Col. 3:20. “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
Again, a verse that seems simple at first glance. It is simple in its intent and purpose. It isn’t always simple or easy, however, in achieving the goal of having obedient children. That is a process, not an event, and the process must begin from the moment a new baby is brought home to the hospital. Training starts early.
King Edward VIII, father of Queen Elizabeth II, said, “The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.”
I think he would be even more deeply impressed by that today than he was 100 years ago.
We have been sold a bill of goods, Christian parents, by the philosophies presented to us by the “experts” in child development and training. They have taught us for years, now, that we may NEVER raise a voice or a hand to a disobedient child; we simply have to give him a series of choices that are acceptable to the parent. Trouble is, if the choices are not acceptable to a child who has learned that throwing a tantrum will get him what he wants, the battle is lost before it begins. And by the way, the idea of acceptable choices has also led us to see not sin, but “poor choices” or “mistakes” in our own behavior as well as the behavior of our children.
So let’s break this verse down.
Children: Any offspring of the parents, in this context. A son or a daughter. A child who lives in his parents’ home, and who is dependent upon them for protection, food, clothing, education, and training in how to live. The goal of good parenting is to prepare a child to go out on his own and no longer be dependent upon his parents.
Some want to say that this verse means a child, no matter how old, must always obey his parents until they die. No, this verse is addressed to children in the home, not to adults. We are enjoined in Eph. 6:2 to honor our parents, and that never stops. Terry and I have tried to be very careful never to put our adult children in the position of making any decision based upon our own desires. If they consult us for advice, we give it. We do not demand that they follow it.
Obey: Strong’s translation is to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:—hearken, be obedient to, obey. Many times, in my counseling office, parents would tell me that their children just wouldn’t listen to them. What they meant was, “They pay no attention to me, and they don’t do as I say.” How does that happen? Children learn early whether or not they need to pay attention and obey. When an order is repeated endlessly, but never enforced, then the parents have taught their children that they don’t have to pay attention.
I strongly recommend Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend. The clue to making their system work is to establish clear boundaries and clear consequences that you are able and willing to enforce. Don’t make threats you–and your kids–know you will never put into action. When your children are very small, make the rules short and clear. Don’t say, “Clean up your room.” That’s too much. Instead, say, “Put all your toys where they belong. I’ll come and look in a few minutes.” What kinds of consequences should you use if they don’t comply? Spanking? No, I don’t think every instance of disobedience is a spanking offense. But losing a favorite toy for a period of time is a good consequence, because it fits the crime.
Your parents: I’d like to add, here, that parents must make sure their children know who else they need to obey. Civil authorities, grandparents, teachers, the babysitter, a friend’s mom or dad if they are in their friend’s home. But primarily, this verse is for parents and children.
In all things: No excuses, no reinterpretations allowed. Just obey.
For this is well-pleasing unto the Lord: To obey our parents is approved of or acceptable to God.
Mothers, do you want your children to obey you? Then set the right example by honoring and obeying God and your husband.
Fathers, do you want your children to obey you? Then set the right example by obedience to God expressed through His Word, and by loving and cherishing your wife. Love God, love each other, love your children.
So, did Terry and I do a perfect job of all this? Of course not! I believe most godly parents, once their children have grown, will look back and think, “I wish I had done better. . . ” We all have our own sinful nature with which we contend. Sometimes the old nature gets the better of us, and we sin against our children. Parents are not perfect, because we are human. We can, however, learn with each time we mess up, and grow in “grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).