First time obedience, really? Revisited and A Giveaway of Heartfelt Discipline!

My own children, (. 3 years ago!), on whom many philosophies of child discipline were practiced! And yet God’s grace covered our mistakes and they grew into healthy loving human beings by His grace!

I just wanted to tell all of you again just how much I appreciated your comments and emails in response to my questions. I will be printing it all out and try to figure out a plan for hitting as many subjects as I can.

However the next few days, I am going to be reposting some older discipline articles. The most common questions are about child discipline. I also want to promote the newest version of Heartfelt Discipline, which Clay finished a couple of months ago. It has been fully edited and has been rewritten in a number of places to give more clarity. I will also be giving away one copy each day of my discipline articles. So be sure to tell all of your friends about our giveaway and about Clay’s wonderful book. It will answer so many of your questions about Child Discipline, but from a discipleship perspective. I hope you enjoy these principles–I call them basic leadership principles. Let us know what you think.

And yet God’s grace covered our mistakes and they grew into healthy loving human beings by His grace!




Often, the subject of child discipline comes up as I am working with young parents. I do not have the time to answer all of my email or comments as I must stay focussed on my own family and I will not be able to answer all the questions this article will raise, so please understand my time limitations. But I do offer this as some of my own thoughts on childhood discipline and hope that in some way, it may be of encouragement. My blog below is a mish-mash of some of my thoughts–but hope you can make some sense of it!

A Need for Guidance

Well-meaning parents all over the world have tried throughout the centuries to try to figure out the right formula or wisdom to use in raising up a godly, responsible, emotionally and spiritually healthy child. It is right to desire to find a way to love, educate, train and discipline a child to help him become mature.

However, in our culture, so many young couples do not live around their parents, do not have good models of what a healthy family looks like, and so they look to “authorities” to find their answers–people who speak or write books. (Scary thought, since that is what Clay and I do!)

Formulas do not work!

 Most parents are looking for a formula–a one easy step guide to instantly raising up an obedient child, a one size fits all.

But, over the years, I have heard so many extreme talks about child training and I have also seen many young immature parents follow rigid, formulaic parenting philosophies and I have lived to see many children rebel, leave all the training of their parents and even turn their hearts away from God.

The parents wring their hands saying, “I don’t understand. I followed all the books and did it just like they said!”

Thinking Biblically

However, when we learn to think Biblically, we must learn to live by faith and in wisdom in the raising of our children. If God had wanted us to follow a formula, He would have given one and made it clear so that we could use the ten easy rules to pop out perfect children. But He made each person with a different personality, different maturity level, different ability.

Scripture is much more long term about maturity than we usually want to understand. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not fall away.”

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” A path of life parenting that allows for more and more light to show forth with each passing year.

In Hebrews we read about the mature and immature–about babes who are still drinking milk and not yet ready for solid food–and here the context is of a young Christian and a mature one–allowing for growth.

I tend to look at my children through this lens, “It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance.” Romans

An Issue of the Heart

First, we must understand that all discipline should be focussed on the heart–not the behavior. Over 800 times in scripture, God talks about the heart–Love the Lord with all of your heart. God searches to and fro for a heart that is completely his. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. and so on. And yet I see many extraverts being disciplined for being louder and more talkative (not rebellion–a personality issue–or boys for being boys–moms who want them to behave like a little lady, etc.)

But God is concerned with our desire to love and obey Him, he already knows we are immature and that we take time to understand His ways. Jesus was patient with Peter and said, “Satan has desired to sift you like wheat,” He predicted that Peter would fall–and Jesus was totally supportive of his disobedient, immature disciple—He said, “I have prayed for you, and after you have returned, strengthen the brethren.” In other words, “I know you will blow it, but I will be with you, I will pray for you, I will still use you.”

And so, when we discipline our children, we must learn to look at their hearts. Is their heart rebellious? Are they being willful? Am I expecting too much for them–their age, their level of over-stimulation, the circumstances, their maturity level, their abilities? A child should not be punished for being exhausted, immature, a boy, or for making a mistake. I make mistakes all the time, again and again. And yet scripture teaches in the new testament and the old that maturity is as a result of training, time, growth, heart and will.

Reading and understanding the way babies and children respond at different ages helped to inform my expectations. I remember that I read an article that said that the average 2 year old took between 30 seconds and a minute to have some messages sink in if they were engaged in their brain somewhere else. And so often,  Moms can be very strict with their children and  harsh when sometimes the child has not even understood yet just what he is doing wrong. Harshness does not win over a child. Neither does wanting a 2 year old to be more mature than he can be and so punishing him for being 2. We must use wisdom and discretion to understand the situation, the heart of a child, and how to best train him according to our wisdom, faith and training of the child. It is the kindness and mercy of God that leads to repentance. Child discipline should always be based on a relationship between a mature, benevolent, loving parent who is seeking to lead his child to maturity, to train his child to think in the direction of righteousness and to train his behavior little by little.

The mature parent should consider the state of the child, his emotional needs, physical needs before meting out harsh discipline.

Formulas like “First Time Obedience” do not necessarily reach the heart!

I was speaking at a conference once and the speaker before me was plying the audience with all sorts of guilt. This speaker said, “If you don’t require first time obedience every time from your children, then you are disobeying God and you will be responsible for losing your child’s heart and tempting him to rebel against God!” Many men in the audience cheered loudly and clapped. I could just see the harshness that would follow in their homes because a speaker had given them permission to be harsh and demanding, every time with children, without ever teaching these parents sympathy, wisdom, skill and understanding with their children, their ages, their paths of life.

But Really? Can you cite me verse and give context that says God always requires first time obedience without mercy? I am thankful that He is much more patient with me than that in my own life. I have made so many mistakes over the years and done such foolish things, and still He is there loving me, instructing me, showing me his compassion and gently leading me daily to better understand His holy and righteous standard for me. God reveals one issue of immaturity at a time and I learn slowly. He has never pointed out all of my weaknesses and disobedient attitudes at once–and if He did, I would be devastated.

There seems to be no exact Biblical evidence that this is a true “rule.” Of course I believe in training our children to obedience and to teach them to have the highest of standards, and often it meant training them to learn to obey us as we requested something of them, by training them to learn to respond to us and obeying quickly as they learned and matured.

 The reason Deuteronomy 6-8 talks about us speaking to our children morning, noon, night and presenting truth and the gospel to our children every moment of the day, is that training is to be a whole-life passing on of values and obedience and wisdom, a morning, noon and night—let’s live together in fellowship and relationship and you will see that I have your best in mind and I will teach and train you how to be mature, wise and excellent.

It is a process of love, consistency, patience, and repeating over and over and over and it takes many years for a child to become mature. Maturity and integrity are also issues of the heart and motivation that comes from responding to the teaching and instruction given in love and mutual respect.

Ignorance produces harshness

The unfortunate thing is that many parents, in the name of faithful discipline, do not understand the differences between babies or toddlers or young children or even teens with all of their hormones,  and they exhibit  anger and harshness toward  their children, act in a demeaning way, while neglecting the cues of the child at each stage. These parents  have no perspective for the children themselves–they use  a  rule and formula no matter what–and often wonder why their children to not respond to them.

But, this kind of one rule discipline neglects the child’s basic well being. If children are exhausted or overstimulated by television or other children, they are naturally more hostile or out of control. A wise parent will tend to his child’s need for rest, quiet, rhythm, balanced blood sugars and understand hormones or emotions, and personality. Often I see children disciplined for things the parent has neglected–their physical and emotional needs—when the child’s behavior is often a direct message to the parent of a basic need that has been neglected.

 Biblical discipline must take a long time to secure the heart–many years of constant loving training and instruction. We had very high standards for our children, but our discipline was always viewed through a lens of relationship as the strong basis of our discipleship of our children. Without a close relationship, discipline is quite unproductive.

A parent must live by faith, trust in God, wisdom, and patience. I spent many hours on my knees praying, seeking God, learning new ways of His parenting with me as I parented my children. It was a process of growing in wisdom. My children are all very different in personality and ability, and yet, by God’s grace, all have come to love us and do deeply love the Lord. But we had to raise each of them up in love, by faith and treat them according to their own personality bent. And the basis of our home was God’s unconditional love and grace.

Lack of Basic Knowledge

I have also observed often, lately, precious moms who do not even know how to treat little ones. I was walking down the hallway of a hotel several months ago in California and a sweet, very young, exhausted mom was exasperated and shaking her 4 month old baby, saying loudly, “Go to sleep, go to sleep!” At which point the exhausted baby cried louder and louder. The baby was her first child.

