Perhaps the need for training our kids to obey is pronounced in our family because we have 5 kids currently within 8 years of each other. When a funding appointment becomes a family affair, or we want to host staff or students in our home during a meal, so much stress can be avoided with well-trained kids.
I want to share some thoughts that have really helped me think about training, but please understand my kids are not robots, we are not uber strict, and everyone has an off day here and again. And sometimes a certain kid will enter a season where we have to really focus on obedience. This isn’t the only way or right way to help involve kids in ministry, do what works for you. These are ideas that have helped our family and I pray they are an encouragement and blessing to yours as you minister together.
Our Goal is having their Hearts, not just their Compliance
I’ve had to learn self-control to speak kindly and softly. This has not come easy! As parents, we can raise our voice or use a harsh tone and often achieve the outward behavior we desire pretty quickly—but we lose the hearts of our kids. Sometimes I lose both their heart and their compliance! I will notice that I have repeated myself three times, raised my voice, continued to meet opposition, and I realize I should only have to say this one time in a kind voice. Then I realize we need to focus on training.
Discerning Disobedience vs. Not Understanding
I play a game with my kids once they can walk where I put my hand out, palm up and ask them to come and lay their hands in my hand. We practice this throughout the day and for a week, and sometimes they even find an m&m in my palm when they come. At the end of our training time, I let them know that from now on, I expect them to come to me just like the game whenever I call them. When a child is willing to do that, I can squat down on their level and speak softly to them what I need them to do. There is no power struggle, tantrum, or scene. I use this anytime I am unsure if they are disobeying or just not understanding me.
Setting your Kids up Well
I was encouraged by an older mom that my tone and good attitude will greatly affect my kids’ behavior. Especially when we are trying to get out the door, if I am hurried, short, or stressed, my kids have a hard time choosing good behavior, which only makes leaving more chaotic. My preparedness and getting things moving early helps them thrive.
Also, giving my kids a warning when an activity is about to end helps prepare them to obey. This is common courtesy, as I would be pretty resistant if in the middle of working on a project I was ordered to the car! Even a one-minute warning or a “last time to go down the slide” can go a long way in having agreeable kids.
Before we leave the car to enter our destination, Dave or I will go over what we expect of the kids. Let’s say we are headed into a restaurant with another staff family–I will say, Okay kids, we are about to go inside. Mommy expects you to walk and use a quiet voice while we are inside. I want you to stay sitting in your seat and eat all of your food. Does everyone understand the rules? Can you say them back to me?
Taking these 30 seconds to remember the boundaries helps all of us. I am clear on how to parent while my mind is focused on connecting with others, and my kids are clear on what behavior I’m asking of them.
We want our whole family to be a part of our ministry, and we want to be a joy and blessing to others. Training in obedience has helped create an environment of peace and joyfulness for our family.
Linnette and her husband Dave began their marriage and Nav staff career eleven years ago (EDGE and SIT at Colorado State) and they currently lead the collegiate Nav ministries in Nashville. They have five children: Kate (8), Kylie (6), McKenzie (4), Daniel (3), and they just welcomed their 5th child, Andrew, after the first NavNite of the year! Linnette and Dave are passionate about the shared mission of raising up disciple-makers and raising up their kids.