I was 11 years old when my dog had her first puppies. I remember how thrilled I was to get to name them and raise them for my own. I got to keep one of the puppies and I named him Travis. Like any boy in the 60’s, I dreamed my dog would be super smart like Lassie on TV, or the German Shepherd, Rin Tin Tin, and my constant, faithful companion. I watched those shows every week and dreamed of living those adventures with my own dog Travis.
It was a sunny afternoon and I was out beside the house watering the new little trees I had helped my dad plant beside our house, in that now ghost town, in Iowa. Travis was about 7 months old and was standing there beside me. All of a sudden a large semi-truck came rushing by our house as they seldom ever obeyed the 30 mph speed limit. My dog Travis had a terrible habit, he loved to chase trucks. Suddenly, before I could do a thing, he dashed to the street, barking all the way, chasing that truck trying to nip at the wheels. I yelled and screamed, “Travis, Travis, get back here! Travis stop!” All to no avail as he simply would not obey my commands.
Out of nowhere, I heard a loud yelp and howling cry, and the truck disappeared down the road, revealing on the other side of the road, my dog, with his neck slashed open. He was still alive, but completely incapacitated, bleeding out, whimpering, dying right on the road. My heart was broken, and I began to cry. My father was gone at the time and I have a very difficult time with blood and guts. I was overwhelmed with sorrow and pain for my precious dog. By myself, I went to get a board to slide under him, and slowly drug his dying and soon lifeless body to our backfield where I dug a hole and buried him. One of my saddest days as a young boy.
I have reflected on this event countless times over the years. Why do you ask? For this profound reason. I realized to my shame, I did not teach my dog to obey me. I had failed to teach him the vital, life-giving concept of obedience to his master, to the one who knew what was best for him! This story, this terrible event I lived through, has been a powerful, ever-present reminder to me of the absolute importance of teaching my children to obey God, by teaching them first to obey mom and dad.
Dear fathers, did you know the great heart cry of God is, “O that they had such a heart in them that they would fear me always, and obey my commands”? Fathers, do you realize that this was the very same cry of the great I Am, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, who tell us in Matt. 28:20 to teach our disciples to obey all He commanded us!?
I could write page after page on this topic. I want to impress on us fathers, that we must intentionally, lovingly and wisely, teach our children to first obey our commands and our instructions for we are preparing them for their future obedience to God Himself. You see men, we must have a crystal clear vision of why we do what we do. We must grasp the spiritual realities that shape and guide our fathering and our decisions. The single greatest sin today of Christians is their open disobedience to God’s commands found in the Word of God. Millions of God’s children are suffering today the self-inflicted wounds of their own self-destructive behavior in the disobedience and defiance to God and his Word! In their moral decisions, in their marriages, in their life choices, in their daily habits and routines of life, in their attitudes and neglect of God and His word.
I realized that when I brought my first child home from the hospital, that God had given me stewardship of this precious, little life, person, and soul. I realized God wanted me to shape this precious child for Him, and His purposes, and that I needed to prepare them when they were young by lovingly, faithfully teaching them to obey my instructions and my commands for their own good, for their own spiritual, physical and emotional well being.
Every child is born with a sinful and foolish nature. Each of us desires to go our own way and to follow our own selfish desires. The child who is left to themselves, untrained and undisciplined, to simply do whatever they want or feel like, will end up just like my precious puppy. It will cost them in one form or another, their very lives. Fathers, this is no game we are playing here. This is about helping to save our children from their own self-destructive nature, the same one that resides in us, but has been brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ, as we have learned to obey Him. We have learned that God always wants our best. God is not a dictator, a tyrant, a pharaoh, who is simply on a power trip and wants a world of obedient subjects! We are God’s precious children, and He wants what is best for us. He knows, for example, it is best that we are not immoral people. He knows it is best for us to live in gratitude to Him, rather than grumble and complain all the time about everything, to the point we lose our emotional stability, and we are people who are filled with angst and no one wants to be around us. God knows it is best for us to seek Him and pray, lest we break mentally and emotionally under the weight of worry, and anxiety, and the griefs and sorrows of life. God knows it’s best for us to be kind to each other, rather than a selfish bully, mean and cruel.