I offered to hold the baby for a few minutes and to give the mom a break. She quickly gave the baby to me. I held the baby tightly in my arms and held it against my cheek and gently rubbed its head while singing softly into his little ear, and swaying gently back and forth. Immediately the little one relaxed its stiff body and listened to my voice and within 5 minutes was soundly asleep.

She just had not been taught how to be gentle, affectionate, or personal. It scared me a little to think of the future of this little child.

I also observed that my very introverted, creative child took longer, even as a baby to focus on me. I learned to work with his personality and to get on his eye level, gently get his attention and clearly state what my expectations were. He was happy to comply, but he did not always hear me the  first time. (He now my absent-minded professor who composes music and still has a great heart to obey and to please me.)

My third son, I eventually learned, was adhd, and ocd and a few other letters. But being harsh never, never made his more mature or able to change his behavior. I learned that the more I poured into his life–affection, time, listening, talking, the more able he was to obey. I learned that if I was patient and gentle and helped him–holding his hand, using words of encouragement, gentleness, I could lead him in obedience.

My husband, Clay, wrote an excellent book, called Heartfelt Discipline and many have said that it changed their lives. It will be back in print next summer.

When babies are touched and loved and sung to and talked to and have regular routines and regular, healthy diets, they are much more happy all the time and responsive to instruction. However, when a child has not received these basic needs, the only means of a child letting his parents know he is not happy or comfortable with his life is to whine or cry. When I am around generally healthy children whose needs have been met, it is obvious because they seem more content with life. All children are immature and will misbehave, and pages and pages could be written about the subject, but these are just a few of my thoughts.

My last thoughts on this today and then I must run to my day. Jesus’  life is my example. There was a lost world because His children rebelled against Him–no first time obedience. But His love and compassion was so much a part of His character and being, He was compelled to come to save us. He fellowshipped with His disciples, loved them, listened to them, confronted them, corrected them, fed them, taught them, and laid down His life for them. Because of their relationship with Him, and their love for them, they were willing to lay down their life for Him and His kingdom.

His love compelled them–it was a long-term process, this one of securing their obedience and hearts, but their hearts wanted to please Him and obey Him because of what He had meant to them. And so I did write Ministry of Motherhood, reflections on Jesus’ method to secure the hearts of His twelve. It has been a study over many years. And today, from my quiet time, I am again humbled and blessed by His active, redeeming, sacrificial love that redeemed me.

His model to me as a parent, “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for his friend.”
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  1. says

    I working on a post for my blog about realistic expections for children. You touched on that here, and let me tell you what I think a big part of the problem is.

    TV and movies. Children, in TV and movies, especially young ones, are perfect. They are quite. They never fidget. They never throw a fit. They only spoke if spoken to. Of course the movie or TV set “home” is usually spotless. Children are always clean and well behaved.

    But how many times do they have to shoot that scene with the real child to get the appearance of the perfectly behaved child?

    Our society relies too heavily on fictional media and we no longer, as a society, can tell fiction from real life. And our poor children are paying the price with parents who have unrealistic expectations.

    And school is just as bad. The average 6 year old has a 15 minute attention span, but classes are much longer. Children need to run and play-but 1st graders are given a daily 20 minute recess….if they are good, if not, recess is taken away…

    It’s sad for our poor children! Great post!

    • brooke says

      Really? I rarely see this. In fact, one of my greatest complaints is that children on tv/movies are very poor examples of good role models. As are the parents. But then again, because of this … I don’t watch much in the way of tv/movies anymore. Has everything changed? Are the characters now all goody-two-shoes and unrelatable? In my experience it is the secular world that expects far too little of their children and certain pockets of Christianity do as Sally described – expect far too much. We fell into that trap for awhile with our children, I’m sad to say. And it’s taking awhile to break that pattern in our expectations.

      On the recess – yes – time and time again. But I also can’t imagine being the teacher and trying to find what actually works for a rambunctious boy. Other than homeschooling. Which is what we do. I read an article this morning in my paper about how much exercise children need. One woman was quoted as having observed middle schoolers let out to recess and they all plopped down in a line against the wall to play their Game Boys.

    • Connie says

      I agree with Brooke. I don’t know of a tv show that shows perfect children anymore. Maybe back when Leave it to Beaver was on. However these days, it is all disrespectful kids who disobey their parents. The only exception and only show my child can watch is 19 kids and counting. Their parents are trying to bring them up in the Lord and they show respect to everyone.

      Sonita, I do agree with you on the way schools treat children. It is sad so many are just acting normal but they are punished because they are not allowed to be who they are at that age.

      Sally you are an inspiration! I SO wish I had someone like you in my life that I could talk to and learn from. I am so glad God has called you to share your experiences and thoughts. I love the books I have read from you. Thank you for being a blessing!

  2. says

    Beautifully said…as a mother of one child out of the ‘nest’, and three still at home, I often struggle with guilt over things I wish I could have done better. I know I need God’s grace daily–how can I withhold grace from my own children? Love this–am linking to it from Facebook.

  3. says

    Sally, when my oldest was about 3 I discovered –and devoured– your first book. It changed the way I saw my son, my call as a mother, and of course as it changed my heart, it changed my methods. When my first was a newborn I took the classes based on the method you write about above, and although I’ve not used it on my other children, I wish I could take back those first 3 years and try again! “First time obedience” truly is its battle cry, and I’ve seen it used with such harshness and lack of understanding. I have used it with harshness and misunderstanding!! Doesn’t work so well on an active 2 year old boy :)

    I love your heart for mothering, and that you constantly champion the cause for knowing and understanding our children, looking at how God fathers us, and responding to our children in ways to reach the heart, rather than demanding perfection. I am SO thankful for you and your ministry–and, I believe, my children will be, too. Press on!!

  4. Erica Miller says

    Sally thank you for taking the time to explain what you meant by that statement. I am going to print this post. I am a 28 year old mom of 5 and have enjoyed reading your books over the past few years. Thank you for your ministry

  5. says

    The most wonderful thing happens when I parent from the point of grace…My children are, more often than not, quick to obey and their hearts are not turned in rebellion. How wonderful!

    Thank you, Sally and Clay, for being obedient to the Lord’s calling on your lives; for spending hours writing books, praying, bloging, putting together conferences, and all the while…nurturing your family unit. You are a radient beacon for those looking for Godly answers.

  6. says

    Thank you so much for writing this!!! I needed to hear it again. I have spent too long living in the mindset of that guy that was harsh and demanding and after I saw it in me…. it has been a real battle to get ME out of it… But God’s grace is filling and healing. :-)

  7. says

    Here’s my thought: our GOAL for our children is first-time obedience because that is God’s goal for us. Yes, God understands that we are weak and sinful; yes, he is long-suffering and patient; and we should be all those things with our children as well.

    On the other hand, how many chances did God give Eve in the garden? One. And she blew it. And the resulting consequences changed the entire world and plunged all of God’s creation into darkness. I think our children need to learn there are consequences to disobedience, and sometimes it comes right down to a matter of life and death.

    For example, my 2yo son last night was running across the parking lot. Both myself and my husband told him to stop but he did not obey. My husband caught him and spoke to him sternly but lovingly and showed him the dangers of the nearby street where cars were going by. He sobered and seemed to understand the danger he had put himself in, so we didn’t push it further. But our goal remains first-time obedience so that the next time he runs out into a parking lot, he’ll stop when we say stop.

    I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that obedience – first-time obedience – is central to our relationship with God, and just because He’s merciful when we disobey doesn’t mean He doesn’t want obedience. When it comes to the issue of obedience, I often think of King Saul and God, and how God said that to obey is better than to sacrifice. Saul suffered some pretty severe consequences throughout his life because of his disobedience.

    And furthermore, I think of all the things I put myself through when I disobey God and do my own thing. When I finally come to my senses, I think, “Why didn’t I listen to Him the first time?” Wouldn’t it be better to spare my children some of that?

    I completely understand that this goal of first-time obedience needs to be tempered by all the things you mentioned – understanding children’s abilities, maturity level, exhaustion, etc. I don’t think, though, that most other speakers and authors are attempting to completely exclude compassion, mercy and understanding of your child’s heart while still expecting first-time obedience. I don’t think of first-time obedience as a formula in and of itself that will produce perfect children, just a very important goal in child-rearing.

    • Sally says

      Good example–you are getting to the heart of the issue. Thank you for your comment and thanks for all the great interaction. My desire is to encourage, not to make anyone feel discouraged.

