I believe one of the most important biblical principles we can teach our children is learning the importance of coming under parental authority. Submitting to authority will serve one well for a life time. What (or should I say Who) is the authority in your life? Have you turned it all over to God and said, “Lord, I desire to go under your authority”? When we are under authority, we are then able to assume authority.

As early as 18 months, youngsters can be trained to come under the mother or father’s command by simply saying, “Come.”
Building upon that, 2-3 year olds should be taught:

  • to contribute to the family by doing simple chores. Model and assist them as they learn how-to- tasks; demonstrate patience as parents, then release and supervise until they complete the task.  INspect what you EXpect. Teach perseverance, how to follow your directives, the joy of making a family contribution, the importance of orderliness, all while offering words of encouragement.

3-5 year olds should be taught:

  • to contribute to the family as well through appropriate chores and responsibilities.

It takes time and intentionality to train children to be contributing members of a family. While it is easier to do it yourself, resist the urge. So many invaluable lessons are gained through “work”.

Let’s look at various unbiblical methods for training children to be contributors in the family:

  1.  For each job you do, I’ll put your name in the jar for the drawing – more times = better odds.  (behavior modification / what’s in it for me)
  2. You didn’t do your chore as instructed, so no play time with friends for three days. (punitive)
  3. If you do your chore without being asked again and again, I’ll buy you an ice cream. (bribery)

The problem with a child not obeying his parent is disobedience- yes, but more importantly, it is a heart issue. It is an issue with God’s instituted authority. The sooner a child can learn the blessing of obedience, the better.  If we only correct the behavior without mining the heart for sinful attitudes, we are training toward idolatry. If the heart is trained toward a reward, then the idol of the heart becomes self-centeredness – what’s in it for me?!  The child wanting his or her own way is a desire to escape from the safety net of God’s design; it is an expression of independence. Does that mean we never reward a child? No, it does not. However, the reward should be given as a tangible way to compliment a child. In fact, the child shouldn’t even know about the “gift” until it’s presented. It is given infrequently for an over and above type of job or accomplishment at the parent’s discretion. It is not given because it was negotiated ahead of time.

The problem with merely correcting behavior is that it leaves out the Gospel message.  Unbiblical methods do not train the heart toward God and the cross of Christ. Those methods do not allow for us to train the child’s heart for his need for a Savior.  In fact, whatever modifies behavior will be the catalyst that trains the heart of a child. Help your child learn the intrinsic value of the joy of a job well done, and a life that goes well when choices to obey are made.

Next week: offering practical examples as you shepherd the heart, not simply the behavior.