3 Aspects of Obedience You Can Expect From Children

Disclaimer: If you’ve got perfectly obedient children who instantly do what you say the very first time you give an instruction every single time, this post isn’t for you J In fact, send me a note and I’d love to have you guest post on this blog!

Most of our children struggle with obedience. Even though most of us parents work tirelessly to teach it to them. There is just something about our sinful natures as humans that has the natural tendency to rebel against what we are told to do.

The truth is that the better our children learn to obey us, the better they will obey God. Click To Tweet

The more our little ones respect our authority, the more they will respect all levels of authority in their lifetimes, from teachers, to church leaders, to the law of the land, and ultimately to God!


There really aren’t many greater and more important tasks than teaching our children this crucial reaction. Not only will it benefit them so much throughout their future, but it will make our lives as parents so.much.easier.

Children, obey your parents in everything,

for this pleases the Lord.

Colossians 3:20

If you take a scalpel and dissect the body of obedience, I believe you will find 3 aspects of obedience you can expect from children:

Straight Away

Slow obedience is No obedience,” I once heard someone say. That really stuck with me. If your child is not obeying your instruction straight away, they are in effect choosing their own authority over yours. They are saying, “I want to do what I want to do first, and then when I’m done with that, I’ll do what you want in my own good timing.”

Now, hear me. I’m not saying that we should be dictators as parents. We should never ever take advantage of our position as having authority over our children. Our children can always appeal our instruction in a respectful manner. So if a child is in the middle of their math homework, and you ask them to set the table for dinner, they may say, “Mom, I’m just finishing up this page of math sums. Would you mind if I set the table right after in about 15 minutes?”

Then sure! By all means. They clearly desire to obey and are appealing for us to consider the urgency of the task. This will always give a child an ‘out’ if they indeed can’t or would prefer to delay the order. However, if they aren’t doing anything particularly taxing and don’t appeal, they do need to honour us as parents and obey.

A catchy little phrase that parents of younger children can use is, “Straight away, obey!”

God expects immediate obedience too, and His standards are

the  example we are trying to set in our children’s minds.

All The Way

The next requirement in obedience, once the sweet child has obeyed straight away, is to do so all the way. By this, I am referring to completing the job from start to finish. If little Johnny has instantly obeyed my instruction to put the clothes on the floor of his room away (to my dismay! :-)) but picked up 5 items and has left the other 25, that is not complete obedience.

For obedience to be whole and acceptable to God (and you as a parent) the child has to complete the entire job. Of course, it is our duty as a loving parent not to exasperate our children (Ephesians 6:4), and to give age appropriate tasks – but considering our summons has been fair, the child needs to obey ‘all the way.’

In A Cheerful Way

Last, but not least, is for obedience to be executed in a cheerful way. Think about it, you’ve given sweet Sarah the word to wash the dishes after dinner. She straight away gets up but complains every step of the way to the kitchen where she practically throws the dishes angrily into the dishwasher. Sure, she completes the chore, but attitudes are a flyin’ and she is making it a point of making her misery known far and wide around the home!

So, while Sarah has ticked two out three boxes, she may as well not have. If she isn’t doing it in a cheerful way, she ain’t doing it at all. Remember, friend, that…

God is most concerned with the heart of your child. Click To Tweet

And any lack of cheerfully executing the instruction is outward obedience with a heart kicking and screaming rebelliously against it’s authority.

The thing is my friend, we often think of obedience as something only children need to do. Once we’ve graduated into adulthood, we believe, we no longer need to obey our parents. Romans 1:28-32 lists a long list of sins against the Lord.

This list of sins is not aimed at children at all in this context, but is an array of misdemeanors that adults do. Among the list was “disobedient to parents…”

Obedience to parents, authorities, and ultimately God, is an action that should signify all of our lives, irrespective of our age.

It is both our duty and privilege to train our children to adhere to this great, yet basic tenet of our faith, and to set them up for a life of reaping the rewards of following it. Whether we do this by example or educating let us be faithful in this way.

How are you doing in training your children to obey? Do you have any other “catchy” phrases or tips that you use that may help others?

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Tehila is an Israeli, God-loving, husband-serving, child-nurturing mom of five sweet little ones whom she homeschools. She resides in beautiful New Zealand from where she blogs at Women Abiding – Encouraging women to abide in God and His Word.

About womenabiding

Tehila is an Israeli, God-loving, husband-serving, child-nurturing mom of five sweet little ones whom she homeschools. She resides in beautiful New Zealand from where she blogs at Women Abiding – Encouraging women to abide in God and His Word.
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49 Responses to 3 Aspects of Obedience You Can Expect From Children

  1. KellyRBaker says:

    Love this! I started teaching my kids what I call the Keys of Obedience when they are toddlers: 1)happy attitude 2)no complaining 3)right away 4)finish all. (We even made a laminated set of keys.) Very similar to what you have here. It definitely takes diligence on my part! 🙂

    • womenabiding says:

      That’s really great, Kelly! I think as long as parents have some kind of a system or definition of what obedience should look like, they’re on the right road. Thank you SO much for sharing yours! That’s helpful 🙂 xoxo

  2. I really struggle with cheerfulness part. My son will almost always do what I said, but he does it as slowly as possible and with a sour face when it interferes with what he wants to be doing. I don’t know what to do about it… It is easy to punish them for not doing something, but it is difficult to know what consequences are appropriate for a three year old with a bad attitude. Any ideas?

