Why should children obey their parents? That’s a reasonable question. The only way children will ever know—and embrace—the answer is if you teach it to them.

I met a frantic young mom one day as I was arriving to speak to a group of parents.

“I need help. My four-year-old asked me last night, ‘Mommy, you never obey me. Why should I have to obey you?’ You have to help me, Dr. Tripp! I didn’t know how to answer him.”

There is a simple answer. “Honey, God tells boys to obey their mommies, but He does not tell mommies to obey their boys.”

The fact that this young mom did not have a satisfying, ready answer illustrates an urgent parenting crisis. How are children going to learn submission to parental authority? The answer is obvious. Parents must teach them.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1–3).

This was my first memory verse. My dad would ask us to quote it whenever my siblings or I were slow to obey. One day a friend, observing this process, asked, “What is Ephesians 6:1, anyway? It appears to have a magical effect on your kids.”

Well, it is not magic. It is just part of a process of training our children about the goodness of obedience. One way of making submission to authority attractive to our children is to point out the blessing of honoring and obeying Mom and Dad.

In Ephesians 6, God makes a general promise that as our children obey, it will go well for them and they will enjoy long life. These are two blessings that both you and your children desire.

Submission to parental authority means it goes well in at least two ways.

  1. It goes well spiritually. Your children are learning that they can trust God to work through Mom and Dad to bless them. They experience the joy and fulfillment found in God’s ways.
  2. It goes well practically. When you make up the guest list for a birthday party or decide whom to invite along on a family day, you choose children who are willing to receive direction. Hundreds of times in their lives, your children will see how opportunities are denied to the unruly but come to a child who is responsive to adult authority.

Submission to Mom and Dad also means a child “may live long.” We all know tragic circumstances in which God has taken a young child, but there is a general biblical principle here. Obedience to God will result in richness and fullness of life.

Teach your children to obey. Help them understand and visualize the blessings that come with obedience. It is the very best place for them to be.

Dr. Tedd Tripp is the senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He holds a DMin with an emphasis in pastoral counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Tedd is the author of the popular child-rearing book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

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