    • says

      This was exactly what I was thinking, and you said it much better than I could have. I have enjoyed some of the “first time obedience” books but see first-time obedience as a goal, not as a hard-fast uncompassionate rule. I don’t think the authors intended people to use these ideas harshly, but rather, as Sally pointed out, in our quest for “10 easy steps to parenting” we often take ideas and get legalistic with them.
      Thanks for a great article, Sally. We recently adopted a 7 year old boy and it has been CRAZY hard learning how to love and discipline. He had such a stressful early life that he is a mess, and being around him tends to make the older 3 bio boys a little stressed too. Dealing with him compassionately while trying to help him mature has been difficult. This post reminds me to be more and more gracious to him and patient :)

      • Karen says

        I also adopted an older child (he was only 4 1/2) and it is a challenging interplay of compassionate connection and drawing boundaries in an effort to give him security and a pattern of healthy behavior within our family culture.

      • Brenda says

        I too read this in light of parenting our adopted daughter (adopted at 3 1/2 and now she is 5 1/2). We are the 5th home she has been in during her short little life. It is always a balance between structure, boundaries and grace and at times I find myself getting frustrated with her impulsiveness, disobedience and willfulness. I am sure God feels the same way about me! Thank you, Sally, for reminding me once again that I need to focus on the relationship, on “being” there with her and teaching her about God, rather on just having a “yes ma’am” child.

    • Alethia says

      Anne is a wise woman! You also have to let you hubby set the tone of the home. If he wants first time obedience respect him and obey him as scripture says. Help him achieve it without getting flustered when its not working and you will minister peace to your authoritative husband, however if you try and “defend” your kids, he will be harsher and kids will get scared because of his extra harshness, your disrespect and the marital discord (scariest thing for a kid hands down). My Dad required first time obedience there were 5 of us plus foster kids and it was a great happy house. My mom was not naturally authoritative, she was softer but she let him set the tone and benefited from his authority. I don’t think she could have ministered to 8 children all those years without my Dad’s kind of leadership. You can have fruit of the Spirit like crazy and expect first time obedience, my parents did it. Three of my parents biological children are out of the house and all have very personal relationships with Jesus and Mom and Dad :) I am currently married and have two kids oldest is two. My hubby is less authoritative than me (he gives “chances”), but when I step into the situation and disrespect him in front of my daughter that is a lot worse for her than her “getting away with stuff.” Disrespect to Dad is a worse habit for her to pick up from me than for her to have a little inconsistency in expectations from her parents. In writing this I realize I need to make sure never to model disrespect (to hubby) as I am trying to teach obedience (to daughter). I actually find there is more fruit of the Spirit in me when I expect first time obedience from my daughter. When I wait till the 3rd time I am upset by then and frustrated. When I consistently expect her to obey the first time I find I never spank or even speak in anger or irritation. You can also read body language. It can be quite obvious if they are engrossed in something or hearing and choosing to disobey (slant of shoulders, cock of head etc.). I definitely agree with Sally it is not about the formula or the book you read it is about what you ARE. My parents were LOVING and HAPPY and most importantly they really liked us as people. Your kids respond to what you are not what you read. You can do someones method and your kids might still not like you, because they know deep down you don’t like them. “What do you think of your kids (or hubby), deep down that maybe you tell no one or maybe you tell everyone, want to know a secret?…Your kid (and husband) knows.”

    • Holly says

      Just a note, God may have only given Eve one chance, but at that point sin had not entered the world. What did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery? “Go and sin no more”. God does give second chances.

    • says

      Anne – exactly what I was thinking.

      I love this article for reminding me to have love and compassion, but first-time obedience is still my GOAL for my children. Learning to obey me well will (prayerfully!) result in them finding it easier to obey GOD well when they are no longer under my direction.

      In short, I my aim and desire is to teach my children first-time obedience, but to temper my discipline and teaching with all the love, compassion and understanding that each child requires individually, and in each individual situation.

  8. says

    Sally, this is a ton of wisdom poured out. Thank you for encouraging a non-formulaic approach–our children are not robots, they are flesh and blood, especially flesh, just like us. We are all in need of mercy, kindness, understand, in the midst of discipline. Trusting God with every step is key. Thank you for all you do to speak into the next generation of moms. :)

  9. Sally says

    I think that God’s goal for us is to have an obedient, submissive, loving heart that wants to please Him in everything. But I feel very strongly that God’s desire is for us to move to a heart of devotion for Him. First time obedience may be helpful for some parents in order for them to understand the necessity to be consistent, and to say what they mean and to help them to follow through with their children.

    Unfortunately, having been around the block for many, many years, I have rarely seen a speaker or writer who advocates this who does it in balance. There is this dependence on the method than upon God and His Holy Spirit to direct.

    Because of God’s grace, we often see a number of “philosophies” in parents that “produce” children who love God and have learned to obey. However, these children are almost always in a relationally healthy family.

    First time obedience makes a parent feel like a failure if their child doesn’t obey first time every time and so the parent fights rigorously for the behavior, the rule, of the first time obedience than on the heart, the inner development of the child, the maturity.

    But with so many busy, young, parents who had little family background, and few if any models, a rule can become law, and break a child’s will without the environment and understanding of healthy relationships.

    The focus for these messages is usually behavioralism and focusses much more on the rule and exactly what should be done, and how a child should respond and enforcing the rule, than on the child. It usually seems to be much more of a cookie cutter approach.

    To raise a mature child, whatever the philosophy, takes lots of time and intentionality–child discipline is rarely easy or quick. But raising a kingdom minded child takes a lifetime of instruction, modeling, loving, serving, correcting. The greatest work I will have ever done, I believe, is raising whole hearted children who love and understand and serve God. But it has taken my whole life, devoted to His ways, day in, day out.

    Cultivating in our children a heart of obedience, a steadfast love and devotion for God, a desire to be holy and unselfish and passionate about His kingdom is so very much more about discipleship and time invested than about rules, the Old Testament model.

    • says

      I loved what you said in this comment: “First time obedience may be helpful for some parents in order for them to understand the necessity to be consistent, and to say what they mean and to help them to follow through with their children.”

      I have recently been convicted about first-time obedience in my home for exactly the reasons you cited above. I’ve found this more about me and what I’m willing to put into the training process. It has been so much more pleasant to train them in HOW to obey rather than punishing them when they don’t. Sometimes I give a direction, but then am too lazy to get up and insure that my chilren follow thru. I think part of training them to obey right away, for me anyways, means I have to have a very hands-on, discipling relationship with my children that gently walks them thru this process of obedience.

      Although each is different, I’ve found that they all in general ‘want’ to obey. Sometimes they disobey out of defiance, but most times it is just immaturity that needs me to come along side them and help them walk in the way they should go.

      Thank you for this beautiful post. I’m inspired to keep seeking the Spirit’s guidance on reaching their heart and turning them towards the One who both asks for/expects our obedience and also {gently} helps us learn how to obey.

    • Heather says

      Thank you Sally for this post.

      I am a mother of two young children, with a third on the way, and I find that, not having a role model for the style of parenting I want to develop, I am struggling to figure this all out. I know that one thing I need to do very soon is seek out an older Christian mother from whom I can learn.

      I can relate to your comment that first-time obedience often makes parents feel like failures. I have felt this way as I’ve struggled to develop my own parenting philosophies. Wrapped up in this is also the feeling that people are judging us based on how well our children obey in public — especially when we know some people who are observing our children’s behaviour (I’m thinking particularly at church) do ascribe to very strict methods of parenting, which include first-time obedience (I am thinking of a specific method which is studied by some people I know that promotes corporal punishment immediately after disobedience so as to ‘train’ children to obey immediately). I believe that God is showing me that I need to become more confident in the approach to parenting that He is guiding me in so that I am not concerned about what others think of me based on how my children behave (this is much easier said than done and something that I am just beginning to work on).

      I have just started reading Charlotte Mason’s Homeschooling Series and the following quote really hit home with me, because I know that I have, at times, been more concerned with what others think of me as a parent than how my parenting is affecting my children’s hearts. I think it is somewhat relevant to this discussion.

      “So that it comes to this — given, a mother with liberal views on the subject of education, and she simply cannot help working her own views into her children’s habits; given, on the other hand, a mother whose final question is, ‘What will people say? what will people think? how will it look?’ and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not of being; they are content to appear well-dressed, well-mannered, and well-intentioned to outsiders, with very little effort after beauty, order, and goodness at home, and in each other’s eyes.”

      Thank you again Sally for your words of encouragement and wisdom.

