“Submission? Ugh!” Your view of submission—an annoying hassle or of infinite value—will make all the difference in your children’s perception. Presentation is key!

It was one of those conversations that embarrass everyone in earshot. A young mother was desperately trying to explain to a demanding three-year-old why he could not have any of the candy the store had placed at his eye level. As the child became more insistent, the mom became more shrill. Suddenly, perhaps as much in frustration as in humiliation, she abandoned her groceries, grabbed her son, and shot out of the store, a torrent of words spilling from her mouth.

Teaching children, especially young children, to see the importance of obeying Mom and Dad is not an easy task. Presentation is important. Here’s what I mean. If you go to a fine restaurant, the food will be presented attractively. It won’t be thrown on the plate as you might expect in an army mess hall.

The way we present obedience is equally important. We should never come to our children in a demanding tone with words like these, “Look, I am your dad. I put a roof over your head. I buy every morsel of food you put in your mouth. As long as you live in my house, you will do what I say.” While each of those things is true, this presentation misses the beauty and goodness of God’s ways.

In a biblical vision you might revise the presentation this way. “God is good. He has made you and me and all things for His glory. In love and kindness He has given you a mommy and daddy who love you, who have maturity, wisdom, and life experience. And God says that you should obey Mommy and Daddy. We insist on your obedience because we love you and we know that is good for you.”

Think on what is being communicated to the child. God is good. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things. He has communicated how we should live. God has shown great love in giving you parents who love you and care for you. Walking in God’s ways is the pathway of blessing.

This is not a power play. It is not imposing the parents’ will over the child’s will. It provides solid reasons for submission. It is large truth that children can grow into as they mature.

The alternative to teaching your children to obey is training them to be fools. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). The fool says, “I refuse to recognize the authority of God. I will do what I want to do, when I want to do it. No one will rule me.”

Submission to God’s authority, and therefore to Mom and Dad’s, is the prime lesson for toddlers. It is important preparation for life!

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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