A couple of weeks ago, while watching us have a short battle with TM about him wearing his coat, a friend made the comment about how this must be shock because all of our other children are so compliant. This has started me thinking about the meanings of compliance and obedience and why, as a society, we rarely ever talk about child rearing and obedience in the same breath.
To start, some definitions...
compliance n. 1. the act or process of complying to a desire, demand, or proposal or to coercion 2. a disposition to yield to others
obedience n. submissive to the restraint or command of authority
As a parent, I would much rather have an obedient child than a compliant child. Why? It is because obedience involves a conscious decision, while compliance is an unconscience character trait. To me, a compliant child is one who has no inner strength; a child who is so used to giving in to others that it is not a decision, but a habit; a child who has no sense of what true authority is, and is in danger of led astray.
An obedient child, on the other hand, is a full participant in what is asked of him or her. Obedience involves a choice; it is active, not passive. Obedience also recognizes authority. Only true authority requires obedience. Obedience does not require giving in to just anyone with a demand, but requires knowledge of who deserves to be obeyed.
So why don't we hear about obedience with regard to modern child-rearing? We hear about self-esteem, independence, child identity, and spirited children, but when was the last time you picked-up a parenting magazine (I spend a lot of time waiting in the orthodontist's office) and saw a big headline: "Create an Obedient Child" ? I believe it's because obedience isn't just for children, but adults also have areas where they should be obedient. We should be obedient to the laws of our country, to supervisors and bosses, and, for believers, to God. But it makes us squirm a bit, this idea of being obedient, with its implied definition of submission, to another person. We want to jump to those exceptional circumstances, that more likely than not will never happen, to explain why we can't do this obedience-thing. We have trouble with absolutes, and obedience sounds pretty, well, absolute.
I think there is another side to obedience, though. And I believe when God speaks of obedience in the Bible, this is what is meant. Requiring obedience is a form of love. God knows what is best for us; if we listen to Him and obey Him, we will avoid a lot things that could make us miserable. It is the same with a child to a parent. The parent (usually) has the best interests of the child at heart. We ask things of our children because we believe that it is best for the child. We ask our children to obey us because we love them and want what's best for them. Please note, I'm not saying by obeying God, we will avoid all unpleasantness in life, this isn't true. A child who obeys a parent is not spared pain, either. The pet will still die, other children can still be cruel, mistakes will still be made; we live in a fallen world.
It may not be popular, but we, as a family, will continue to work on obedience. It is something we practice. The children practice first-time obedience to J and I, and J and I practice first-time obedience to God. It is not always easy, and often what is asked of us is difficult. It is a discipline. A discipline through which God shows His love to us and through which we show our love to our children.