    • says

      “But with so many busy, young, parents who had little family background, and few if any models, a rule can become law, and break a child’s will without the environment and understanding of healthy relationships.”

      I’m a 27-year-old mama of two, soon-to-be three, and have had to seek God for heart healing A LOT because of the way my parents raised me, which would be a-la-first-time obedience and the like. It was strange growing up, knowing I was loved, but not feeling very loved and often feeling more afraid than anything else. It translated into feeling mostly fear in reference to God, as well, rather than love. I know there were obviously more factors at play here than just a parenting philosophy — my parent’s sin, their marriage issues, their hearts that needed healing, and my extremely sensitive nature. However, I do think that this way of parenting has consequences in the teen years and adulthood, in the way we view relationships and God, that are under the surface, hard to detect, but still painful. I happen to be very self-aware and have been able to since articulate the reasons why, but I know there are more out there than just me.
      When my children were born and my mom began giving me advice on how to treat and raise them (or, more realistically, criticizing that I wasn’t being firm enough), I was shocked and had a sudden, startling realization: “If this is the way you parented me, no wonder I feel the way I feel now!”

      • Inneka says

        Jaime, that could have been me writing that. I was raised in exactly the same way. Knowing I was loved but not feeling loved, and feeling afraid. It has affected me in the same way as well, particularly my view of God. I often still struggle with the idea that God will only love and accept me if I am behaving myself, instead of accepting me and loving me as I am, and changing me to His image. Most of that came from my father–my mother was a wonderful mum, and my happiest growing-up memories are of times that my father was away on business. I also have chosen to raise my children in a different way than I was raised, and I thank God He has shown me a better way.

  10. says

    Great article, Sally. I agree as well with the previous commenter, Anne, though. She beautifully wrote what I’m thinking. How can we ignore the fact that God regularly only did allow one chance? He killed people for disobeying the first time. Isn’t there a balance in all of it?

  11. says

    This might explain what I mean more… Does it have to be one or the other? Can we not train our children to obey using mercy, grace, * and* discipline? And while I agree that there is no formula that will work with any child in every situation, a formula (i.e. plan of action) can be quite merciful to a child who needs to know what to expect.

  12. Sally says

    I agree that the goal for our obedience is to be mature, complete. And I loved what you both said about our goal is to secure our children’s immediate obedience. But, I still contend that it is a process of maturity, not a standard that can be enforced no matter what.

    I can imagine this sweet little boy getting out of church, excited about being out in the open and just running boldly toward the street. Most of our children have done this! The wise parent interfered with the foolish, not rebellious, behavior of the child and helped him to understand the importance of not running into the street. Hopefully this stern warning went deep into his little heart. But it was relational, instructive, a process of training and for little immature brains, this trains them in the way they should go in an appropriate way.

    I wanted my children to learn to listen to me and to follow me. We always cultivated in our children that there are consequences for choices: If you choose not to obey me, then you are choosing to be disciplined. But it was not always first time obedience, it was stopping them in their tracks, talking to them and giving them the choice that often took place when they were young, wee little things. Bit by bit.

    But we required a higher level of obedience the older they became. In other words, yes, we want our children to learn to obey us whenever we want them to do something, (though I do listen to my teens and let them reason with me as they are becoming mature adults) and I want to hear their perspective.)

    The requirements that some have stated were for adults. You can see that God disciplined Saul harshly, but it was not the first time he had compromised God’s desire. Even the fact that he was a king was a compromise to God.

    Most child discipline focusses on parents of babies, not adults and therein is the danger. An infant or toddler is not always aware of what is being expected. Many screaming toddlers are beyond sleep or overstimulated in a group of kids. The parent has pushed them beyond their limit.

    I think the Lord has a very high standard for obedience. (If you love me, obey me.) But I think that the training of a child to obedience is a heart issue, and takes time. I think that I learned most of what I know about parenting by God giving me children with very different personalities and some out of the box issues.

    I appreciate your wise and thought-through comments and find it very difficult to address the whole thing in just a few words. So thanks for the great comments.

    • Tricia says

      Thank you so much Sally, I completely agree with you and love your ability to put it into words. Discipline has been one of my biggest challenges as a mother because I didn’t get disciplined much growing up. I knew that I wanted to discipline my children but I really have not had peace about a lot of the “Christian methods” and they just haven’t worked. My husband has a very black and white view of discipline, however he has always been very open to learning and trying to find something that I do have peace about, but I have not been able to put it into words. I am currently reading Desperate and last night I read parts of “Formulas Don’t Always Work” and we talked about the chapter “Oh Right, There’s Sin” and he totally got it and agreed! Thanks so much! On a side note I will say my husband was a “first-time-obey-er” but he has discovered about himself as an adult that he has always obeyed out of fear of consequence and not out of love, which is why when he has rebelled it was always in secret. We don’t want that to happen with our kids.

  13. Sally says

    I agree, Melissa, we always said, “HIgh love, high discipline.” Well put!
    And I loved what you said, about children needing to know what to expect. A child is often disciplined for something he did not know he was doing wrong.

    Training includes instruction before discipline.
    It is a both and situation. Thanks for the clarification.

  14. Lori Thilsted says

    My little one is about to be 1 year old. The part on the exasperated mother telling her baby go to sleep to me doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to handle her child. I nurture and sing to my baby. When my husband and I have been out travelling my method is a little different. I have been this mother telling her baby to go to sleep.. Not because I can’t handle my child but because just need help. I have dealt with her all day and need a break. My patience has worn thin. Staying in a hotel I also feel the pressure of getting her quiet for the other residents sake. I don’t believe that I’m a bad mother but every parent has their days. People tell me all the time my baby is one of the happiest babies they have seen. I believe it’s because I sit down and play with her read to her and sing to her, take her for walks and to swing in the park.. She doesn’t spend hours in front of the TV
    She knows I adore her and because of that she is learning already at her young age what it means to obey.
    Case in point. I have a pile of cords sitting by my computer desk here. We have tried to move them but there is nowhere else they can be moved, because even with an extention cord the cords are short. She constantly goes for it. She is very little at 11 months doesn’t understand that if played with incorrectly it can kill her. Recently she was going for the cords and I calmly told her no. That she would get hurt if she played with them. She waited a while then went for it again. I tried moving her somewhere else and she crawled back over and started playing with them again. This happend 4 or 5 times and she wasn’t getting the message. When she went for it again I looked at her I said “NO.” I gently slapped the back of her hand. She gave me a adorable pout but without crying. I picked her up told her I loved her and that it would hurt her if she played with it. She went to play with something else. She has went for it since then but when I tell her no she goes to something else.

    She is going through the everything goes in my mouth stage. Most kids just put things in their mouths and don’t get me wrong she does as well. I have been telling her don’t put it in your mouth. After I have told her that 2 or 3 times I take the item away. She has learned that she can’t put things in her mouth once I tell her not to. Now she just sits there playing with it in her hand.

    • Sally says

      I think all moms have been ready for their little ones to go to sleep. I do not want anyone to feel guilty for feeling a desire for these little ones to please just go to sleep.One of mine didn’t sleep through the night until 4 because of an internal digestive problem and it was so very demanding for me as the mother of 3. So I do understand your heart and do not want any moms to feel discouraged because of my words.

      However, the young woman was shaking her baby in a violent way. She was out of control. I was just concerned that she did not even know the consequences of treating her baby in such a rough manner. Shaking a baby can have consequences on the brain. I think it would be better to put a baby in a crib and let it cry than to take out anger on it. Motherhood can certainly be filled with frustrating moments, but sweet young moms are often not helped or trained in how to take care of a baby. This mom told me that she had never wanted this child to begin with, and so her attitude was spilling over to the baby.
      It sounds like you are a great mom and your daughter is blessed for knowing your love and diligence with her.

  15. says

    We were posting at the same time, I think. :) Loved what you said at 7:41 and didn’t mean to appear to be arguing with that! Thanks for taking the time to expound a bit more.

    • Sally says

      I loved your comment and think it helped clarify. I just added to my post at the end because of a quiet time I had this morning–Him–coming, loving, serving, patient, wonderful Jesus. Have a great day and know I love interaction.

  16. Ingrid says

    Thank you so much for writing all of this. I have never heard of you until recently. I follow Courtney’s blog. I have 3 silly, energetic boys who are 10, 9 and almost 5. My early years of parenting were SO hard because of formulas and wrong expectations. I have some dear family that highly praise some books that I just don’t think are right. There are good ideas within them but as a whole the expectations of children and parents are too much! I really wish I could turn back the clock 10 years and start over but I can’t. I think Satan uses those “ideals” to tell me I am doing things wrong. It really is a struggle. I would love to have perfectly obedient children who sit still but that is not reality. Please keep getting these ideas out to young moms. I so wish I had this encouragement several years ago.