When I began to follow Jesus Christ in 1975, I soon realized that I had sown many bad habits that would now have to be brought under God’s rule in my life. I am extremely thankful that God got a hold on my life and taught me that real Christianity was living in obedience to God’s word. Living in obedience to God’s word, saved me from a very self-destructive way of life that would have exploded over the last 43 years of my life and ruined my life, had I not learned to obey God’s commands.
It also made me realize how much easier many things would have been had I learned some simple, important lessons much earlier in my life. Especially how to say no to my passions, cravings, and selfish desires.
As I began to devour my Bible, as I realized I would soon be a first-time parent, as I studied my Bible and the book of Proverbs, I was amazed that there in that great book of Divine Wisdom, and Truth, were the very concepts and principles I would need to train my little ones and teach them to obey what their mommy and daddy ask them to do. I saw the higher, greater, more wonderful purpose in it all, rather than some mean, authoritarian, destructive, stern or abusive insistence on absolute obedience to dad, or else!
I saw the marvelous, loving plan of God, for my children’s present, future and life long good! This brought tremendous excitement, joy, and passion to my heart, and to my fathering. I was thrilled to get the chance to shape them, love them, train them, correct them, guide them, and teach them to obey all that Christ commanded us!
Fathers, I urge you to please read the book of Proverbs yourself, in the Living Bible, or New Living Translation, and ask God to show you, “Lord how should I train my children? Teach me your ways O God!”
I leave you with a couple simple thoughts and observations: how many times over the course of your life have you been in someone’s home who has a dog? Have you ever noticed how many people expect more obedience from their dog, and have a more well-trained dog than their own little children are?! I observed this through the years and thought, “Lord, that ought not to be. Help me train my little ones so they are a joy and delight to be around. Help me Lord to teach them to obey.”
1. When sitting in the high chair, don’t stand up or you can fall hard to the floor.
2. Don’t deliberately shove all your food off the high chair tray and onto the floor. Of course, all little kids do this by accident, from time to time.
3. When we call your name and say, “Tommy come here”, you need to come right now.
4. When we say, “Don’t hit your brother or sister we mean, don’t hit your brother or sister.”
5. We taught them to say please and thank you, at the appropriate age they could learn.
6. We taught them to be kind to each other, that they could not be mean or inconsiderate to their brother or sister.
7. We taught them to do what we ask them to do, with a good attitude.
1. In age-appropriate ways, clearly communicate with your child what you expect from them, and what you want them to do.
2. Clearly explain to your child why you want them to obey. Do not use the tired old cliche, “Because I told you to, or because I said so”. This exasperates a child.
3. Clearly communicate with your child what the consequences will be if they do not obey. Always follow through.
4. Be consistent with your guidelines and consequences. Do not make idle threats as they are not helpful to you or your child.
5. Do not yell and scream at your child to try to get them to comply or obey. Your anger will not bring about effective change. It will exasperate your child, and cause them eventual resentment. It will also train them that they don’t need to take you seriously until you lose your temper. Which in turn only causes you the parent, much greater stress and more anger.
6. Remember they are a child, they will need much patience. You will need to remind them often of the things you are trying to teach them.
7. Do your very best to correct them with tender firmness and not an angry or mean tone of voice. In your correction, strive always to be kind, not demeaning, humiliating, or bullying towards them.
8. If, as all parents do, you get upset or frustrated, or speak unkindly, or say hurtful things, do the upright thing, and humbly apologize and ask them to forgive you. Kneel down and look them in the eyes when you do this, or set them on your lap. This teaches your children by your example how to take responsibility for their wrongs and as they see you do this yourself, it gives them the opportunity to forgive you your wrong towards them, and it gives them a much greater respect for you. This, in turn, will cause them to love you more, and be more inclined to listen and respond to your correction in the future.
Here is a message I would encourage you to listen to: