Parenting Pre-School Children – Obedience Training

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Ephesians 6:1-4


I.         Simply because limits are placed, it doesn’t mean that they are always followed

            A.        Children of this age have a fair ability to communicate

            B.        A source of endless “Why?”

                        1.         It is no longer enough to know something exists, they want a reason.

                        2.         Not so much as to know a detailed explanation, but to see the logic to the world.

                                    a.         “Why is the sky blue?”

                                    b.         You can either give a detailed scientific explanation that would do your physic teacher proud or you can just say that when light shines through things, it sometimes picks up a color. Use a colored glass and a flashlight. And then just say that air gives light a blue color.

                                    c.         Is that absolutely accurate? No, but is good enough for a four year old.

                        3.         Sometimes the “Why” is just a way of engaging “grownup” talk with Mom and Dad.

            C.        Now is the time that rules are questioned

                        1.         Why can’t I stay up late? Why do I have to go to bed? Why do I have to take a bath?

                        2.         Give a simple, understandable reason, but remember you don’t have to justify your decisions.

                                    a.         If your answer is not good enough, a “because Mom said so” is the answer. (And no dads you can’t use that)

                        3.         Is that the way God treats His children?

                                    a.         Sometimes “because God said so” has to be good enough.

                        4.         Parents want to be appreciated too.

                                    a.         When our authority is questioned, we sometimes doubt ourselves.

                        5.         Remember who is the parent and who is the child.

                                    a.         Children need to learn obedience even when they don’t understand all the reasons.

            D.        The child is building on the things he already knows

                        1.         Movement improves, speech improves, vocabulary improves

                        2.         Growth is noticeable

                        3.         Baby fat is lost with increased activity

                        4.         Memory develops

                        5.         Child has a concept of time (“Dad when are we going to get there?!!!?”)

            E.        Limits are known, but not always followed

                        1.         Careless - easily distracted

                        2.         Lazy - rather be doing something more interesting

                        3.         Rebellious - doesn’t like doing as told

II.        Obedience needs to be taught

            A.        Rules followed whether Mom or Dad is standing over them or not

                        1.         Ephesians 6:4 - Obeying parents is right

                        2.         Colossians 3:20 - Obeying parents is pleasing to God

                        3.         Listen to your Dad and Mom - Proverbs 1:8-9

                                    a.          Obedience will make you look good.

                        4.         A sign of the age is when men are disobedient to their parents - II Timothy 3:2

            B.        Rules must be enforced

                        1.         By spanking

                                    a.         Hebrews 2:2-3 - A just recompense for each misdeed.

                                    b.         Teaching to honor authority, not because we were insulted

                        2.         By letting the consequences serve as the punishment

                                    a.         Hebrews 5:8 - Christ learn through His suffering.

                                    b.         Sometimes we are too protective of our children. We don’t let them suffer from their actions.

                        3.         The best time to teach obedience is in a controlled environment

                                    a.         Children need to know they can’t play with anything

                                    b.         Don’t wait until in a store to teach your child not to touch crystal on a shelf

                                    c.         When a child first begins to crawl and reaches for things he shouldn’t have the first instinct is to move the item out of reach

                                                (1)       A valuable opportunity to teach is lost

                                                (2)       Instead leave the item in reach. When he starts to reach for it say “No” in a quiet voice and flick the back of his hand.

                                                (3)       Repeat with each reach. It might take a while, but usually it only takes a few times.

                                                (4)       The benefit is that you later can just tell a child “No” and know that it won’t be touched, though you always have to make sure. One slip will defeat months of training

            C.        Teach a willingness to obey

                        1.         God expects us to follow him with all our hearts - Deuteronomy 26:16

                        2.         We don’t drag our feet and say “Aww, do we have too???”

                        3.         We sometimes teach reluctant obedience

                                    a.         By our example: do we grumble about having to go to work, go to church?

                                    b.         By encouraging complaints and being ignored

                                                (1)       Do you make something else if the kids complain they don’t like your dinner?

                                                (2)       Not expecting immediate obedience. One reminder is more than enough. Be prepared to follow through.

                                                (3)       “Johnny, pick up that toy. ... Did you hear me? I said pick up that toy. ... If you don’t pick up that toy right NOW, I’m going to have to do something drastic! ... That does it young man, I going to get the switch!”

                                                            (a)       Usually Johnny then scrambles to put the toy away, smiles sweetly at Mom, who forgets all about the spanking while congratulating herself on getting Johnny to obey.

