My mother always said the hardest part of being a parent is being consistent. Raising 12 children of my own has convinced me she was right.

Yet consistency is essential for teaching little ones to obey. And the earlier those lessons begin, the better.

Even babies can learn the meaning of the word “no.” No biting. No hitting. No throwing food on the floor. No grabbing glasses off Mama’s face.

As children grow, training opportunities increase. Wise parents will teach their charges to come when called. To say “please” and “thank you.” To be wheeled through the grocery store without grabbing everything within reach. And to resist the urge to throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get their way.

Learning obedience and respect for authority while they are young sets kids on a course for success when they are older.

Apart from God’s intervening grace, a child who never learns to obey his parents grows into a student who spurns the instruction of his teachers, an athlete who ignores the advice of his coaches, an employee who refuses to do the work he was hired to do, a citizen who thinks himself above the law, an adult who has no respect for God or man but is instead consumed by selfishness, laziness and his own unbridled appetites.

As a mother, knowing what is ultimately at stake inspires consistency better than anything else I can imagine. And so I persist in training my children how to properly respond to authority.

In our home, obedience means more than just doing as you’re told. Timing and attitude come into play, as well.

The kind of obedience we require is the same obedience our Heavenly Father requires of us: prompt and cheerful.

“Delayed obedience is disobedience” — have you ever heard that old adage? We want our children to obey without dragging their feet. We want them to do as we say, when we say, with a happy heart.

The happy heart is key — both for children and adults.

The Bible says we should “do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14)

That’s not a suggestion. It’s a command.

Nobody wants to be around a whiner or complainer. It is wearisome, both mentally and emotionally, to listen to the constant grumblings of a perpetually unhappy person. It grates on the nerves.

So we’ve tried to train that out of our children while they’re still young. We want them to do their chores without any heavy sighs, rolled eyes or murmuring under their breath. (Don’t you wish some of your coworkers had learned these habits before they left home?)

We want our kids to work without whining. No stomping around with sullen expressions or slamming doors and drawers. No pitching fits.

Our Heavenly Father expects no less from us, as is repeatedly made clear in Scripture:

— “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’” (John 6:43)

— “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Colossians 3:23)

— “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do…” (Ephesians 6:7-8)

— “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14-15)

We want for our children what we want for ourselves. We want them to know and love and joyfully serve the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. We want them to glorify God in all they do and to be a blessing to every person who crosses their path.

That was our goal when our kids were little and still under our watch care. It’s our goal as they grow up and leave home. Sometimes they fall short in this goal, as have their parents before them.

But it remains our most consistent and earnest prayer. And the joy we’ve experienced as we’ve seen God answer that prayer far outweighs any difficulty we had during all those tedious years of training.

Jennifer Flanders is the joyful mother of 12 wonderful children, ages 8 to 31, who rarely throw temper tantrums these days and need only occasional reminders to do their chores without complaining. To read more from this author, please visit her blog

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