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Do Children Obey First or Do Parents?

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At our Love and Respect marriage conference Emerson always asks who should make the first move in the relationship. Waiting in anticipation for the answer, there seems to be shock when he says, “The one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first!”

I am assuming most of us think we are more mature than our children, but do we always act like it in the midst of a conflict with them?

Why would we expect them to obey us yet we aren’t always obeying our Heavenly Father in relationship to them?

Parents, love your children.

In parenting, even though there is no direct command to love our children, God seems to have put that unconditional God-like agape-love in a parent’s heart for the sake of children. And He expects us to give them what they need, whether they deserve it or not.

We can’t control the outcomes in our children, but we can control our own attitudes, actions, and reactions with them. That’s where our obedience comes in, which in turn affects whether our children feel loved or unloved.

Just as we may be able to force or convince our kids to conform to our rules, only they will decide their own inner attitudes and actions.

Don’t just survive! Take charge!!

But as Emerson says, “This is not to say we parent passively. We still must take charge. A parent who is not in charge is not parenting, but simply trying to survive.”

What does he mean by “being in charge”? The first person that I must be in charge of is ME!!

My response is my responsibility.

As a pastor for many years, he often spoke of the phrase, my response is my responsibilityOver the years he became known for that powerful line. We occasionally see people from those former days and they remind him of the impact that had on their lives.

Do any of us like it? NO.

But does it give us power when we embrace it? YES!

Our children are always watching us. By creating a loving environment and taking responsibility for our responses and reactions, we increase our credibility with our kids and we honor our Heavenly Father just as we want our children to honor us as parents.

Are you right and wrong at the same time?

We often say, “you can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.”

Yelling at our children to stop them from yelling means we have lost emotional control and our kids know it.

So why should they stop yelling if we are yelling?

A delicate balance.

Keeping emotional control while staying in charge means maintaining a delicate balance between forcing compliance and winning it.

You may stop a child’s disrespectful comments or behavior with harsh words or actions but you will lose his or her heart and your credibility in that moment.

Emerson knows this well as his father got him to comply on some level with his anger, but deep down inside he shut down on him and his mother could see it.

Many times as a parent I lost control and then we had two disobedient and the child I was supposedly disciplining! I knew I didn’t have too much credibility at that moment.

Why should they stop making bad choices if I wasn’t?

Oh but now I had given myself the opportunity to seek their forgiveness. What fun!!

At least I could be an example of that!

Titus 2:4-6 tells young mothers to be self-controlled and young men to be self-controlled. Their response was their responsibility.

What does this really mean?

It means my child doesn’t cause me to be the way I am but reveals the way I am.

Therefore when my response is sinful, I must own up to it.

I must not blame my child for my negative response just as I don’t want them to blame me for their response.

I must deal with my reactions and try to change.

If I have a loving response, doing my best to parent God’s way and my child is still being disrespectful, I must deal with that and pray for patience.

Again, my response is my responsibility.

No matter what our kids do, an unlovable or disrespectful child does not cause us to be unloving. Instead they reveal our choice to be unloving.


It’s kind of like this…. by way of analogy.

A speck of sand in the human eye leads to irritation, then infection, and if not cared for, lack of vision. That same speck of sand in an oyster first leads to irritation, then concretion, and then a pearl.

This begs the question:

Did the sand cause the results in the eye or the oyster?

The sand is an irritant that reveals the inner properties of the human eye or the oyster.

If that is not the case, the next time you get sand in your eye, be careful; a pearl may pop out!

Yes our kids can be irritants at times, but really God uses them to reveal our inner properties as a person and parent.

We all get to choose.

Yes they are not innocent in setting the tone for the family. They make choices just like we do, and can affect us emotionally. But their bad behavior doesn’t cause our bad behavior.

We get to choose to be a good parent. We get to choose obedience just like our kids do.

God gives us a plan that GUIDES us in our parenting efforts and loving our kids. When we follow this plan, we can be assured we are obeying.

And in this we get to choose the right attitude, actions and reactions.

Let’s be the first to choose obedience and be the mature one!

That is freedom!

From my heart,


Sarah Eggerichs

Questions to Consider