3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Teaching your children to obey the rules you have established is probably the hardest job of a parent. God's word tells us that it is our responsibility to "impress" the commandments into our daily lives, so that it will go well for us. I think one of the keys is in verse 7: Talk about them ALL the time. Use every opportunity to teach your children to submit their will in obedience to the Lord's commands.
The other day I was speaking with a friend of four year old. There had been a series of situations of disobedience, and she found herself at a loss how to change her son's behavior. After one such incident, she asked her son why he had participated in the wrong behavior. His reply was, "you told me to help ladies, and she asked me to do it." How do you punish that? This mother and her husband are diligent to teach their son to be kind to girls, hold their hand across the street, pick up things dropped by their teacher, etc. What now?
With every opportunity there is right and wrong. We must teach our sons (and daughters) to honor the Lord, respect others, fight for justice and righteousness...easier said than done, right? Our children will choose to be leaders or followers. If they lead, how do they lead toward righteousness? If they follow, how do they choose whom to follow?
What did Christ say about rules? John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands." Simplified, two rules...1. show love and 2. obey. If we love the Lord, we will obey Him. If we obey the Lord, we are demonstrating our love for Him. Similarly if our children want to demonstrate their love for us (or others), then why will obey the rules. If they obey the rules, our children demonstrate love.
In our home, we evaluate transgressions according to these two rules. For every occurrence we ask if the action was a demonstration lacking love or an act of disobedience. Punishments for offenses, result in an additional question...was harm caused to one of God's creations? The most severe punishments follow disobedience or unloving action causing harm to another person, animal, etc. Less severe are actions causing harm to a non-living things. Next are punishments in response to unacceptable behavior not causing harm, but are disobedient. The most lenient punishment comes when wrongs occur, harm or not, that were from unintentional actions, usually apologies to the offended party.
In order for our children to have a healthy fear of the Lord, we must clearly communicate and demonstrate obedience in our lives. We must walk the walk while we talk the talk. Our children are watching us. Likewise, as parents we must consistently obey God's law and when we make mistakes, we must repent and apologize. Honest communication and instruction about God's standards of living, acceptance of consequences and willingness to change our behavior will help our children grow to be the responsible adults who love the Lord.
Loving, Merciful Father, help us to teach our children the importance of obedience to Your commandments. May we as parents demonstrate our complete love and obedience to You with all our hearts, soul and strength. May our words match our actions, and may we use every opportunity to talk to our children about Your faithfulness towards us. Guide us we pray. Amen