Last month I had an opportunity to interview Joey and Carla Link from Parenting Made Practical, and in “part two” of our interview, they share some practical tips and resources for teaching our kids to obey. Moms that find themselves parenting through difficult circumstances will be encouraged that, while it may not be easy, teaching your children to obey is possible!
GKFTK: In your book, Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave, you discuss what it looks like for a child to obey in a biblical way. Can you briefly discuss with us what that looks like?
Links: Sure, the best example is from I Samuel 3 where young Samuel was given to Eli the Priest to raise and live with so he could serve the Lord. What is interesting in this story is that Samuel was around 8-10 years old and every time he heard his name called by God, he jumped up, ran to Eli, and said “here I am” with a good attitude! To us this is God’s illustration of how every child should respond whether their parents, teachers, coaches or anyone else in a position of responsibility or authority over the child is calling him. It’s interesting that the Priest Eli didn’t teach him this, it was his mother who taught and trained him in this practice before he was sent to live with Eli. We still see this as the best way for a child to respond every time his name is called, ‘Yes Mom/Dad, I am coming.” And they need to come with a good teachable attitude. Obedience training begins here.
GKFTK: Some parents decide to wait until their children are old enough to fully understand why they need to obey before they train them. When do you believe a child should start to be taught obedience and why?
Links: We learned long ago to “Begin as you mean to go.” In other words, if you want them to learn to act or speak a certain way, teach them to do that. Most parents start to teach their child around age 2 years to say “please” and “thank you.” Do you think kids understand why they need to say these “magic” words to get something they want and thank the person who gave it to them? Of course they don’t. We start to work with them to do so because we want it to become a habit so when they do understand they are already doing it and don’t have to change bad habits of behavior to get there. It’s always easier to teach and train them vs. re-training a child.
The same goes for obedience, and if they are determined their kids will say “please” before they give them what they are demanding, they are teaching them to obey.
GKFTK: Do you feel that teaching your children to use expressions such as “Yes please,” “No thank you,” and “Yes Ma’am” are important when children are young? In other words, will teaching these outward expressions help shape their heart to be more respectful and polite?
Links: The more they use common courtesies the more respectful they will be. The younger they start using them, the more it will become a habit to them. We have seen great results with parents using sign language with their kids under a year old. Since we aren’t from the South we had our kids say “Yes Mom/Dad” instead of “Yes Ma’am/Sir.”
GKFTK: What would you say to a mom with multiple young children who feels like she is in survival mode just to get through the day and too overwhelmed to even know where to start when it comes to disciplining and training her kids?
Joey: “Where is her husband?” Ephesians 6:1 says “Children obey your father and mother.” Too many moms are carrying the child rearing responsibilities and burden alone, when they need to work on it together with their husbands. I remember several nights coming home and seeing Carla stressed out and exhausted. I often told her she should go shopping or to the library and I will take care of the kids and put them to bed. Afterwards, we would sit down together and make a plan to get our family life back in order so she was not so frustrated with the kids and our parenting.
Carla: There are days this mom is in survival mode, and that’s okay. A good routine to her day is the place to start. Kids thrive on routine, so this will help get rid of a lot of fighting between siblings and chaos in the home. We would encourage her to take a parenting class (with her husband) like “Parenting from the Tree of Life” (www.growingfamiliesusa.com). Or she could get our parenting book Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Obey and go through it with her husband. (We recorded it on MP3 for busy parents.) We talk about obedience training in it and break it down by ages. If she starts obedience training with the oldest two kids, the others will pick up a lot of it by example. Most of all, keep it simple and work on one thing at a time, even with starting a routine. First get their meals lined up so they are eating at the same time every day. This will help their metabolism stabilize which is necessary for them to sleep well. Once that is going well, add getting bedtime sleep under control and so forth.
GKFTK: Do you have any advice for parents with children who have extra behavioral concerns that make training harder, such as ADHD, autism, or other medical issues, but who still want to train their children in obedience?
Links: There is a great book that answers this better than I can written by a mom who lost 2 of her children to genetic disorders, one living for 4 years and the other 18. It is called Un-Special Needs by Bev Linder. You can train in obedience and other character traits, however it will come much slower. We had a chronically ill daughter and we had different standards for her on different days, depending on how she was doing and feeling.
GKFTK: Thank you so much for sharing your insights and wisdom with us on teaching obedience, Carla and Joey! I know that I have learned a lot, and I hope that our readers found this article insightful and encouraging as well!
Parenting is not easy, especially when done without any guidance, which is why it is a blessing to have people like the Links who can help us learn ways to teach our kids obedience and godly character.
And you can find their book, Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave on my website under the resource tab. You can also check out their website and resources at www.ParentingMadePractical.com. Parents can sign up to get their biweekly blogs by email, and follow them on Facebook for great parenting tips as well!
To see part one of the interview, click, The Importance Of Teaching Our Children To Obey: Interview with Joey and Carla Link Part One