  17. says

    Sally I have to disagree. It seems to me you are advocating NOT teaching 1st time obedience and getting more strict as they grow. THIS is what turns children away!

    The younger they are the MORE they need you and the older they get the more the balance should shift from YOUR guidance to GOD’S guidance. The biggest problem arises with the wrong definition of discipline. Discipline is NOT punishment. Discipline is the ability to control your actions, thoughts, words, body, and mind. You provide them the knowledge and ability to do these things. To discipline a child means to GUIDE them. Punishment is a consequence of failure to discipline yourself and as such should be reserved for deliberate refusal and defiance from someone who is ABLE to self-discipline. When you understand these definitions you are better able to understand the difference between teaching discipline and punishing disobedience.

    God requires first time obedience. It’s a parent’s job to train them up the way they should go and 1st time obedience is integral to this. What makes it difficult in showing this to new parents who have not experienced it is the depth of this! Discipline ISN’T something you can just sum up in a blog because it’s HUGE! And it changes every YEAR every MONTH every WEEK as your child grows. It creeps into EVERY aspect of life because EVERY moment is an opportunity to further this goal. You can’t teach a Godly heart to an unGodly person. If the purpose of your discipline is to train your child to obey YOU then you must use EARTHLY methods. If the purpose of your discipline is to train your child to obey GOD then you have Presence within them and within yourself. If you listen God TOLD you what to do. He said to train them the way they should go AND that he expects Immediate obedience with a willing heart.

    When your children are babies you begin teaching them discipline at the breast with a smile and gentle word as they scream to be picked up NOW while you are helping another child. When they are toddlers you are teaching them discipline when you tell them firmly that it’s not ok to poke the dog in the eye and remove the dog from his grasp. You teach immediate obedience when you say it’s time to leave and do so promptly. When they are 3+ you teach them discipline by creating good habits of brushing your teeth every morning. You teach immediate obedience when you tell them to pick up their toys and begin doing it with them promptly. You protect them from the natural consequences of not doing this by doing it with them. When they have been given the knowledge for the tasks before them the natural consequences should be permitted to run their course. If you delay in picking up the toys there will not be time for a snack or a book or a trip to the playground. When you teach a child to say grace before meals you are teaching them discipline. When you tell a child it’s time to say grace it’s immediate obedience.

    You teach immediate obedience when you tell them what to do. You teach discipline when you require them to do it without instruction. The 2 are intertwined but not the same. As they grow they should be taking on more self-discipline so the lessons are changing. As they learn one discipline you no longer have as many occasions requiring immediate obedience. When they’ve learned that we say grace before eating you no longer need to tell them to say grace. By the time they reach their teens (if they’ve been raised this way) the shift is changing now to obedience to GOD, not me.My role as parent to my teens now is shifting from instructor to guide. I know that my oldest child has the knowledge and the ability. Now it’s time to let him test it. While he’s protected from the worst consequences. So when he is off on his own it is as natural to him as breathing.

    When children break away it’s because they felt they HAD to break away. These things must be taught early enough that when they start feeling like they are ready to shift their focus and move on they are prepared and you can LET THEM shift with a happy heart trusting them to follow God. Immediately. If you wait until they’re 18 to let them test their wings of course they’ll flee. God demands it! Our children are ours to RAISE but they belong to HIM! And if you fail to teach them to hear God how will they be able to follow Him when it’s time?

    • Sally says

      Grace and peace to you–this is not what I am teaching, but am glad you are free to express yourself here. You make a lot of good points. I will off to my busy day and let the Lord have His way in all of the communication. May He bless you and your sweet ones and continue to give you a heart for them.

      • Heather says

        It’s so hard to put the right words to accurately or fully explain things like this sufficiently. It seems I got so long winded yet neglected to ask an important question.

        When you say immediate obedience does not reach the heart and does not work…. to what extent do you believe it is required? I think what bothers me is the portrayal that immediate obedience automatically presumes a parent would order their children about in everything they do with swift punishment for any delay or mistake. A tyrant wielding a heavy strap. I do expect immediate obedience. However, I can count on 1 hand the times any of my 7 children have been physically punished. We teach immediate obedience with a light hand and a big heart.

        Thank you for allowing me to add my 2 cents. I just wanted to show a difference between the apparent tyrant wielding a heavy strap and our training without one.

      • says

        I could be reading into Sally’s thoughts wrong, but I actually don’t think you guys are all that far apart. I’ve seen countless parents (and have felt huge pressure myself to) demand first-time obedience by giving a request and then following up quickly with physical discipline if the child doesn’t step right up and perform.

        What you described is different in that you are coming alongside children and helping them to do what is expected. The difference here is relationship. This kind of parenting takes a lot more work and it is a process instead of one that bears instant results, which some parenting philosopies tend to promise by rapid discipline for lack of first-time obedience.

        With a younger child it will take a VERY hands-on approach as you ‘train’ them on how to obey. As a child gets older and more mature, they will be capable (both from age maturity and because of faithful training) to have immediate responses to parental instruction. When I read Sally’s comments on her getting stricter as her kids get older, this is what I though of when she said that…

        As I am on the end of having younger children, I appreciated your comments, Heather, as I am seeking to come alongside my children and train them in the way they should go…

      • Heather says

        I had to come back to this. Even after a month it still bothers me. And I believe the reason why after reading all the comments here is that people seem to think that ‘first time obedience’ means beating your children into submission. That bothers me.

        I’m not a new mom. I’ve been raising children for 23 years. I don’t believe any of my children could count the number of spankings they’ve received on more than 1 hand. Some of them have NEVER been spanked. But they all have learned or are learning first time obedience. With love, grace, and guidance. Not a whip.

        Teaching first time obedience does NOT mean beat your children every time they make a mistake or fail to respond appropriately. It does NOT mean display your ‘power’ at every opportunity. It simply means to show them the way and correct them when needed in the way that is most appropriate for that child. And it IS possible. Not the first time. And probably not the second or even the 10th time showing them. But consistency pays and in the end you find you have raised a young man or woman who is ready to face God and answer YES, I will follow.

        My next to strike out on his own is 16 this year. At this point I don’t NEED to tell him what to do. I am now a guide for him as he tests his wings and the backup when he slides. Parents ARE God’s mercy while they are training. When he’s ready to go I know he’ll seek a higher wisdom and guidance. Because that’s what we’ve taught our children.

        I’m sorry. I just wanted to clarify that because the perceptions I see here of ‘first time obedience’ are NOT what I see as training for first time obedience. And spanking a 9 month old for standing is just insane. I don’t want people to think that I follow anything that recommends spanking a 2 year old repeatedly for any infraction no matter what the cause. It’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure the demands on a child are on a level of understanding that matches the abilities of the child.

    • Tricia says

      So this is a very late reply, but I just wanted to say your talking about teaching your child to obey the first time that to me says that they do not obey the first time until you have taught them and they are getting older. You said “Not the first time. And probably not the second or even the 10th time showing them. ” Some people would tell you that that is not “First-time-obedience” I have read several Christian books in which I was told to spank an 18month old if they did not obey the first time, period, those books would not agree that you demand first-time-obedience if you are not spanking them after the first mistake and if you are still showing them after 10 times. Sally seams to me to be saying the same thing as you, only you call it first-time-obedience and she doesn’t.

  18. says

    Thank you so much for this post. We as parents do need grace, understanding, and patience to work with our children. They teach me so much about myself and my sinful nature I am astounded that God puts up with me. ;)

    I also agree that first time obedience does not get at the heart of why we discipline. We discipline to help shape hearts. However I would ask you to consider that there are times that God asks for first time obedience and does not offer mercy.

    Leviticus 10:1-2
    1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

    We must remember God knows these men and their hearts through and through. I think as parents if we are studying our kids’ hearts we will know when it is appropriate to not show mercy and when it is appropriate to show mercy. We can tell when first time obedience is broken because of a heart issue or just because the child is not mature enough. However we can only do that if we become educated and schooled in our children. That means we are involved in their lives, we play with them and watch them play. We ask God to give us insights into their hearts. We ask them to tell us about their hearts. Honestly it takes time. Some days I want to say I don’t have time, but in honesty my children are more important than schedules or activities or even getting to school on time.

    Thank you for the reminder that each child needs to be parented as his or her personality, health, maturity, etc. Beyond that each child needs love!

    Blessings to you!

