As our children’s God given authority, it is our responsibility to teach them to obey us. The Bible reminds us that this is the first commandment given with a promise- to have a long life on the earth We naturally love our children and want what’s best for them, but training and instruction requires much effort and time. This is no easy task! When children are still young, obedience is something they are learning how to do and what that even looks like. That is why I’m excited to share some practical ways how to help little ones obey- and want to.
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3
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How to help little ones obey? Establish connection
If we seek first to establish connection and a foundation of care and love, our children will naturally desire to listen to us and please us. God treats us this way. He cares for us, and points to that as He asks us to follow Him. So, let’s jump right into some practical ways we can do this.
Listen to them
It’s easy to think that by listening to our child we are automatically agreeing with what they are saying and doing. But, that’s not the case. When we listen to them, not only are we more able to properly assess the situation and their heart, but we also communicate many positive things to them. It communicates that you value them and care about them. This helps to establish a relationship of trust and understanding. When your child feels they can trust your care of them, they will feel loved. Feeling loved will better equip your child to listen to you and receive your instruction and correction.
Even if your child is throwing a tantrum or whining, we can still help the situation by listening to what they are trying to communicate before we rush in to respond or get them to stop. I have avoided many battles with my little ones just by finding out they had a small grievance, like a twisted sock, that was bothering them they just needed help with. Once they know we are there to help them, we can defuse many issues and tantrums and then have the opportunity to teach them the right responses.
Listening to them throughout the day to what they want to share with us is also important. Being ready to listen to their little stories or needs will help them feel heard, understood and loved. The more you can do this throughout the day, the more they will readily want to reciprocate and hear what you have to say.
Bonus tip: Listen fully and repeat back what you heard before responding.
Slow down and get down
Secondly, we can establish connection with our children by slowing down and getting down at their level. I mean literally, squatting or kneeling down. This enhances your ability to listen to them as well- my first point. If they’re throwing a tantrum, whining, or just talking to get attention, getting down at their level will immediately signal to them that you are fully present. Taking the time and posture to pay attention to them will help them know that you value them and are ready to help them.
It’s simple and effective to emphasize your intention to create an atmosphere of care and love for them. The more you can do this throughout the day, the more they will readily want to reciprocate and hear what you have to say. Getting down at their level is a way we can “show up” for them. Simple, but powerful.
Bonus tip: reach out and hold that chubby sweet little hand while you’re down there and give a hug when the conversation is finished!
Make eye contact
Following along with the previous point, while we are taking time to intentionally listen to our littles, getting down at their level when speaking to them, it is also important that we look them in the eye when we’re giving them an instruction or command. When children are still young, and learning what obedience looks like, we need to make sure we are doing our part as parents by being clear and direct. So, making eye contact and being sure they hear us and understand, to their ability, will help equip them to obey what we’ve said.
It’s so easy in a busy household (believe me- I understand!) to just toss around this or that directive willy-nilly not even sure if it was heard or not. This can lead to us becoming frustrated at commands not being obeyed, but also lead our children to frustration as they weren’t even able to have a chance to hear that command. If we are intentional to make eye contact when giving instruction we can be more sure our child has heard us. It also keeps us from casually throwing around instructions, and instead helps us be intentional with what we are expecting of them.
Bonus tip: Smile whenever you’re looking at your child! They will learn to do the same!
Lower your voice
Ok, I know this is a tough one! But, trust me on this! If you feel like raising your voice- something’s wrong, likely even just proximity. Now, I understand there are times you need to get a child’s attention or call them from a room down the hall, but if you are raising your voice in frustration- try to immediately take it DOWN and also take a more serious tone instead.
There are times where a child has committed a sin with more gravity that needs a firmer reprimand. That doesn’t necessitate yelling. If you lower your tone to a grave one and quiet down not only will it necessitate you to get in closer proximity to the child you are addressing, it also lets them know you REALLY mean business, without becoming angry. This is how you can express the gravity of a particular correction and still keep your own heart in check and obedient.
Bonus tip: Hold your child’s hand as you speak to them this way. This communicates love and concern while still being very firm.
Obedience in these formative years sets them up for obedience in the later years. When they desire to hear our voice and follow us, they are more prepared to hear their Saviors’s voice and follow Him, as well. We can make this easier for them by laying down a solid foundation in the beginning. A foundation of love, care and trust, as our Heavenly Father does for us.
Let’s review some of the simple ways I shared how to do that:
- Listen to them
- Slow down and get down at their level
- Make eye contact when giving an instruction and command
- Lower your voice- when you feel like raising it.
I hope this post has encouraged you and given you some practical ideas to go practice in your own home, with your little ones! These are precious years, and the time taken to train and teach them now will bear much fruit later.
Thanks for being here!
In His Service,