Our children are always obeying something. They are either obeying their parents and God in tandem, as God has commanded and says He will bless, or they are obeying their friends, the lusts and desires of their own hearts, television, the internet, or some other influence they value more than their parents and their parents’ God.
Every human being is a slave to something, and every human child is learning his or her slavery, is feeling it out. Each of us will either submit to Jesus and be His slave, which is to be free from death and sin, or be a slave of the Devil and his own lust and wickedness. Each of us will submit his heart to the worship of something. Our kids are the same, but smaller and without much knowledge or experience.
Ephesians 6 tells children to “obey your parents, for this is good.” So it is good for children to obey and honor the father and the mother He has given them. Jesus confirms the same in Mark 7. God considers obedience to His ordained authorities good. And He considers obedience to wicked things bad. And so for a child to obey his parents (excepting a child being instructed to sin or being abused in sin or something similar) is for him or her to do childhood the way God desires it to be done. It is Godly and healthy and good.
And for him or her to instead follow and obey and submit the bulk of his or her heart and will to pop culture, friends, or even decent secondary authority figures like teachers or coaches, is to do childhood in a flawed way. It is not good.
So what does your child’s clothing say about who he obeys?
Her friends? The things they talk about? Where they talk?
What he spends most of his weekends on?
Do our kids look like children who are obeying us as we obey the Lord?
Take one evening and watch your kids. Whose words are they using? Who or what governs their attitudes? Who or what is in control of how they respond to their grandparents, their teachers, their uncles, and aunts? Who or what has control of their hearts and wills and mouths? Is it their little buddies, the wider culture, their favorite singer, their own lusts and sinful desires, or God through you?
We cannot cause our children to love God. Only He can do that. Only God through His Spirit can cause someone to be born again. But we are told to have our children in submission for a reason: Because it is possible and it is good. It is good for them, good for the family, good for the church, and good for the community for children to obey their parents. And it blesses the children themselves by, generally speaking, forming them into the kinds of people whom God has designed the world to bless. People generally want to be around people who obey authority and are not spoiled, entitled, disruptive, or rude. And people generally want to hire or promote or marry or be friends with conscientious, self-aware, empathic individuals.
We cannot save our children. But thankfully we are not called to. We are called to do that which we can, and that is to place them in the way of blessing. We can help them to understand who God is and what it is like to obey Him, we can help them to see what He desires and what He blesses, by teaching and demanding the obedience that He calls good.
They will obey something.
And of course so will we.