    • Andrea says

      I think, for me, the connection between 1st time obedience in the Bible and requiring it for our children is that God is requiring this obedience from adults, not children. To require it from children is just developmentally ignorant.

  19. Cari says

    I love your post, except for one thing: the “boys will be boys” mentality. I have three girls. My husband’s sister has 4 boys. They have this same “boys will be boys” mentality and it always is so unfair to the girls! You said “A child should not be punished for being exhausted, immature, A BOY (I added the emphasis), or for making a mistake.” What about girls? A CHILD should not be punished or not punished because of their gender! My girls can be just as rowdy as the boys! But am I to punish them for their rowdiness when the boys get a “wild card” for the same behavior?

    As an example, last year, my husband graduated from USAF Officer Training. My sister-in-law brought her 4 boys, ages 7-3yr, with her and her husband to the ceremony. My mother-in-law and her husband also came. My husband’s commander, who is a father of 5, saw that the kids were getting restless so sent us up to an empty classroom with CC TV so the adults could watch the ceremony and the kids could be free to be out of their chairs and play. It was after lunch, they were sugared up (fast food was all we had time for) and ready for a nap..bad combination for them! My girls, then 9, 5, and 1 and the two oldest boys, then 7 and 5, were in the room with me, my MIL and her husband. They were ALL rowdy but they were listening to instruction to not be overly so. My MIL’s husband, who never had children of his own and is never around the kids for very long, decided he had had enough and yelled at everyone to sit down. My 5 yr old was standing at the table playing a game of tic-tac-toe with my MIL and he thought she was deliberately disobeying him. He violently picked her up and when I told him to put her down, he slammed her to the floor and proceeded to cross the room and shove me.

    His “boys will be boys” mentality came to a head. Though the boys were actually being more rowdy than my girls, and one of the boys was still running crazy when he yelled at them to sit and my 5 yr old girl was quietly playing tic-tac-toe with an adult, he chose her because she was being “disobedient” and not the boy because he is a boy and is allowed to be rowdier.

    I know boys are different, but it is so unfair, to both boys and girls, to expect more from girls just because they are girls. This “boys will be boys” mentality follows both genders through their lifetimes. Boys are allowed to sleep around and they are a “stud”, girls are “sluts” if they sleep with one guy. Girls are to be careful how they act and dress so as not to tempt a man, but a man doesn’t have to take any responsibility for his lustful thoughts–it’s the girl’s fault. I would expect my son to treat a lady with respect and teach him that he has a choice to look away to control his own lustful thoughts, just as I am teaching my girls about modesty and purity.

    The Bible calls ALL children to obey their parents and calls us to train ALL children in His way and Word. He doesn’t give boys a free wild card because He made them boys. Boys should be raised to be gentlemen, girls like ladies.

    • Sally says

      Sorry if I miscommunicated–one cannot say everything in one little post. I could have said not to punish girls for being girls–just trying to say that each is different. All need discipline–but one of my boys was more naturally “civilized”, mannerly, easy to obey and the other one was more verbal, more extraverted, more active, but they each responded to different discipline. One obeyed but whined and the other did his own thing. So we worked on attitudes differently.
      But your situation must have been terrible to go through. I am so very sorry it happened. I can only imagine how you felt. Good points. Thanks for posting.

      • Cari says

        I understand. :) I wasn’t necessarily offended, but just wanted to point out that girls can be just as rowdy. I am a mom of girls. I have worked in a preschool setting and have taken care of boys, but never parented them. I understand that boys are different.

        I am going to go look for your books. I did enjoy your post!

        And Heather, YES that man is abusive. (He is not my FIL, though, thank God! My FIL is a very sweet man! He is my husband’s step-father). We rarely saw him before the incident (maybe once or twice a year, if that) and now we won’t ever see him again. I will not subject my children to that kind of abuse. My daughter is terrified of the guy now. My husband was livid. It took him two months to make the phone call to him to let him know that it would never happen again. And his step-father basically yelled at him the same things he yelled at me and my kids as we left that room sobbing and shaking. He told him that I was a lousy mother and my kids were horrible, etc. Made my husband that much madder and he flat out told the man that he wouldn’t have to worry about seeing his family again, that he wasn’t allowed near us anymore.

        I don’t have a son, but I have cared for boys and do know they are different–they are ALWAYS on the go! My husband was one of the boys singled out in the classroom for many years.

    • Heather says


      I think your FIL was being borderline abusive. He chose your daughter rather than the running boy because she was the easiest victim. I do think that if you don’t have a son, it is hard to understand the constant movement, the laughter, the wrestling and the fistfights that can go along with that. I’ve seen MANY teachers single out boys for “disobedience” when they were not developmentally ready for the behavior demands place on them in a classroom.

      Children should not be punished for being children. In my mind, that is the essence of the whole thing.

  20. says

    Thanks, Sally, for writing out what you have lived. Reading your post was so reminiscent of the way Edith Schaeffer sought to encourage and transparently show women (and men!) how to love their families, even in our imperfection!! Well done, dear friend!!!

    • Carla says

      I was wondering if there was a particular book or books that Mrs. Schaeffer wrote that you, Diana and Sally, were referring to in your comments? I have What Is A Family, but never finished it. Thank you!

  21. says

    Sally, my kiddos are now 21, 15 and 12… so alot of my child training days are over but i agree with your thoughts. I have a beautful, Jesus-loving 21 yr old daughter who is recently married and has her first son ( ) I am very proud of how I have raised her (w/ God’s help) and how i am raising my other two. I have never ‘required’ first time obedience- yet i have disciplined and made sure that God’s word was what sets the tone in how and why we do things. They are very familiar with writing many Bible verses down- according to what their offense is- not for the sake of writing, but for the sake of getting to know what God’s word says about a certain situation :) Honestly, for anyone who questions your own approach, i think your children and family speaks a thousands words. Many of the women who want to argue still have small children and are still in the process of learning to parent. You have already raised your own family (for the most part, I know Joy is still at home, i believe :) Your family is all the evidence I need, or anyone needs to show that relationship and grace in parenting is so very important. Thank you for BEING a good example to us all and for BEING the message.

    Blessings, Chanin

    • Sally says

      what a gracious response and so nice to know you do understand the perspective after raising a brood. I had to laugh at your Bible verse comment! Mine learned so many of their verses by heart by doing the same thing! Brings back fun memories. And yes, it is a blessing to be at this point. You are so sweet with your words of encouragement. Thanks for this and may He continue to bless each of your sweet ones. I am so very happy your 21 year old is repeating the cycle. Blessings upon blessings to you today. And thanks so much for writing.

  22. says

    Tears filled my eyes as I read, was challenged, and encouraged through your words of wisdom here. I have heard the “first time obedience” thing so many times and yet I continue to sense the Lord wanting to teach me the way of gentleness and grace with my children (which includes teaching them to be obedient), instead of the “I am in control” harshness that can easily come across if one is always concerned about “first time obedience” instead of considering many other factors as you mentioned. Thank you for sharing this, Sally. I have three young ones whom I desire so much to see grow in ways of the Lord . . .

  23. Tammie says

    Sally, I loved this post. It was the most beautiful concise article on parenting that I have read. I agree with what you have said completely. Just the other day I was thinking that I don’t want comments of my children to be that they behave so well but that people can see GOD working in them. If the latter is exhibited then they will “behave so well”. I believe that it does come to the heart, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. In the other stories like Saul God knew his heart. Thank you so much for mentoring me through your books and blog and conference that I was able to attend last year in Dallas. (Missed this year because we were blessed with a newborn son!) May God bless you and your family.

  24. says

    How blessed I feel to be mentored by you Sally as I walk in His ways with my 3 boys (11, 9, 8). Thank you for stepping out and pouring out your heart for all of us. I have definitely reaped the benefit of your going before me. Thank you and God bless you today!

  25. Autumn says

    Sally, I want to thank you and your husband and family for being an amazing Godly example for so many other families. I have read several of your books and am currently reading Clay’s book, Heartfelt Discipline. As I tell my husband, these books have been instruments in “setting me free” from parenting philosophies that I was introduced to when we first began having children. Thankfully our children are still young, two girls, 4 and one, and a third baby on the way. The Lord is gracious and I feel so blessed to have been led to you and your ministry. I am most grateful that in all of your books and blogs, you point us straight to Jesus. It’s all about Him and how easy that was to lose sight of when I was relying on a formula. I am so thankful that He led me back to Him and I am so thankful that you continue to point us all in the way that will allow us to walk in His grace. The Lord is using your family mightily! Blessings to all of you!

