Parents want children who obey. But obedience is more than just coming when called. Obedience is about loving God.
Obedience is not a way plea bargain with God, or to appease him, or to make yourself worthy in his eyes. Only the work of Christ can make things right with God. Obedience is simply a response of love and worship to God. With the psalmist your goal is to have your children 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
Understood in this light, obedience is not something to use to gain a reward – obedience itself is the reward. Obedience is a great privilege, honor and joy!
Your children must learn they cannot make themselves more acceptable to you or to God by obedience. When children disobey, the solution should not be to do better next time. The solution is to trust Christ for the strength to do what cannot be done in one’s own strength.
Training your children to be obedient should not be about getting them to do what you want them to do. It is about teaching them to honor God from their hearts. Manipulation is about controlling behavior. Biblical obedience acknowledges the weakness of our flesh and the absolute necessity of having a heart transformed by the power of the cross.
This transformation is the goal of biblical obedience. It doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t settle for behavior that pleases you. Point your children to Christ. Help them to see that obedience is not about gaining acceptance. Obedience is a response to being loved. Teach that to your children.