Jun 192019 1 Response

Why Your Kids Disobey

There are few things in life as frustrating as the continual disobedience of our children. We can understand occasional failures and testing of boundaries, but the useless rebellion which happens on a daily basis is deeply troubling.

What is most frustrating is our knowledge that obedience is truly better for them. We know they will be happier, healthier, and freer if they would build trust with us through continual obedience. An obedient child is given much more leeway and opportunity than one which cannot be trusted. Yet our children disobey anyway.

But why? (See: Don’t Fight With Your Kids)

It’s because they are our children. From us, they have inherited a gene of rebellion and have been given a continuous model of disobedience. Of course they disobey.

It shouldn’t surprise us. Ever.

Empathy for Disobedience

Consider what is expected of children. It is assumed that they will freely submit their thoughts, understandings, and desires to our seemingly arbitrary decisions and proclamations. They are expected to obey us.

To us, that should be easy. To them, it is not.

The problem with parenting is that we always view it through our lens and not the lens of our children. We know the depth of love for our children. We understand that we want nothing but the best for them. So we assume that obedience to us should be an easy process.

Yet is there anyone you easily obey without frustration or uncertainty? Do you:

  • easily follow the traffic laws in your town?
  • never struggle to restrain your tongue when your company makes a strange decision?
  • happily submit to a coach’s decision when she chooses not to play your daughter?

Every day you and I struggle to submit to the authorities in our lives. We think their decisions are arbitrary, illogical, unfair, and not applicable to our specific situation. Why do we expect our children to think or act any differently?

We shouldn’t.

Instead, we should regularly assume and expect that our children will struggle to submit to our parental authority. We should empathize with that struggle. Rebellion should never surprise us. Disobedience should never take us off guard. It really shouldn’t even disappoint us or frustrate us (although it certainly will). Instead, when our kids struggle to obey, we should compassionately understand their plight, because we have the same struggle every day.

Consequences for Disobedience

While we should have great empathy for our children when it comes to their disobedience, that empathy should not tempt us toward overlooking their failures. Instead, our own struggles to obey should confirm their need for clear consequences for their rebellion.

We understand the dangers of disobedience. We know the need for correction and rebuke. Understanding that left to ourselves we would regularly make poor decisions, our empathy toward our kids should strengthen our resolve to love firmly. We love, but we do so with a firmness toward rules, consequences, and allowing our kids to understand the dangers of disobedience.

Empathy drives us toward discipline rather than tempting us from it. It empowers us to discipline with compassion and conviction. (See: My Four Favorite Parental Statements)

Our Temptation

When we forget our own struggles with disobedience, we face a great danger of demeaning our children for their poor choices. Rather than identifying with them (and allowing them to identify with us), we may see them as uniquely problematic and make them feel as though they are different from us.

Anytime we fail to empathize with our children’s disobedience, we are more likely to misuse our God-given authority over them. Rather than compassionately leading them, we are more likely to arrogantly attempt to drive them in the direction we think they should go. No one is driven well.

Empathy is the answer to better parenting. It won’t make our kids disobey less, but it will drive us to understand their choices, restrain us from exercising our authority improperly, and empower us to love them well.

One Response to Why Your Kids Disobey
  1. Christina Reply

    Thank you, Kevin for helping give me the language to clarify and voice what I wasn’t favoring and wanted to change about my current style or approach in parenting. Thank you for helping me be a better parent to my children! ❤️

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