                                                            (b)       But think about what Johnny learned. He can wait until Mom goes and gets the switch. And if he smiles sweetly Mom forgets about punishments.

                                                            (c)       Invest time in having children learn to obey when first asked.

                                    c.         By not discouraging whining or backtalk

                                                (1)       Direct punishment - will stop the expression, but more is needed

                                                (2)       Make the consequences of whining less favorable

                                                            (a)       Send to room to do their whining

                                                            (b)       Extra helping for each whine that must be eaten.

                                                            (c)       If they don’t like dinner, give them the option of skipping dinner but there isn’t anything else to eat until breakfast.

                                                            (d)       Miss dinner if they drag their feet.

                        4.         The “I didn’t hear you”

                                    a.         Sometimes legit. Mom yells from kitchen “Dinner’s ready”. Kids engrossed in latest action video downstairs don’t notice.

                                    b.         Make sure they hear you.

                                                (1)       Get their attention. Put hand on shoulder. Look them in the eye.

                                                (2)       If complex, have them repeat it back.

                                                (3)       If calling to the next room, require a response to indicate they heard, such as “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am”.

                                                            (a)       If not, follow through, don’t repeatedly yell.

                                                            (b)       Don’t establish a habit of saying things that they can safely ignore.

                                    c.         Learning to listen is an important skill in life.

                                                (1)       Teach them how to truly listen to all that is said

                                                            (a)       Make them wait for you to finish

                                                            (b)       “Sara, will you get my Bible? It’s on the kitchen table.” Meanwhile Sara is already out the door by the time you said the word “get”.

                                                            (c)       “I can’t find it.” Don’t go and get it yourself.

                                                                        i)         Ask the child where you told her the Bible was.

                                                                        ii)        You know she wasn’t listening, but this reinforces it.

                                                            (d)       Otherwise, teaching that not paying attention means you get out of chores quicker.

                                                (2)       Teach them not to color things with what they would like to hear.

                                                            (a)       “Can I have a cookie.” “After dinner. . . What is that cookie in your hand?” “You said I could have one.”

                                                            (b)       Or the multiplying cookie. “Can I have a cookie?” “One” and junior walks off with one in each hand and one in his mouth.

                        5.         The “I forgot”

                                    a.         James 1:25 - God expects us to remember His laws by doing

                                    b.         Make sure directions are followed by periodic check-up

                                    c.         Too many tell a child to do something and then never see if it is done (except when it is too late).

                                    d.         We have to teach rememberance by periodic checking. At first it will be frequent, latter we can stretch it out.

                                    e.         Don’t accept goofing off until they hear you coming.

                                                (1)       Such a child will grow up learning to goof off when the boss isn’t around.

                        6.         Tantrums

                                    a.         Giving into demands means we can be held hostage

                                                (1)       A tantrum means an automatic denial of whatever they were wanting

                                    b.         Send to room to have their tantrum. Leave room so they don’t have an audience. Use a switch if they persist.

                        7.         Don’t reward partial obedience - Joshua 1:8

                                    a.         “Pick up your room Johnny before bedtime.”

                                                (1)       Johnny manages to get two items put away while playing the next hour.

                                                (2)       We then reward Johnny by letting him stay up late to finish the job or we let him off and say “You can do it tomorrow”

                                    b.         Give a reasonable amount of time to complete the task (Don’t have them start five minutes before bedtime. If we forget to tell them -- it is our own fault, then wait until the next day when there is time.)

                                    c.         Check on progress while there is a reasonable amount of time to correct goofing off.

III.       Religious Training

            A.        Behaving in church and class

                        1.         Learning to sit still (needed for later schooling). A part of listening skills.

                        2.         Participate in worship and in class

            B.        Memorize simple verses or parts of verses

            C.        Songs

            D.        Learn books of the Bible

            E.        Things to teach

                        1.         God’s love for us

                        2.         Our love for parents means we obey

Thoughts for Now and Later

            Some day when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I will tell them:

            “I loved you enough to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.

            I loved you enough to insist that you save your money and buy a bike for yourself even though we could afford to buy one for you.

            I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.

            I loved you enough to make you take a Milky Way back to the drugstore (with a bite out of it) and tell the clerk, ‘I stole this yesterday and want to pay for it.’

            I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me five minutes.

            I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents are not perfect.

            I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

            But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘No’ when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I am glad I won them, because in the end, you won something too.”


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