What Does the Bible Say About Kids Obeying Their Parents?

I love my kids. But like all of us, they are prone to wander from what’s good and right. I’m not talking about childish irresponsibility–that’s a “mistake.” I’m talking about blatant disobedience… which ticks me off!


Just being honest.

Sometimes it makes sense. They have wants and desires that often conflict with what they are told from us parents.

What does the Bible say about kids obeying their parents? Disobedience is gonna happen. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t make it right. And we, as parents, have to confront the issue and bring correction.

That’s hard. What battles do I choose? When do I punish and when do I give grace? But even giving grace doesn’t negate the need to discuss the issue with your child so it doesn’t happen again. How do I help them understand that obeying me will lead to blessings?

There’s a passage in God’s word that doesn’t give us all the instruction we need to cultivate obedience in our children or explain how we are to parent, but it does point to obedience as being a key component for a healthy relationship between parent and child. It’s found in Ephesians 6:1-4

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” (NLT)

So what is obedience?

One of our pastors at church said, “Obedience is setting aside our selfish agenda and submitting to someone else’s agenda.” I love that quote. In other words, disobeying means we want something more passionately than we want to love or respect others.” 

Granted, sometimes that’s a valid reason to disobey. For example, it’s not a sin for a believer in an anti-Christian country to say, ” I want to illegally smuggle a Bible home in my suitcase so I can grow in my walk with God.” Or for a child to say, “No Uncle, I will not keep your abuse toward me a secret.” There are times when disobeying is right. The book of Acts was full of disobedience toward religious leaders and the government authorities. That disobedience helped propel the early church.

But when it comes to sinful disobedience, Christians or not, all humans must learn this basic rule of society. We must submit to our school teachers, our boss, law enforcement, the courts… lots of people. We must also learn to obey laws, natural and man-made. 

It can be difficult to submit to someone else when we don’t feel they deserve it. But when we don’t, our kids see that, and then they try it out–on us. I’m not letting our kids off the hook by blaming us for their sin. No matter how perfect we are at modeling obedience, our little rascals are still going to sin by trying to disobey us.

Often they do it to find security. To find the boundaries (see #7 in the list below). One of my kids is like that. When she feels insecure, she acts up. As soon as we discipline her, she is suddenly the sweetest and most compliant child, going out of her way to show us love and gratitude. It’s crazy.

Somehow we have to teach them that obedience is always honored with a blessing. A blessing bestowed upon them by us parents, or by God.

So why is it so difficult for kids to obey? 

There are many reasons that make it hard to obey. Here’s a few:

  1. Tension in the home (fighting, sibling jealousy, divorce or remarriage).
  2. An unbiblical model they’ve observed (it’s not always us).
  3. A strong-willed kid (like a wild horse, they can be broken).
  4. Imbalance in nurture and admonition (too much discipline or too much leniency).
  5. Threatening over and over again with no follow-through (“Do that again and you’re grounded!”)
  6. Being a hypocrite. (calling in sick for work to go play golf).
  7. Withholding our expectations from them (how do they know it’s wrong if you haven’t told them?)
  8. Broken promises (don’t promise something you may not be able to deliver).

What about you? What are some things you’ve found cause your kids to disobey you? what have you done to fix that besides (or in addition to) punishment?


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