A friend and I were reminiscing the other day about life before marriage, kids, etc. We were laughing at things we had done while we were children still living with our parents and the discipline we had received for those things. After the laughter had subsided, we began to discuss “modern” parenting and the effects it is having on children today. I shared with my friend about an experience I’d had at Wal-mart not long ago with my son. We were shopping for groceries, and as a result of excellent marketing combined with terrible cruelty to parents of young children, there were several strategically placed toys that were appealing to my almost three-year-old son in the check-out line. These very desirable toys, of course, caught my son’s eye, and therefore the negotiating began. “Momma, I be a good boy. I can have dis one?” “Well, Coell, you have been a very good boy, but Mommy said no toys today, okay?” He responded, “But, why?” Something then happened that was instinctive and shocking at the same time. I became my mother. I answered, without hesitation, “Because I said so.” I was the one who said it, but it was like an out-of-body experience, because I was so sure that my mother had possessed my body and forced those once dreaded words out of my mouth. My son began to pout and asked again if he could have the toy, to which I again curtly responded, “No, sir.” But then, something even more shocking to me occurred. A very well-dressed woman, maybe in her early to mid-thirties, was behind us in line and had obviously overheard the conversation. She smiled and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but maybe if you’d offer him a toy for next time, he would respond in a more positive way.”
Now, my first (not very polite) instinct was to tell that woman, “Go mind your own business.” I guess she’s the toddler whisperer and knows everything, huh? After taking an inner deep-cleansing breath, I just smiled and said, “Hmm. Thanks.” I’m sure she had kind intentions. But later, after the chaos of the day settled down, I had some time to think about what she had said. I considered the fact that she may have been right. My friend and I discussed it, and we both have similar backgrounds in how we were brought up. Our parents didn’t make everything optional. They didn’t bargain with us or let us choose between right or wrong at age three. We were told what and how to do something, and that was the end of the discussion. If we failed to do whatever that thing was promptly and correctly, there were consequences.
Our relationship with God is much the same. We are given multiple commandments, such as:
1. Don’t skip church services (Heb. 10:25- Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.)
2. Avoid bad influences (1 Corinthians 15:33- Be not deceived:evil communications corrupt good manners.)
3. Be ready for Jesus’ return (Luke 12:40- Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.)
There are many, many commandments in the Bible, too many examples to list. My point is, God has rules, and he expects us to follow them. He is not going to explain to us a million times why we should or should not do something. The fact that he said something one time is enough. If we fail to follow those commandments, we will receive punishment. It is imperative that we teach our children this same logic. If they do not understand that disobedience results in punishment as a toddler, school-aged child, and teenager, they certainly won’t grasp the concept as an adult. What’s worse: if they can’t learn to obey their parents, someone they see physically every day and can physically hug and kiss, then they will not obey a Heavenly Father they cannot physically see, touch, or hear.
God gives parents a particularly difficult commandment:
Train your kids. (Proverbs 22:6- Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.)
This verse is not just helpful advice, it is a command that is followed by the result you will get from following that command. Think about it this way- “I command you to train up your child in the way he should go. If you do that, when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
My children will never have the option of attending Bible class on Sunday and Wednesday nights. They will be there. They will not have the option of missing worship service on Sundays. They will be there. They won’t know they have an option, because it will not be given to them. Parents today forget that their children don’t have the “right” to disobey them. They are children. We are their guardians, and until they are adults, it is our responsibility to make them choose to do the right thing. Of course, there will come a time in our children’s lives, before they leave home, that they will be faced with the choice to do right or wrong. But if we have trained them properly, the response will be a no-brainer for them.
My parents never gave my siblings and I the option to do or not do certain things, and now, I appreciate that so much. Habits formed early in my life have been so deeply instilled that they will never leave me, like saying “Yes ma’am and No ma’am” and not interrupting someone when they are speaking. My parents never bought alcohol for my friends and I in high school, and they didn’t allow me to go to places where that was a possibility. They never allowed us to miss church because we had homework or a ballgame, and that stuck with me. Nothing was more important than God and following His commands, and I am so thankful to them for teaching that to me at a very young age. My parents did a lot of training.
Thinking about my childhood brings this bible passage to my mind:
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
What is it, exactly, that we are supposed to be so diligently teaching our children? See Deut. 6:5. It is these words that we are to teach: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Once our children understand that obedience to their earthly parents is obedience to God, their Heavenly Father, and they realize that obedience to Him results in everlasting life with Him in heaven, they will develop a desire to obey. We will not have to give them options, because they won’t need any. We won’t have to bargain with them, because they will understand that the Heavenly Father does not bargain with us for salvation. It is a long and toilsome journey to help them reach that understanding, but it is necessary for their salvation.
Sometimes, I wonder if God ever just wants to tell us, “Because I said so” when we question why we have to do certain things. As a Christian, I guess that should be enough.