Book Notes Christian Living Marriage and Family

Teaching Your Children Obedience

“Obedience is in essence the submission
of one’s will to the will of another.”


[Part 3 of a 10 part series of book notes
taken from On the Upbringing of Children by Bishop IRENAIUS

Chapter 3
Teaching Your Children Obedience

Christ is the supreme example of obedience

  • He was subject to his parents as a youth (Luke 2:51).
  • He was obedient [to the Father] unto death, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:8) – an obedience which led to the salvation of the whole world (Romans 5:19).

“He who has succeeded in teaching his children obedience, has solved the problem of their upbringing…because the will is the strongest power of the soul, governing all the other powers.” (p 19)

  • God gives us a will to choose good and abhor evil, but this will is “weak by reason of sin and tends to incline towards evil” (Romans 7:19).
  • “Obedience is a ‘plant’ that cannot grow and bear fruit in every home. It flourishes only where the soil is suitable” (p 20)
  • If other forms of authority are not respected in the home, children cannot learn to obey their parents either. Which authorities must be properly respected by all in the home?
    • God
    • The Church
    • The State
  • Do we as parents respect these three sources of law and authority?
  • Logic is on the child’s side when dismiss authority as they see their parents do the same, sometimes in an “grown-up” hypocritical way though.
  • Give the child what he or she needs, but do not succumb to “self-willed whims”.
  • Parents must act in concert to teach a child obedience.
  • Do not let children disturb older siblings or worse yet adults. They should not give “arrogant commands”.
  • “[Children] should ask for what they want, not order it. They should be grateful for what is given them, and express thanks for it.” (p 22).
  • Never overlook disobedience. Whatever the parents say, must be done without delay. The goal here is that the child’s conscience will equate delay in obedience with “not doing well”.
  • Obedience requires respect. Parents must conduct themselves in a respectful manner, since respect is a prerequisite for obedience. Children naturally feel respect for their parents (supported by the fifth commandment), but parents can damage or ruin this respect and also cause a breakdown in obedience as a result.
  • Parents must watch their behavior and avoid anything that could impair their children’s regard for them.
  • Do not belittle each other.
  • Parents must show mutual respect and always treat each other considerately.
  • Parents must never blame each other. When children hear parents use unseemly language or discussions it is idle to ask them for obedience.
  • Fathers cannot expect obedience or good behavior from his children if he always acts like a clown himself.
  • “Everyone can easily distinguish the tender affectionate gravity of parents from the foolish clowning that decreases their authority.”
  • “Children will always feel the greatest reverence for a sober and fondly loving father. One glance from him is enough to make them obey immediately” (p 23).
  • If you want your children to obey you, show them your love – a wise and heartfelt love that looks for their true benefit, this love leads a child to obey out of reverence, not fear.
  • Never say that children are a burden or torment to you or that sacrifices for them have been too great. Rather show them love and joy in all things.
  • “Distrust and lack of confidence kills love” (p 24).
  • Dont’ augment fair punishment with scornful ridicule or biting reproaches. This can harden a child’s heart.

Basic means to teach children obedience

  • Accustom children to obey parents because it is the will of God.
  • Do not tolerate obstinacy
  • Do not give them everything they want
  • Accustom them to self-control, moderation and temperance
  • Demand obedience to be immediate and exact
  • Be consistent – you should only have to speak once
  • Do not command something that a child cannot do though
  • Be consistent in your expectations and demands
  • Parents must be a united voice to their children

“Never forget to invoke the blessing of God on your work in bringing up your children, only then will your labor, struggles and concern be crowned with success. With God’s help, your children will learn obedience.” (p 24)

About the book…

“It was not that long ago that pious parents raised their children to become Saints, to serve God in this world and the next.  Perhaps only two generations ago, parents were still raising Saints in Orthodox countries.  But the success of anti-Christianity in our time has been so complete that concern for one’s own salvation is considered, at best, a harmless eccentricity, while concern for one’s children’s salvation is sometimes even considered dangerous by forward-looking educators…To parents struggling in this cold modern climate, we off a small book of timeless guidance on how to teach virtues to children.  The homilies in this book were originally published in Russia in 1901.  The times have changed considerably since then, but human nature has not.  We still have the age-old struggle with the passions, the world, and the fallen spirits.  We must still strive to train out own and our children’s souls to the high ideals of holiness given us by Christ.  May God grant that this book may assist parents in their difficult and delicate task of raising children fit for His Kingdom.”

– St. Xenia Skete (October 13/26, 1991)

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