    Also, I have discovered that if I let him ask if he can finish what he is doing, then do what I asked, he asks EVERY SINGLE TIME I tell him to do something and then gets all pouty when I tell him it needs to be done now. I am not really rocking this parenting thing…

    • womenabiding says:

      Rachel, I SO much appreciate your honesty and openness! Thank you for you entrusting me with this struggle. I actually think that at 3 years of age, children should be getting the obedience thing into their little hearts and minds very clearly. This is building foundation time. I definitely think that in order to train your son, it would be beneficial to discipline him each and every time he doesn’t do something in a cheerful way (considering you’ve told me this is his weakness). While their are consequences you could use, the most effective is discipline he will feel 😉 I should have clarified, too, in my post, that when my children can only appeal the instruction once they are older… once that sure foundation of obedience is laid in stone, and when they are fully willing to follow my instruction because they understand that that would be the only right response, but they are preoccupied with another important task, then they may appeal. But I’d say the earliest would be when they’re about 8 years old for this… I’d say your son is still way to young to be able to do that, since the foundation is not fully grasped and laid yet… Keep working there mamma! You’re doing well… Do not become weary in doing the right thing, and standing your ground. You are his authority figure, and He needs to know that 100%! Hugs to you, and feel free to keep in touch 🙂 Love, xoxo

  3. Tracey says:

    Love how you’ve broken the principle of obedience down into these three parts that actually show us what true obedience should look like. I know we’ve talked with our children many times about the difference their attitude makes – if they’re doing what we asked, but grumbling the whole time they’re doing it, that’s not truly obedience!

    Our goal, of course, is that they will grow up and transfer that spirit of obedience to their Heavenly Father, and obey Him immediately, completely, and cheerfully!

    • womenabiding says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, Tracey! Beautifully stated… So great to see you here at Women Abiding! You’re always welcome in this place 🙂 xoxo

  4. Helene says:

    Under catchy phrases we used, “First time, every time” In other words, obey your parent the first time they ask every time they ask.

  5. Emily says:

    I always say to my children, especially when very young, “obey right away with a happy heart!” And I have them say yes mama and I think it really helps them obey right away and with a happy heart!

    • womenabiding says:

      You absolutely hit the nail on the head here, Emily! When our children say, “Yes Mama” they are indeed acknowledging that they heard, internalised and intend to obey the instruction. It’s great for them, and great for us… Fantastic point! xoxo

  6. Ha! My oldest son used to groan when I quoted Elisabeth Elliot with, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.”
    Now, I hear him saying it to his son.
    Life is good!

    • womenabiding says:

      That’s a good one, Michele! I love how you’ve proven that what we download into our children, is actually used by them later on with theirs! Can’t wait for the day my children are old enough to do the same 🙂 xoxo

  7. Laura Hicks says:

    Great points here. Obedience is such a crucial lesson.

  8. Amanda says:

    Getting my kids to obey can be a chore. My oldest always wants to do it later. My second born will either do what I ask right away, or dig her heels in the mud and flat out refuse. My third actually listens the best, and she’s 2! LOL! Thankfully, my 4th is still a baby, so she’s a little angel. But I’ve found that consistency is key. If I get lazy & give in, then they walk all over me. And hopefully obedience will come easier to them when they’re grown and walking with God. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

    • womenabiding says:

      My two year old is also my most obedient, Amanda 🙂 Yes, yes, yes! Consistency! I couldn’t agree more… So much appreciate you pointing that out… Now just to live it!! xoxo

  9. Jann Olson says:

    Such an important aspect of a happy family, obedience. I think it’s a measure of respect. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  10. Aimee Imbeau says:

    To obey cheerfully and joyfully (Oh, boy – do we do that all the time???) – such a good thing to teach our children.
    I like to make sure that verse 21 is directly linked to verse 20 when I do any teaching on this subject. They really do go hand in hand. The children are given a command – and parents are given a command as well. Christians often ‘forget’ verse 21 when discussing obedience in children, like the sole responsibility lies upon the child. But I believe that parents not provoking their children to exasperation will have a direct effect on how well their children behave.
    Thanks for sharing on Grace and Truth.

  11. Dawn says:

    I used to tell my children partial obedience is still disobedience. Actually, I still say that to them even though they are 21, 17, and 14. 🙂 I would tell them, also, that if they can not obey me they will not obey the Lord, most likely.

    I will be honest and say that I really failed in many ways to train them in the way of obedience first and with a sweet spirit, probably by example of my own. But I am so grateful for the chance to continually speak into their lives, even now and the training really doesn’t ever end…for both of us. Neither does the parenting. And when they know that we have their best interest at heart, it really makes it easier for them to not only want to obey but to do it with a smile, the first time, all the way.