  26. Sally says

    Thanks so much for all of your comments. Wonderful to see the convictions growing and wisdom being shared. I especially appreciate the kind words of all of you who have walked with us through our books and have the heart of our philosophy. Your encouragement to me today has been heart-felt and wonderful.
    I have found everyone here to be a great thinker and want to thank you for the input. I promised myself and my children that I would not spend much time on commenting as I have a pretty full life.

    As to requirements of children at an early age, I consider that the moment I receive a precious baby into my arms, I am training, loving, giving all sorts of patterns in the brain of what God is like–attentive, affectionate, responsive, generous, loving and so on. And so I pretty much had my babes with me all of the time and talked to them and loved on them and nursed them, in the midst of life with all the others. But, I rarely required first time obedience of these precious young ones, as they were dependent, exploring, responding, and so we would give instruction, bring them along the path, speak to them, and lead them. However, when they were old enough to engage in verbal interaction, we would give a reasonable request and then be sure the request was understood, and make sure they knew that there would be some sort of consequences, and then followed through. So we required a verbal 2 year old more responsibility in their behavior than a toddler. Unfortunately, I have seen mommies spanking their 9 month olds because they stood up in bed and it was considered rebellion.

    I cannot cover every aspect or every possible age, but hope that some of my broad strokes have made some sense. Bottom line, discipline should be relational and as one of the last commenters said, it takes lots of time, follow through, and energy. It is also an act of love primarily focussed on the heart, the inner attitudes of children, to train them in the way and ways they should go–to wisely lead and guide them, so that they will be familiar with paths of wisdom and know how to stay on the paths.
    Grace and peace to you all and joy and beauty in your families. I am off to my other sweet people in my life who still need me all the time.
    And I thank each of you for coming by!

  27. says

    First – loved the article

    I read a few of the comments and a thought came to mind – it is not so much “First Time Obedience”, but having the relationship and wisdom to know if it requires the discipline of “First Time Direct Disobedience”. Only the mom knows of she got attitude, directed out of disrespect, or attitude directed at being sad to stop a game or stop a tv show. The difference between getting distracted walking through a room on the way to a task, or find ways to get out of the task. Relationship – comes first.

    I like the Mercy and Grace – it is the answer when I ask the Lord how to deal with my crazy 2n’d son. i try to take a breath – and remember he is not doing something “to me”. His forgetfulness isn’t personal. I like what you said – Give him the same mercy and grace that I would want granted to me.

    I find, with m boys, that they are usually just boys – young children, still needing to develop skills, than bad disobedient slackers. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  28. Melissa H says

    Initially, I asked for divine guidance for years, since our first child was born. I spent all these initial years searching and reading about homeschooling. Thinking about, is this the path? What is the best style, a curriculum, the socialization, and all those distracting factors. And yes, God gave us as an answer, a total transformation, mostly on me.

    Then, I came across your name and you words touched my soul and are gently guiding me towards the true purposes of the Lord in our family

    I am devoring your books, and lamenting not being able to attend the conference in NC next March 4, which by coincidence will be my birthday.

    But how generous with your posts. When I read your words it is like immersing into your eyes and being able to see the world and motherhood the way you see it.

    Sally please, do not stop this labor of love.

    I know I will have the honor to met you personally at some point.

  29. Jen says

    Hi Sally,
    Thanks for this post! I’m slowly working my way through your books (don’t have a lot of time to read with a 4-month old). Looking forward to the reprint of “Heartfelt Discipline”! :)
    You mentioned that when your children were little, you read a lot to find out how they were made, how their brains worked and how they developed and so forth. Do you have any suggestions for books or web resources for that kind of practical information? I would really like to grow in knowledge in this area–most of the time I feel so ignorant! But I don’t know a good place to start… Suggestions?
    Thanks, and God bless you and your lovely family!

  30. says

    Thanks for this great article! I’ve been “following” you for a while and recently got your “Mission of Motherhood” which rang in my heart so beautiful. I love your heart for motherhood and your example. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us younger moms!

  31. says

    I could just kiss you after reading this refreshing post. Thank you for being a constant source of “wind in my sails”. Your words help me to receive God’s grace for me, and to extend God’s love for my beloved family. Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

  32. Lisa says

    Thank you Sally for sharing yr wisdom & speaks to my heart in ways I cannot explain. It’s HIS way I need 2 follow not ‘the Formula’. I thank God for the ladies that God has brought into my life to guide me to u. What a blessing yr ministry is! Thanks!

  33. Acrophile says

    So many times Christian parents think you can’t do “gentle parenting” and be true to Christian faith (especially *Biblical* Christian faith) because of that Proverb “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I have never been able to resolve this in my mind. It sticks into me like a thorn in my shoe. It seems contradictory. The verses you cite in this article make perfect sense as does your practice of them in parenting, yet are starkly contradicted by that one meddlesome verse in Proverbs. Won’t someone (you?) please tell me how this can possibly work? Personally, I pushed the Proverb to the back burner in a pan marked “to be dealt with whenever good argument (other than ‘it’s in the Bible so do it’) can be presented”. Help!

    • says

      I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure that “spare the rod, spoil the child” isn’t actually in the Bible. It’s a man-made proverb. There are other “rod” scriptures in proverbs but I see these how they were supposed to be understood: a metaphor to get across a principle. The proverbs are just that, proverbs, wise sayings. To take them all “literally” is rather silly and you’d really have to be inconsistent. One proverb says that a deceitful man’s bread turns into gravel in his mouth. Who in their right mind thinks this is literal gravel? Does a foolish woman literally tear down her literal house with her hands? Do blind people really fall into an actual pit? See what I’m saying? So for me, all the verses that talk about disciplining your children with rods in the proverbs are saying just that….that he who loves his children will discipline them. That’s all. A metaphor to get across a greater truth.

      • Angela says

        The word rod, in this case, is a metaphor for the scriptures. The rod which we cling to and which steadies us in our lives is the Word of God. If you were to spare the rod, or spare a child of scriptural training, you would be spoiling a child’s character. That’s the way I’ve heard it explained.
        I use spanking in my home, but do so sparingly. I think the best way to train a child’s character is by teaching him or her to follow the example of our Savior.

  34. Shona says

    I praise God that you have shared this (I’ll be able to direct my friends here when my own spoken version is not enough)!
    Having been in the trap of following books, but not “the Book” and trusting methods and not the Holy Spirit, I love being reminded of heart issues.
    May the Lord bless you!

  35. Sarah says

    I didn’t know you had a blog! I love this . . . someone above mentioned how refreshing this post is. It’s so, so imporatant to know your child and his/her developmental level. I really want _Heartfelt Discipline_ and am so glad to see it’ll be back in print.

  36. Alice Hensbun says

    responding to: “Can you cite me verse and give context that says God always requires first time obedience without mercy?”
    there are scores of instances in the Bible where God judges first time offenders. The Bible is littered with them. I understand that you want patience and understanding in parenting. Adam and Eve were judged immediately. Uzzah was struck dead for touching God’s ark when trying to keep it from falling. Ananias was struck dead for lying before God…

  37. Suzanne says

    Thank you for this post! I was a brand new mom with no experience with small children, ever, when my oldest son was born. I thought I was supposed to do the first time obedience method, after hearing about it on several Christian blogs. I will regret it forever, and still feel so much guilt over how harshly I treated my boy. Now, three children into this journey and a few more years down the road, I see that love and grace work so much better. I think the problem with “first time obedience” advocates is that they fail to treat or view the child as a person, an individual with a soul in need of love and affirmation. Rather they treat them almost as an animal in need of obedience training. We must remember that these are HIS children, entrusted to us for a short time on this earth. How would He like us to treat them? Thank you for using your blog to share this wisdom with all of us younger moms out there trying to find our way!

  38. Sally says

    loved, loved seeing all of your responses. Thanks so very much. Alas, cannot answer all of the questions at this time, but am praying for the commenters. I will tell Clay to put the book out asap–after conferences, after finishing Educating, ……..
    Praying grace and wisdom as you follow God on this interesting and meaningful journey.
    Off to pack for Raleigh and can’t wait to see many of you there.

  39. says

    The discussion over whether God expects first-time obedience from us struck a chord with me. I believe that He does, usually, expect us to obey Him instantly and without question. However, there are plenty of examples in Scripture where God shows mercy and gives a second chance. While I could give several examples, the one that I think is most striking is that of Jonah.

