More Than Obedience

When children develop obedience, they learn to do a task without being reminded. They learn how to report back, do work they might rather not do, follow directions, and complete a job without being watched. They learn responsibility, a willingness to serve, and faithfulness to do a good job.


Doing what someone says, right away, without being reminded.

Honor also has several skills hidden within it. Having a good attitude, doing more than what’s expected, seeing what needs to be done and doing it without being asked, encouraging others, and contributing to a nurturing atmosphere – all are learned through honor.


Treating people as special, doing more than what’s expected, and having a good attitude.

Both obedience and honor are important. When children learn obedience and honor, they develop skills that will make them successful in life. If you want your children to fly straight, teach them obedience. If you want them to fly high, teach them honor.

When children obey, or do what’s right, they experience a feeling of satisfaction, a freedom from fear or being caught or punished. Doing what’s right enables a child to have a clear conscience. Some children don’t have that feeling of freedom. In fact, these children live with guilt because of disobedience.

Others experience a continual tension because they know in the back of their minds that there’s something they haven’t done that they should have. One girl we’ll call Shelly felt that her parents were always looking for more things for her to do. She didn’t have a feeling of freedom. It turned out, though, that Shelly had a problem completing tasks and doing what was asked. She didn’t make her bed or finish her homework, she left the bathroom a mess, and she forgot to practice her flute. These were all things she was supposed to do.

Shelly’s parents saw that she wasn’t obeying, but they realized that they were part of the problem. They hadn’t made their expectations clear. When both Shelly and her parents clarified expectations, and she did what they asked, she felt a freedom in her spirit that said, “I’ve completed what I needed to do.”

When we teach this concept to teens, we ask them to describe how they feel on Friday when school’s out and they have no homework for the weekend. They feel relief and freedom. It’s the same way you, as an adult, might feel on Friday afternoon when work is over and you don’t have to take projects home for the weekend. Children can feel that sense of freedom every day by obeying their parents and completing the work they’ve been asked to do.

Like Shelly’s parents, however, we have to be clear about what we expect from our children. One family made a project checklist for their sixteen-year-old son. At first, the son thought the list was childish. But it helped to clarify expectations for both the parents and the teen: “When you get these things checked off, you’re free.”

The teen quickly saw that he hadn’t been doing the things that his parents had asked him to do, but he now decided to work hard and get them done. Parents and son all experienced greater satisfaction and peace.

Sometimes children become frustrated because they’ve done what is expected, but their parents add more work without considering their plans or desires. It’s as if the reward for doing a good job is receiving more work. This makes learning obedience more difficult. Both children and parents benefit from clarifying the expectations up front.

Obedience requires submission on the part of a child. Words like submission and obedience often have a negative connotation in our culture because of some who have abused their authority. Abuse of authority is wrong, but its occurrence doesn’t justify disobedience.

Honor provides a foundation for children that sets them up to be happy, joyful, and to enjoy life. From the time children are very young, they need to learn what honor is, and why it’s important. Although obedience gets the job done, honor addresses how the job is done. Honor keeps the family running smoothly. It brings joy to the giver as well as well as to the receiver. But honoring others doesn’t come naturally. It needs to be taught.

Consider Wendy and her teenage son, Tom. Being a single mom, Wendy needed help around the house, and her fourteen-year-old son was certainly capable of doing some of the work.

“Tom, I’m frustrated about the chores you’re supposed to do.”

“What’s the problem? I do everything you tell me to do.”

“I know, but that’s just the point. I always have to tell you to do your chores.  I have to tell you when the trash is full and needs to be taken out. You leave messes around the house and expect me to clean them up – like dirty glasses and plates – and a sticky counter after your fix yourself a snack.”

Wendy was frustrated, but the problem wasn’t obedience. Tom was obeying. He was doing the jobs when Mom asked, but she wanted more than that. She felt as if she were being taken advantage of. Wendy realized that not only did the constant need for reminders bother her, but it also demonstrated an area of weakness in her son. Tom needed to learn honor.

Honor requires a shift in our thinking. It requires us to ask different questions about life. It means acting and talking in a manner that pleases others, even when they are not around. Honor teaches you to consider the needs of others, not just your own.

It took several weeks of teaching and illustrating honor before Tom really understood. Eventually, Wendy saw improvement at school and other situations outside the home. Over time, Tom caught a vision for honor at home as well. This resulted in joy for both Tom and his mother.