The Big Picture
Moving your child from obedience to responsibility
How do you navigate the tricky middle years and move your child from obedience to responsibility? How do you transfer freedoms? In this three part blog, we’re going to look at the big picture of how to accomplish that.
Before we start helping our children take more personal responsibility in their lives, though, we need to examine our own lives. Start with the basics and remember your priorities:
- Time with the Lord – When I hear that, I think, “Well of course I know that my time with the Lord is my #1 priority, but it’s so hard to find the time.” When that thought passes through my mind, there is usually another small voice that is gently nudging “Is that really true that there is no time? What about the time spent on social media or playing solitaire?” (Thank you, Holy Spirit, for gently convicting me.) Now please understand, I’m not saying you can’t spend time on social media or playing a game on your phone, but how about after you’ve spent time with the Lord? For those with little ones who may be thinking, ‘I’ll have more time when my kids are older,” that’s simply not true. I encourage you to ‘begin as you mean to go’ even in your spiritual journey.
- Husband-wife relationship – The #2 priority, for those who are married, is working on the husband-wife relationship. (For those parenting solo, your #1 priority is also your #2.) As your parenting journey takes you into the middle years and beyond, your time with the Lord and your marriage relationship will become even more important. It’s critical that your foundation is firm before you get to that point.
Once parents have their own priorities in order, you can evaluate your children’s level of responsibility. Obedience is one of the first responsibilities a child has. In fact, one of the first Bible verses parents teach little ones is “Children obey your parents.” (Col. 3:20) We all know that obedience does not come naturally. God gave obedience as a commandment so it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to obey so that they, in turn, can become responsible themselves.
What does obedience have to do with being responsible? And what does being responsible have to do with transferring freedoms? Let’s get back to the basics of transferring freedoms. In Prep for the Toddler Years, the following developmental equations were provided:
Freedoms > self-control = developmental confusion
Freedoms < self-control = developmental frustration
Freedoms = self-control = developmental harmony
To achieve the goal of developmental harmony, parents are to facilitate learning according to the principle of building “precept upon precept and line upon line”. That principle is not just for your toddlers, but also carries through to every level of parenting your children.
Part of the ‘line upon line’ principle is moving a child from obedience to submission. Remember, obedience is required conformity brought about by the use of parental authority. This is one of your major goals during the first 5 years of your parenting. You need to train your child to obey the 1st time an instruction is given. (While we would love 100% obedience, a realistic goal is 90% obedience by the age of 5. If this goal is reached, the child is well on his way to understanding the importance of obedience and will be able to move toward submission more easily.) You are the parent and it is a parent’s responsibility, given by God, to work on this.
Submission is a voluntary yielding – something one wants to do. The Greek word hupotasso means to line up under but represents a different motive for compliance. Instead of obeying out of duty, hupotasso suggests submitting out of a devotional loyalty. This change of motives comes as the result of a growing, trusting relationship. That trusting relationship is part of the goal of the middle years – moving a child to do right out of a loyal devotion to his/her parents [God’s representatives] rather than out of duty.
We will pick up on the middle years transition in Part Two of this blog.
Anne Marie Ezzo serves with her husband in ministering to families around the world through Growing Families International. For the past 30+ years her passion has been, and continues to be, to encourage wives and moms to practically understand what it means to “love your husband and children”.