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Teaching Obedience

Lisa Barry: As a parent, we all want our children to be obedient. Where many of us part company though, is knowing just how much obedience should be expected and at what age. Today Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter Valerie Shepard talk about the issue of training obedience. I think you'll find a lot of good ideas from their time together. That's what's coming up next on this Thursday edition of Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking again today with my daughter Valerie Shepard. What's your subject today, Val?

Valerie Shepard: I think I'd like to talk about what our children need, both in us and what we need to be training them in order to be servants of the living God, in order to be training them for heaven rather than just training them for happiness on this earth.

Elisabeth Elliot: Does this mean that you have to be real spiritual when you talk to your kids all the time?

Valerie Shepard: No. I really believe in free, wonderful laughter over little things. I really believe in telling children silly stories just for enjoyment. So no, I don't feel like I have to be spiritual all the time.

I think one of the first things that a mother needs as she faces motherhood and as she goes on down the line having children, she needs to remind herself that because God has given her children, she is to cheerfully surrender herself to raising them. Proverbs 31 says that a good wife is one who smiles at the future, who works with her hands with delight, who rises while it is still night in order to prepare for the day, who stretches out her hands to the needy.

I think we can get caught in a guilt trap if we think the needy always have to be out there. The needy are most often with mothers of children under ten. The needy are the children who are right around our feet. They need us working with them and for them. So cheerful self-surrender is the first thing I think parents (and of course, since I'm a mother I'm thinking mostly of mothers) need. 1 John 3:16 says, "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another."

Mothers need to cheerfully face their responsibility of laying down their life for their children. That doesn't mean entertaining them all day. That means training them for righteousness, training them for servanthood, training them to keep themselves occupied at times during the day, to use their time wisely.

Elisabeth Elliot: I know people have asked you this question, and we need to have your answer again. How do you have any time for yourself? All this stuff about having to lay down your lives for your children; yes, we do that, but doesn't it get a little bit much at times? People want to know Val, is it possible to have eight children and have any time for yourself?

Valerie Shepard: First of all, a mother who has children under eight at home will always have someone needing her at some time of the day. But because I have four older children, five older children, who can pretty much do everything for themselves, I feel that there's lots of different times during the day when I have it for myself.

But my general priority and ethic here is that I am to give myself in cheerfulness to my family. Early morning for me is a time "for myself." I give it to the Lord; I also enjoy that time. I know that the Lord renews me and refreshes me and gives me preparation in my heart for the day.

Elisabeth Elliot: So time for yourself is really your time with the Lord primarily. That would be the most important portion of the day, which is time for yourself, because it is your time to communicate with the Lord.

Valerie Shepard: For me, the early morning time is time given, first of all, to the Lord. And then I have some time for myself, which means making a list for the day or organizing my desk or going for a walk. I thoroughly enjoy that preparation time for the day.

Elisabeth Elliot: Do you talk to the Lord while you're walking sometimes?

Valerie Shepard: Yes. I use that time to pray, unless I'm walking with my husband or my daughter, Christiana. But I'm not worried anymore. People would make me feel like I needed to worry about, "You're not getting any time for yourself." I used to think, "How would I? I don't have any time to do that, because the children are young and they are so demanding." But over the years, it's just slowly grown better and better that I have this regular early morning time.

I can expect my older children to baby-sit my younger ones, if my husband would like to take me out. We often go out on Saturday mornings. That's our time together. Sometimes we stay at home. We call it balcony time. We're on our balcony and we have coffee and we talk and we pray. The children know they're not to bother us during that time.

So for mothers who have only children under eight, I would say be encouraged that this time will pass when you are so demanded of all day long. But also, just keep seeking the Lord, asking Him what little time of the day you can give to reading His Word, to prayer and to preparing yourself to facing the children.

I know there have been times when I am so confused and feeling out of control that I've left my children in the kitchen, for example, at lunchtime in order to go up and get refreshed in my mind and heart by the Lord. That may be just five minutes. And of course, somebody will come find me if I disappear like that. But I have told them, "Sometimes Mama needs to have just a few minutes to think and to ask the Lord what I need to be doing." So that's time for myself.

