TOP 4 REASONS WHY FIRST-TIME OBEDIENCE MAKES A HUGE IMPACT
When I was in high school I was grounded for picking out the M&Ms in the trail mix. Ok, I realize that may sound insane and extreme, and to this day my parents have only a vague memory of it, but it’s true. Kind of. It was a stand my parents took when my sister and I were growing up: that first-time obedience was the standard. It is the idea that if a child is smart enough to know to obey before you count to three, then why not expect to be obeyed when giving instructions the first time?
So, back to the M&Ms story. I was notorious for picking the “goods” out of the trail mix. One afternoon, I was sitting next to my dad and we were shoveling snacks in our faces per the usual. He saw me dodging the blah peanuts and of course the raisins (why do they even put those in there?) and picking out the M&Ms. I felt his glare, looked up at him and smirked. He said, “stop picking.” I heard him, loud and clear. I didn’t need further explanation. And yet, what did I do? I picked. So, because the standard was first-time obedience, he said I was grounded. And you can ask any friend of mine from high school and they will indeed confirm the story to be true. The point is not to just tell a funny story, but to give you an extreme example of what it means to mean what you say.
First-time obedience. It’s not an easy standard for parents to hold kids to. It’s just not. It’s so much easier to let things slide, give another chance, count to three or ten, give chance after chance and paint it as grace. It’s not easy to stop and interrupt your agenda, your grocery store errand, your conversation, or business to hold that standard. It’s just not easy. It’s hard work. But do you know what? It’s something worth doing. It’s a gift to our exasperated kids, our exhausted parent heart. It’s a gift to their future teachers, their future caregivers. It’s meaning what you say, it’s instilling trust in your words to them, that you are the parent and they are the child. That you are not just a friend, but the authority given to them to steer their hearts to be more like Jesus. It may seem easy in the moment to give them to the count of three, but in reality, what is that teaching?
Here is why we choose to raise our kids with the first-time obedience standard:
- EXPECTATIONS ARE CLEAR. You have had the conversation about what is expected of them and there is no guesswork. They know that they are expected to obey the first time, and we know they are expected to obey the first time. This makes the cause and effect clear. When confusion tries to infiltrate the circumstance, I bring it back to this phrase for the kids: “Because you chose to disobey, this discipline is the result.” (insert your chosen form of discipline ie timeouts, toys taken away, no tv, bottom spanking, etc.)
- YOUR CHILDREN LEARN TO TRUST THAT YOU MEAN WHAT YOU SAY. Words matter. Your words matter. The empty threats, the repeating, the overboard amount of grace we give our kids sometimes communicates to our kids that we don’t actually mean what we say, and therefore furthers them down the path of testing, pressing, pushing the limits of disobedience. Why would they obey the first time if they can go a little further, get away with a little more, walk a little further down towards defiance? They need to trust you.
- KEEPS FRUSTRATION AND ANGER IN CONTROL It is not a secret that the decisions children make can be uber frustrating. It is so easy to go from cool to crazy in no time when there is no plan. Having the standard of first-time obedience keeps the frustrations as matter of fact and allows it to stay there, not spin out of control with yelling and exasperation. Here is the fact of the matter: if they don’t obey the first time, they are reprimanded. That way it is not inundated with all the other emotions that fly off the handle, the words and huffs and shame that have the potential to harm their hearts.
- HONOR. “Honor your father and mother" (which is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may be long-lived on the earth.” This scripture is so specific to them and yet we get the opportunity to hold them to that standard. I’d say it’s for them, but it’s also for us as their parents to be in it with them.
Ok. So let's be real, we’re not experts or model citizens when it comes to parenting. No one is. We are all human, and the day in and day out of humanity means messing up. A lot. This is just a perspective on obedience that we feel could be a worthy shift for so many families that could bring life and hope to the home. It is not easy and it is exhausting, but really what you sow in your kids now, you will reap as they grow. We have only been parenting for six years and already we see a reaping. May you be encouraged this day as you read this to be courageous in your parenting, giving new life to your relationships, and hope to your kids and their precious future.