Formulas like "First Time Obedience" do not necessarily reach the heart! But they can bring lots of frustration and guilt if implemented as law.
I was speaking at a conference once and the speaker before me was plying the audience with all sorts of guilt. This speaker said, "If you don't require first time obedience every time from your children, then you are disobeying God and you will be responsible for losing your child's heart and tempting him to rebel against God!"
"You need to always be in charge of your children--you are the master, they are the slaves, so to speak. If you give them an inch, they will take advantage of you."
Many men in the audience cheered loudly and clapped. I could just see the harshness that would follow in their homes because a speaker had given them permission to be harsh and demanding every time with children, without ever teaching these parents sympathy, wisdom, skill, and understanding with their children, personalities, exhaustion, or state of heart, considering their ages and their paths of life.
But ... Really? Can you cite me verse and give context that says God always requires first time obedience without mercy or sympathy? I am thankful that He is much more patient with me than that in my own life. I have made so many mistakes over the years and done such foolish things, and still He is there loving me, instructing me, showing me his compassion and gently leading me daily to better understand His holy and righteous standard for me.
As a matter of fact, I have noticed as an older woman that there have been many "sins" or attitudes in my life that He reveals just a little at a time, not all at once. His patience humbles me. I think if God showed me all the ways I fall short every time, every day, I would be devastated and just give up.
I have seen no Biblical evidence that this is a true "rule." Of course I believe in training our children to obedience and to teach them to have the highest of standards, and often it meant training them to learn to obey us as we requested something of them, by training them to obey quickly. And we did will training, "You have a choice to make," which I will explain in a later blog post.
But I believe the reason Deuteronomy 6-8 talks about us speaking to our children morning, noon, night and presenting truth and the gospel to our children every moment of the day, is that training is to be a whole-life passing on of values and obedience and wisdom, a morning, noon and night---let's live together in fellowship and relationship and you will see that I have your best in mind and I will teach and train you how to be mature, wise and excellent--type of life.
Training children to respond to our direction comes as a journey, a pathway, a way of life, a process of growing stronger.
It is a process of love, consistency, patience, and repeating over and over and over because it takes many years for a child to become mature, which is why demanding or expecting first-time obedience doesn't work well for any of us, especially if it makes us feel like a failure because we have asked the wrong thing of our children.
Did you know that at some stages of toddlerhood, the brain doesn't register the request in the brain for 40-60 seconds? So often little ones don't really know what you are asking them until you have become angry that they are not doing it. And then you put yourself in the position of adversary which naturally draws conflict.
Have you read the verse, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger?" Proverbs 15:1
Or from Jesus, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS." Matthew 11:29 Do our children find rest and peace in our presence because we have learned humility and we humbly guide them on the path of life?
Clay and I have been working for the past few years on a summary of principles we've learned and practiced as parents based on wisdom and respect for our children, and The Lifegiving Parent book is the result! Find it here: