One of the troubles moms can encounter once their kids reach a certain height and vocabulary is the constant “Why?” that follows when you tell them to do (or not do) something.
“Johnny, quit jumping on the couch.”
It is a perfectly reasonable question, and I was always happy to answer it AFTER the obedience.
“Quit jumping and then you may ask me why.”
I remember teaching my children how important it was to obey first and ask questions later. You never know what kind of situation might arise where instant obedience is crucial. I told my kids a story that I had read about a missionary who had looked out the front door to see his child playing beneath a tree in the yard. On the branch over the child was a very large and deadly snake. The father called to his son, “Johnny, drop on your knees and crawl to me.” Johnny did as his father said, and once he was out of range, his father explained the reason for his sudden and seemingly weird command. The point, I would tell my children, is that you must always obey me right away, without question. You may ask questions later. What might have happened if the boy had said, “Why?”
From this principle came what we called the “delayed obedience is disobedience” rule. Obedience must be immediate. If I told a child to set the table and came back to find the table still unset, the excuse of “I just hadn’t gotten started yet, but I was going to in just a minute” didn’t hold any water with us. That was disobedience. If we said, “Time to put your book down and get ready for bed” and the child just kept on reading….that was disobedience. It was no good saying, “I was just going to finish this page.” However, if the child said, “May I just finish this page?” that was not disobedience. That was a reasonable question.
Now why did we make such a point about obedience? There are several reasons, the most important one being that God tells children to obey their parents. We wanted our children to grow up obeying God, and obeying us was a means of getting there. He said to. The other reason is that we wanted our children to mature into self-governed adults. They learn to obey us, then they will obey God, and obey their boss or their teacher or the law. Obedience is a good thing. We provided the training wheels and our children became God-obeying adults.
This is why parents must insist on obedience the first time. We often reminded our kids ahead of time so they would be disposed to obey. For example, I had a few rules about going to the grocery store. On the way to the store, we would review those rules. At the check-out, if they had obeyed, I bought them some gum as a well-earned reward. If they didn’t obey, they were disciplined when I got home. If I did not follow through on what I had promised, then they would never believe me. Why should they?
Moms can’t be all bluster or the kids learn to totally tune her out. She says get off the stairs, but she will look the other way, and the child can continue on up, and Mom will forget all about it. What lesson does that teach about obedience? It’s only important when they are looking. But God sees always. We don’t just obey Him when we think He might be looking.
Children should take Mom’s commands very seriously. The only way this will happen is if Mom takes them very seriously. She must be careful of what she commands and faithful to see it through. This is one of the reasons why mothering is a full-time, demanding job with big-time consequences. It takes a whole lot of concentration to teach children to obey, and it has very big dividends.