Obedience is not something I use to gain a reward – obedience itself is my reward. Just as I cannot make myself more acceptable to God by my obedience, neither do I want my children to think that I will be more accepting of them because of their obedience. When children disobey, the solution should not be to do better next time. The solution is to to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in one’s own strength.
Training your children to be obedient is not about getting them to do what you want them to do. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts. Biblical obedience acknowledges the weakness of the flesh and the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross. If you settle for something less as a parent, you have given your children a false understanding of biblical obedience.
Obedience that seeks to earn acceptance, favor or status is not genuine. Such “obedience” is self-serving. Neither is obedience that seeks to appease. Appeasement is always an elusive goal and can never bring satisfaction. One will always wonder if one has done enough to make things right.
True obedience results in joy. As sinners in need of the grace of God we know that we can do nothing to earn our standing with God. This is what you want to teach your kids about obedience!
Why obey? Biblically, obedience flows from a heart of love for God. This love is in response to the love of God. Worship is the only attitude of the human heart that is a fitting context for obedience. Your child cannot use obedience to plea bargain with God, to appease him, or to make himself worthy in God’s eyes.
Only the work of Christ can make things right with God. So obedience is simply a response of love and worship to God. With the psalmist your goal is to teach your kids to say:
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8