I think the fundamental flaw in many childrearing authors today (pearl, tripp, ezzo, etc) is the belief/assumption that obedience is the watershed issue in parenting.
Let me say that obedience is very, very important. That God wants a child to come to a point where he freely (thougth imperfectly, as we all live) chooses to honor his parents. Especially when young, teaching obedience is very important.
But that needs to be tempered by the fact that it’s really not the ultimate goal, as many authors say it is.
So what’s the watershed issue for parents? I think it’s belief. Right belief. At the end of my parenting journey, I want my kids full of right beliefs, right faith.
Obedience is a sub-goal, a result, a symptom. Making it the main thing can be problematic for a few reasons—it can lead to adversarial relationships, it can lead to creating children who are obedient and submissive when they should not be—like in cultic or social situations, it can lead to children feeling constantly guilty for their imperfections and sins, it can lead to children misunderstanding major aspects in the nature of God toward them–for example, the basis upon which God accepts us.
That’s why obedience training has to be tempered or influenced by the greater goal of influencing or inculcating right beliefs about God.
For example, when teaching obedience, what beliefs are you promoting in your child? Beliefs like: My love and acceptance is contingent on your obedience to me. Your plans and desires are not important.
Or beliefs like: We are learning obedience together; let me show you how to obey and let me show you how to accept God’s forgiveness. Let me tell you about who was punished for your sins and why.
It’s interesting, that teaching, like tripp recommends (and ezzo?), the first-time, no questions, happy attitude obedience is a really strange concept. It’s not in the Bible. It’s a concept of perfection. Even if you get a child to that point, they will go out into life and not live that way. We all sin every day. Kids need to be taught to be ready for this. To have heart warm to God, to accept His love and forgiveness, His correction, and allow Him to transform us. Sanctification is His work. It’s a process of waiting on Him, of study, of understanding Him.
Teaching a kid that he is good and acceptable to God because he obeys his parent is a lie. We are good and acceptable only in Christ. This is our unique Christian freedom. We do not earn or deserve God’s favor. Right belief in Christ is what makes us acceptable all our lives long. All our obedience is just “Thank You, God.”
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