with those privileges. That can breed selfishness, disrespectfulness, and disobedience. If children had the life skills to make self-thinking decisions, why do we have childproof lids on medicine? guardrails on climbers? filters on electronics?
    Thinking skills can be practiced in ways that does not rebel against a parent’s authority – It is snowing, which shoes are you choosing today? You can plan the menu this week. What would the best activity be when your friends come over today?
    Children are blessings from the Lord and should be treated as such.

  4. Rebecca, having the relationship is a key part of teaching our children obedience! We shouldn’t use our authority in the wrong way or to “control” our kids, but rather to teach them to obey us because God says it is right and He will bless them. If the relationship isn’t good with our kids though, they aren’t going to have the desire to obey — relationship is key.

  5. I agree! You can’t really teach someone who hasn’t learned to obey, as they are going to be busy doing whatever they want to, rather than listening/learning/doing their work. God’s way is the best way!

  6. Gloria,

    Thanks for your encouraging words! Love the reminder of how thinking for themselves (or not understanding the why behind the rule) got Adam & Eve kicked out of the garden. 🙂 An dyes, parenting our kids God’s way is the best thing we can do. Happy Mother’s Day to you too!

  7. Dear Kathies!
    That is such a fun phrase. Thinking for self is how the first children of God we’re kicked out!
    I was glad to see how you backed with He Bible which is why Obey counts well in the first place.
    I also apply first time obey with my husband ( try) when it comes to submitting as it’s very helpful in doing what I should vs asking why!
    The results of parenting them God’s Way is the very encouragement we need as homeschooling mothers who want our children to love God with all their heart.
    Thank you for not letting misunderstood respondes stop you from sharing what you know God’s desire is for filling Him!
    Happy Mothers Day

  8. commenter said she was and educator, whether secular or Christian, its probably safe to assume that she expects first time obedience much more than either she realizes or is willing to admit. Otherwise, her classroom would be in utter chaos! and for the same reasons you described above. Whether it’s comprehend or not, Its God’s design and plan and therefore by common grace, it’s how we humans work best, especially the smallest ones.

  9. There was a time when I would have written just such a post. Now? Now all I am sure of is that a relationship with both God and my children is essential. I have had some thought-provoking questions asked of me that have me praying and considering child discipline anew, making certain everything lines up with God and His way.

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