Monday, May 23, 2011

Training Children To Obey -Love vs Fear-

[flowers from a recycled spice container]

I've been reading this book, and it's got me thinking a little different about a lot of things. One in particular, how I get my children to obey.

I don't know all the answers [this just in: no one does], but I think Ms. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay might be onto something. Although her book is primarily based on the ideas of really is more a book about the philosophy of how children learn and how we can best facilitate that.

She brought up a point in her book [hope I don't misquote her here] that we shouldn't get our children to obey out of fear. Not fear of punishment or fear of man.

For example:
Nation is about to climb on the counter.

I could say:
A. "Don't climb on the counter or I'll discipline you"
B. "It makes mommy really upset when you do that"
C. "Don't climb on the counter it's the wrong thing to do"

Now, climbing counters isn't one of the 10 commandments, but disobeying rules you're parents have set in place [who are under God's authority to raise you up]

The problem with fear of punishment
The idea that we coerce children to do what we want based on "if you do this, then I'll do that" works "great" when we're around, but what about when we aren't there to stand over them to "threaten" them with a punishment? I'm not saying I'm against punishments because I'm not, but I'm rethinking if always throwing the punishment in their face is the proper motivation for getting them to do the desired behavior.

The problem with fear of man
My personality naturally struggles with people pleasing...I know this all too well. If I continue to encourage my children to produce the desired behaviors [not fighting, sharing with others, speaking politely, etc] by following it up with "this makes mommy really happy" or "this makes mommy very sad" or "I'm very upset when you do this" it's possible my children will preform correctly, but not for the right reason.

Which eventually [again, when they aren't around me or are grown] will either produce a person who doesn't care to continue following God's standards because they don't have me around to continue to "please" or they will find someone else to try to please with their behavior.

My daughter might look for a husband to please with her behavior. Only cleaning the house to get her husbands attention and not because it's the "right" thing to do to serve others. My son might find his worth and joy in pleasing his boss. He won't be ethical because it's God's standard, he'll just look ethical when necessary.

Motivation and heart get lost in pleasing a person with seen acts instead of honoring a God who is always looking.


God doesn't want a son who is only afraid of his punishments, but a son who listens and obeys because he loves him.

Instead Macaulay proposes...

We train our children to obey with the motivation of it being right or wrong. Our standard is the Word of God and our motivation is honoring a Holy and worthy God.

"If you love me, keep my commands."

It looks like this:
Solomon is about to hit his brother.
I say: "Solomon don't hit, you know it's the wrong thing to do. Remember? Love as brothers."

All this week I've been catching myself unknowingly [if you will allow me to say this] manipulating my children with threats or emotions. Now I'm trying to make it black and white. "We don't behave this way because it's against God's rules. God said this was the wrong thing to do, and He loves us and made this rule to protect us. Make a good choice."

If they choose the wrong decision, there is a consequence, but I have hope that one day...out of my sights...they will still have the Holy Spirit and the Word in their heart to convict them of right and wrong. They won't just "do the right thing" to please someone or avoid a consequence.

God looks at the heart, we must train our children to obey us [and the Lord] with a heart motivated in love...not fear.


  1. Check out Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk. It's along the same lines and absolutely amazing. Changed everything for us. :)

    Lauren Norris

  2. Wow, this is amazing and SO insightful... I absolutely appreciate this post Candra!



Related Posts with Thumbnails