    Great reminders about the importance of obedience for all of us. Thank you for linking up at #GraceMoments!


    • womenabiding says:

      I love how you’re still training your children even though they’re older! I can totally see myself doing that in a few years 🙂 I also very much value your vulnerability and humility, Dawn. Amazing! I am sure if we are all honest, we will say that we feel we’ve failed our children in many ways, but I truly agree that the main thing is that at the end of the day, other than possessing their own faith in God, that the main thing is that the lines of communication between parents and children remain open. Your comment was invaluable! Thank you so much xoxo

  12. A good friend of mine taught me this rhyme when my children were little. I appreciate the reminder. Especially part three “in a cheerful way.” I need to be careful to model this myself if I expect it in my children. Have a blessed day!

  13. Jessica says:

    I think you made 3 very good points. I do believe that God is in the business of working on our hearts – including our children’s – and I am always encouraged to remember the parable that Jesus told about the two sons in Jesus’ parable of Matthew 21:30-32. Our hearts and attitudes can change, and God will honor and bless those who choose to obey him even if they started off with a poor attitude. I always try to keep in mind that I don’t want to just my kids to obey and have it all together on the outside while inwardly seething or grumbling (I know I’ve done that plenty of times myself!), but for their hearts to be engaged, obeying out of love. John 14:21 – “He who has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Hope that is fodder for thought for other parents as well! 🙂

    • womenabiding says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, Jessica! Love how you are focused on your children’s hearts, and not just their behaviour! That is what is is ALL about! You’ve blessed me and my readers today! Thank you! xoxo

  14. LAUREN Tonge says:

    This is such a fun and convicting post! How often do I not obey right away…or fully…or in a cheerful way! I’m in a season of obeying with doubt. That’s NOT FULL obedience. Thanks for your words. The timing was perfect for me today!

  15. Tehila, I need you in my home! 😉 I love how you address the fact that when children need to be told several times to do something, it isn’t obedience. This is really something we need to work on in this home. I love how you’ve broken this down in an easy-to-understand way. Thank you!

  16. Brandi Raae says:

    Great tips. We raised our little ones with these principles. It can be so difficult, though, when teens want to cross the line just a bit. *sigh*

    Thanks for sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays!

  17. Brenda says:

    Tehila, this is hitting home for me right now. Over the past month, I’ve realized how little obedience I have from my youngest. He just turned 15, so I think we’ve just grown lax – allowing him to take his sweet time, etc. We don’t have issues with him, so it’s easy to be more casual than we probably should. I talked to him about this the other day, so this is timely for me. 🙂 I’ll have to share with him the “Straight away obey” phrase. 🙂 –Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity! ((hug))

    • womenabiding says:

      Brenda, I so much appreciate your comment, because I do see how when the children are older, it’s harder to “teach” them this kind of thing, and we tolerate a lot more than we did when they were little. The training really is best received when they are in their younger years – I have a 15 year old, too (our eldest) and I completely understand where you’re coming from. For me the challenge is still to instil that obedience in our younger children (aged 2-12) as I know that the more my husband and I invest in them in this way, the easier it’ll be for us later! So glad this post was timely for you xoxoxo

  18. Jann Olson says:

    Great info! One that I had not thought of is the “slow obedience is no obedience”. I have not heard that, but it is so true! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • womenabiding says:

      Thanks, Jann. Yes, I heard that one not too long ago… even though I’ve had many years of combined experience with my children, I still enjoy picking up new slogans and helpful tips where I can 🙂 Blessings to you xoxo

  19. Joanne Viola says:

    Wonderful post. There is much wisdom in all you have shared. Thank you! And have a blessed Sunday!

  20. CabotMama says:

    Wonderful post that captures so many of my parenting frustrations and give me Scriptural answers as well as child-appropriate phrases to implement. Thank you!
    After a particularly hard day of slow to obey or poor attitudes, my kids will come hug me good night and declare ever-so-sweetly “I loooove you, Mama!” I want to respond, “If you loved me, you’d obey me.” However, each time that thought pops in my mind and before it comes out of my mouth, I hear the Holy Spirit say to me: “yes, if you loved Me, you’d obey Me.” The insight into God’s saddened heart is so convicting! How very much I am still like a five year old child!

    • womenabiding says:

      “If you loved me, you’d obey me”… so true that that’s what we *want* to say to our children, but how we could never say it without our own conscience’s being pricked because of our stand before the Lord. Great point, my friend xoxo

  21. Laura says:

    I have two little ones and though I know I can’t expect these things yet, I have to lay a good foundation now. These are really fantastic thoughts.

  22. Patty says:

    Good tips here! When I was a teacher I frequently told my students, “slow obedience is no obedience.”

    God bless,

  23. Jennifer says:

    When we learn to submit and obey the Lord, and be in His will, life is so much better, and what a great example that gives our children to live by! Visiting from the Life of Faith link up

  24. I taught my kids that “delayed obedience is disobedience.” Thank you for these important reminders!

  25. Great pointers there. Loved your concept of slow obedience is no obedience. Thanks for joining The Bloggers Pit Stop

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