They were toddlers at the time, so pulling out the dictionary for a 50-word, four-part definition wasn’t an option. In fact, I’d suggest that simple, clear explanations are better for older kids, too. So we landed on an easy-to-understand phrase that actually comes from the Hebrew meaning of “obey”: listen and do. And I set about directly teaching that definition to my kids.
To this day, I remember having them chant with me: “Obey means listen and do. Obey means listen and do.” As we said, “listen,” we touched our ears. When we said, “do,” we marched in a little circle with our hands outstretched. Then we interactively reviewed the definition several times a day for many days, and at random moments I began asking each girl, “What does obey mean?” When each could repeat the definition, actions included, without hesitation – and also tell it to me in the context of having to obey in a real situation – I knew they had it.
I also explained that both parts of the phrase are equally important. After all, if a child hears but doesn’t really stop to listen to a parent’s words – paying close attention – how can she follow through with the appropriate action? And, if he doesn’t actually do the requested task – in a very timely manner – there’s no evidence that he actually listened; therefore, he hasn’t obeyed, even if he intended to.
God told the Israelites that true obedience depends on both listening and doing. He was able to bless them when they complied. And I have found that principle to be true with my children. I am far from the perfect parent, and they’re not perfect kids. But, because I could help them understand obedience through direct instruction early on, they felt very secure about the expectations and have been able to consistently and willingly comply. As a result of that, our home has been blessed with peace.
Photo Credit: ERIC OEBANDA