I want to teach my children that during that quiet time, that I've mentioned before that we have in the afternoon after lunch, they need to know how to spend time alone. They don't have to have other people around to entertain them or to keep them company. They need to know that they need to talk to God, and they need to read His Word, and they need to learn to think about how their lives are going. Not to spend time in self-pity or analyzing every little thing that we're doing, but to simply seek the Lord and ask Him what He thinks of how we're doing, what we're doing with our time.

I think a second thing that a mother absolutely needs--and a father, too, absolutely needs--to understand and accept before they become parents and as they are parenting, they must teach obedience to their children. If they don't teach obedience to their children, then their children will grow up to be disobedient citizens of both the kingdom of God and of the country that they live in.

They need a mother and a father who speak the truth to them, who say, "If you do this, then this will happen." For example, with a young child, "If you touch that cord, you will be spanked." The truth is that you will give them a spanking. You don't give them threats, empty threats. So children need to hear that from their parents. They need to know that their parents' word is true.

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes. I remember being in an airport one time when a harried mother was carrying a baby and dragging a two-year-old, who was screaming his head off. She had several carry-on bags. I heard her say to this poor little screaming boy, "Do you see that trash can over there? If you don't shut up, I'm going to stick you in there." It was obvious that the little boy was used to those empty threats and it didn't make any difference at all.

Valerie Shepard: I am so thankful for the examples that my mother (that you) have been, and for Grandma Howard (your mother) have been to me. I used to talk to Grandma Howard when I was in high school about how to train children, because I knew at that time that I wanted to have a big family. She taught me how important it was to use a clear low voice, enunciating your words clearly, to speak slowly and firmly with the child. I know you've taught this in many of your talks that it is so important to get eye contact with the child. The child needs to see his mother seriously looking at him.

Elisabeth Elliot: He needs to hear his name spoken.

Valerie Shepard: He needs to hear his name. Absolutely. The gentle firmness that I remember you speaking to me with was a security to me. I knew that you meant what you said. It gave me confidence in your word and it also gave me confidence in the Lord's Word, because you simply and confidently told me that I was to expect a punishment if I behaved a certain way. You simply and confidently told me of the Lord's reality in your life, which made me want to believe and I did believe in the Lord from an early age.

I've always liked to think of your words as being sterling. They were never idle. They were never meaningless. You meant what you said. I find myself saying things to my children that I realize as soon as I've said them I don't really mean them, and it's wrong. So I have to still work at being clear and following through if I've told them that they will get a spanking for something or a punishment.

Elisabeth Elliot: I like what Barb Tompkins taught her children. "If you do this, you are choosing a spanking." If the child persists in doing the thing, which has been forbidden, then she very calmly takes the child on her lap and says, "Katie, I see that you have chosen a spanking. And now, I must give it to you because God says that I as the mother must teach you. You are my child." And she thereupon administers the spanking and reassures the child that she loves her. The children come to understand that the parent is serious. But I think it's an excellent idea to get across that very important principle, "You are the one that chose the spanking. If you do this, you are choosing a spanking."

Valerie Shepard: Because we do choose to disobey when we know what's right to do. The Lord says throughout the Old Testament that they went away from Him with their grumblings and their murmurings. When they came back to Him, they came back with repentance and with hearts that were aware of their sin. We need to get that across to our children that they're going to be wayward and they're going to be sheep, but the Lord wants to call them back to Himself continually.

Elisabeth Elliot: Thank you, Val, for being with me again today.

Valerie Shepard: You're welcome.

Lisa Barry: These programs have been so practical for me and it's made me realize how much I receive from Gateway To Joy year after year. The principles that Elisabeth gives have guided my decisions in many instances. I'll bet you could attest to the same thing in your own life. If this program is making a difference in your life I hope you'll make its financial needs a priority in your giving. When you pitch in with others in your area, then the operating budgets are covered for your station. There is no national funding corporation here; it's a listener-supported ministry. And we do need you. Here's our address:

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Tomorrow, Elisabeth wraps up this series on child training with an important message on what a mother needs to teach her children. That's coming up next time on Gateway To Joy.

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