How To Teach Your Kids To Obey You

Lydia and I  are far from perfect as parents.  Sometimes I feel like a horrible father.  I often worry that I'm not giving my kids enough of my time and attention; that I'm missing out on their childhood.  Sometimes I worry that I am being too hard on my kids, or that I'm sheltering them too much.  Sometimes I lose my temper and am too harsh; sometimes I'm lazy and let my kids get away with too much.  I'm still learning, and there's a lot that I don't know.  So please don't take this blog post the wrong way.  I know I don't have it all together.

But people often ask Lydia and me how we get our kids to be so well-behaved.  So I decided to talk to Lydia and then jot down a short summary of how we have taught our kids to be obedient.  I hope this helps. 

The Importance of Obedience

One of the first and most important jobs of a parent is to teach your child to obey.  Colossians 3:20 says, "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."  In other words, your job is not merely to teach your kids to obey God, but to obey YOU.

Why is this important?  Three reasons.
  1. To learn to get along with others.  A controller is someone who gets angry when someone tells them "No."  They project their responsibilities onto others and won't take "No" for an answer.  Many adults are controllers because they were never taught how to accept "No" from their parents, and now they struggle to get along with others.  By teaching your child to obey you, you are teaching them to accept it when they hear "No" from others. 
  2. To learn character.  Our society is plagued by people who are enslaved by their appetites and emotions.  They do what feels good.  When you teach your child to obey even when they don't feel like it, you are teaching them character -- the ability to do what is right, even when it is hard. 
  3. To learn respect for authority.  All through life your child will be under authority -- God; the police; the government; teachers; employers; coaches; pastors, etc.  And your child will only be happy and successful if they learn to respect authority.  By teaching your child to submit to your authority, you are teaching them to respect all authority.
It's absolutely essential that you teach your kids to obey you.  When they don't, they are sinning against God and developing habits that will burden them for the rest of their lives.  So, do your kids obey you?  Obedience means following orders immediately with a respectful attitude.

Signs of Obedience Problems

How can you tell if your kids have an obedience problem?  Here are some signs.
  • Your child tells you "No" after you give them an order.
  • You have to tell your child more than once to do your will (or to not do something).
  • You have to bribe your child to get them to do your will. 
  • Your child rolls their eyes and complains and argues with you about your orders.
  • You allow your child to throw fits.  
  • You tell your child "No," but then give in after they throw a fit.
  • You tell your child to do something, and they ignore you, and you let them get away with it.
  • You can't get your child to do something because "they don't want to."
  • You have to get visibly angry and raise your voice and make threats to get your child to do your will.
  • Your child behaves better for someone else than they do for you.
If any of the above describe you, then your child has an obedience problem.  And that's a BIG DEAL.  It doesn't matter how well your child plays the piano or throws a baseball, if your child has an obedience problem, then they are headed for destruction.  You MUST get a handle on your child's behavior.  And it needs to start today.

Teaching Obedience With Discipline

How do you teach your kids to obey?  Discipline.  The word "discipline" simply means to teach.  Discipline has both positive and negative elements.  Positive discipline is teaching your child the right way to behave.  Negative discipline involves rebuke and corporal punishment when your child misbehaves.  Discipline is different than punishment.  Punishment is making someone pay a penalty for a wrong that was committed in the past.  Discipline is teaching someone to do what is right in the future.

Follow these discipline guidelines, and you will have a brand new child in a week, guaranteed.
  1. Discipline Early.  Discipline begins when your child is a toddler (about 18 months).  As one person put it, if you wait until Day 2 to discipline your child, it is too late.  When little Lisa reaches for something inappropriate, grasp her hand firmly and say, "No."  If she reaches again, repeat.  If she continues to reach, squeeze her hand a littler harder, and maybe apply a little pinch on her trapezius muscle.  Whatever you do, don't give in.  You must win this battle of the wills.  Lisa will learn very quickly that "No" means "No."  Disobedience is not a phase that your child will grow out of.  They will behave the way you teach them to behave.  Disobedience is not childishness; it is sin.  There is never an age at which disobedience is an appropriate choice.
  2. Discipline Immediately.  You should not have to repeat yourself or raise your voice.  Give a clear order, and then swiftly apply discipline if the order is not obeyed right away.  Don't wait.  Do it now.
  3. Discipline Consistently.  Some parents demand obedience one day, and the next day they allow the child to go wild.  Remember this:  Whatever you allow will be repeated.  If you allow your child to get away with it once, they will try to get away with it again.  You must never allow your child to be disobedient or disrespectful.  Not even once.  You can't afford to take a break from discipline.
  4. Discipline Biblically.  Some parents think they are smarter than God.  The Bible says to use corporal punishment (the rod), but some parents seem to think that truth has an expiration date.  Spank your kids, parents.  It won't kill them.  If disobedience does not result in painful consequences, then your kids will not grow in obedience.
  5. Discipline Insistently.  If you want your kids to take your orders seriously, then you must get serious about your orders.  Don't give them a command unless you are ready to follow up with immediate discipline.  One of the most common parenting mistakes is that parents don't enforce their own laws.  To teach your child to obey, you have to MAKE them obey.  You have to teach that that disobedience is not an option.  They can either choose to obey, or you will force them to obey.  If you have to, you will hold their hand and physically force them to pick up the toys, one by one, until the room is clean.
  6. Discipline Wisely.  Every child is different.  What works for one child may not work for another.  Corporal punishment doesn't have to look the same for every child.  Find out what kind of pain motivates your child and then apply it.
  7. Discipline Lovingly.  Never rebuke or spank out of anger.  Make sure you are calm and collected.  If possible, take your child to a private place so they won't be embarrassed.  Always combine spanking with clear instruction, loving affection, and encouraging words.
  8. Discipline Constantly.  I know this is not always possible, but it sure helps when Mom stays home with the kids.  When people ask how our kids behave so well, the answer is that we work on it.  Specifically, Lydia works on it.  It's her vocation.  Many parents simply don't have the time and energy that it takes to raise an obedient child.  Staying home allows Lydia to work on our kids' behavior all day, every day.  And it makes a difference.  Lydia knows our children very well.  She can pick up on even the smallest hints of defiance and disrespect.  She knows exactly what works for each child.  And she has plenty of time not only for discipline, but for affection and affirmation.  Some mothers can't stay home, but others choose not to.  That's not a sinful choice, but all choices have consequences.  By choosing to work outside the home, you are choosing to have less time and energy for child-rearing, and that will make it harder to teach your child obedience.
In a family-integrated church like ours, your child's behavior is put on display for the whole church (or Home Group) to see.  This can lead to shame, guilt, withdrawal, and resignation.  But don't give up.  We are in this together.  Raising kids is not a competition between parents.  This is a war between you and your child for who will be in charge.  And you must win.  Your child's future depends on it. 


  1. Great post Andy. I have found this book below, "Don't Make Me Count to Three", to be very helpful. It is a short read. I don't enjoy reading but I got through this book easily.


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