    God said, “Jonah, go to Ninevah.”
    Jonah said, “Oh, heck no!” and ran away to Tarshish … the opposite end of the world.
    God didn’t strike Jonah dead. He DID show His wrath by bringing a storm and making it clear to the sailors that the storm was Jonah’s fault. But He showed mercy to Jonah by letting the whale swallow him and giving him time to reconsider. Then He had the whale spit Jonah out on the beach so that Jonah could do as he was told. In other words, God gave Jonah a second chance.

    It seems to me that those who were severely punished were violating laws that had been set down, clearly, in advance, and laws that they had been warned carried the penalty of death.

    Uzzah: When God commissioned the Ark of the Covenant, He stated quite clearly that , after it was consecrated, it was not to be touched, on penalty of death. (Num. 4) By touching the Ark, even out of good intentions, Uzzah violated the sanctity of the Ark.

    Dathan, Abiram, and Korah: God made it quite clear that His altars were to be used for His glory, and that anyone who did not follow His instructions for the sacrifices would be killed. By offering unauthorized sacrifices (strange fire), these men violated the sanctity of the altar of God.

    Adam and Eve: God said “in the day that you eat of that tree’s fruit, you shall surely die.”

    Saul: Saul had more second chances than you might think. but he just kept on doing it his way. Consulting with a witch, when God said “Don’t allow a witch to live.” Letting Agag live and keeping some of Agag’s livestock when God said, “Completely destroy all of the Amalekites and everything they own.” Offering sacrifices to God, when God has clearly said that the priest, and ONLY the priest, was to offer sacrifices. Saul’s disobedience was a lifelong pattern that showed his unwillingness to submit to God’s rules.

    Over and over, we see that those people who are struck down instantly violated God’s holiness. The people who violated other instructions were usually allowed to live and given second chances. They still had to deal with the consequences of their actions (Adam and Eve and the curse, David and the death of his baby, Saul and the loss of his kingdom, Jonah and three days in a fish’s guts, Samson’s slavery and blindness …), but God allowed them physical life and chances to repent.

    I think we have to keep that in mind with our kids. Outright rebellion that challenges the parent’s authority as parent — “you’re not the boss of me,” “I won’t” — requires swift, decisive punishment. But childishnesss, foolishness, forgetfulness, and the myriad other ways that a child can disobey without malicious intent, these require mercy, understanding, and gentle correction.

    I have found this true with my two boys. I tried the “instant obedience” with my first, but I found that it created barriers between us. It exasperated and frustrated him — putting me in disobedience to God, who has told me not to provoke my children to anger. When I learned which hills were worth dying on and stopped punishing the same way for every infraction, my relationship with my son improved dramatically.

    One resource that has helped me to develop Biblical consequences for misbehaviour is the book “For Instruction in Righteousness,” written by Pam Forster. It’s a topical Bible, of sorts, that analyzes many different kinds of behaviour by listing the Bible passages that refer to it. Thus, for example, since God says that the person who won’t work should not eat, an appropriate consequence for a child who refuses to do his assigned chores would be to miss a meal. But if he chooses to then do the chores, he should be allowed to eat; he should not be refused the rewards of repentance.

  40. says

    Sally – I want to say a HUGE thank you for taking the time to address this first time obedience issue. I realize that I opened this can of worms and I thank you for so graciously handling all these comments – I’m sure it made for a busy day for you yesterday. Thank you for your humble service to us young mommies! I know you have touched thousands and many who read do not leave comments but go away encouraged – thank you!!! God bless you!!!
    Much Love,

  41. Jen says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this! I’m a fairly young Mom with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old and this blog spoke volumes to me!

  42. says

    The fact is, in the Bible, sometimes God struck people dead for disobedience and sometimes He gently guided them into obedience without much punishment at all. Sometimes He demanded instant obedience, and sometimes He lovingly worked with someone who didn’t instantly obey, until they were comfortable with who He was and what He was asking of them (Gideon comes to mind). As parents, I think we have the freedom to do this too. We can decide, based on each individual child, their hearts, their development, the situation, and numerous other things, whether instant obedience is necessary or not. Sometimes it just isn’t the most important thing. I have a child with autism. At the beginning of my career as a parent, I tried to follow parenting books that demanded instant obedience and instant switching, over and over again, until the child obeys. Thankfully, I never followed that advice completely. Because when I found out later (after ditching those dumb books) that my daughter was autistic, not “rebellious, I felt horrible. I have learned so much since then about grace-based parenting, childhood development, and what really matters. If I err, I WILL err on the side of mercy.

  43. Mrs. B says

    Thank you so much for putting these thoughts together. I have found for myself, that the first-time obedience rule led me to be much harsher with my children than I intended. I found that when we made it a goal, rather than a law, I was able to relax and train rather than demand perfection. Training and knitting hearts is really the key to godly discipline.

  44. Mary says

    I did not get through all of the responses but wow! I did however read your post thanks to a friend who past it on. You know I read your Mission of Motherhood, great book. I think I need to pull it out and read it again. I am now a mother of six and in my early 40′s. Life has changed so much as well as how I discipline and train the kids. My oldest is going to be 15 and the baby is 2. I must confess that I was trapped in the lies of spanking my child for the first time obedience. I read a books in the beginning of homeschooling that encouraged you to spank no matter what if they disobeyed. I did that and it made my oldest angry and bitter for years. Finally I came to my senses and realized I was wrong. I still ask my kids to obey but not with such harshness. It warms my heart when we go out in public or to church, people ask me how I trained all the kids to act so well. I do believe in the beginning I did not want them to reflect me badly either. PRIDE! YUCK!
    Honestly God has shown me the same of which you communicated so well. You got to get to the heart and not be ready to spank for disobedience of everything. I did not beat my kid all the time but I do believe that the first time obedience method is not always communicated with the intent of building a healthy relationship. I am not advocating that I am my child’s best friend and never have punishment. More than ever, God has impressed upon me that I must take everything I read in books to Him and ask should I do this with my family and what does your word say about it. In the early days of parenting I did not question things if it came from well meaning christians. So thank you for being honest and challenging us to have balance with our training. AND most of all directing us to God himself for the guidance not the human ways that we so easily look for, you know the formulas. The ones that will make my life easier. God bless you in your ministry.
    Soli Deo Gloria(To the Glory of God Alone)

    • Mrs. W says


      I have four children (8 mos. up to 10 yrs.) and I have had the same experience you described:
      “I read a books in the beginning of homeschooling that encouraged you to spank no matter what if they disobeyed. I did that and it made my oldest angry and bitter for years. Finally I came to my senses and realized I was wrong. I still ask my kids to obey but not with such harshness.”

      My oldest is still angry and bitter. I wonder how your oldest is doing now, and if there is any advice you have on working through that?

      I am reminded of what Josh McDowell said years ago: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion”. I notice many of the Moms arguing for instant obedience have very young children. I would have argued with them a few years ago. But experience has taught me that what Sally says is very true. I so dearly wish I could start over with my children.

  45. Jen says

    I wish I had heard this perspective many years ago! As a young mom to three and a new believer without a Christian heritage to draw upon I relied heavily on the “Christian parenting experts.” The idea of first time obedience overwhelmed me as I am not a tough minded parent. My tendancy is to lean too far on the grace and mercy side. There is a balance but I beleved to be a good Christian mom I had to raise kids who minded the first time. Period. This led me to feeling like a failure as a parent and a Christain- because (shocking) they did not mind the first time. I’l never forget reading a post back then. My kids were going to a Mother’s Day Out program once a week. The mother who wrote the post said the moms who need MDO programs must not be doing a good job raising their kids or they wouldn’t need that break! They would enjoy the company of their children all the time if they were well behaved! Writing that out now I see how wrong/condemning that sentiment is. At that time in my life though, I thought maybe she was right and I was failing!!
    Eventually, I found the perpective Sally speaks of here. ~If only I had the confidence to trust my own insticts from the beginning! ~My kids are all school age now and I see the wisdom of being patient- with them and myself.

  46. says

    Love this! There are so many parents that just don’t know what to expect from an age of a child before they set their expectations, this is so unfair to the child and of course leads less obedience. As for first time obedience, I don’t believe it a realistic expectation since we arn’t even fully capable of this as adults.

    So ironic we need to know the rules of the road before driving but don’t get all the knowledge of a growing child before parenting. It is not common knowledge, the ages and stages of children, it is something to be learned and studied

    Great post!

  47. says

    I remember hearing you speak years ago at Glorietta Conference Center. You said, “sympathize with
    your childs heart.’ this was a paradigm shiftng way for me to think about parenting. Thank-you for continuing to take a stand against harsh legalism and tyranny in the home, in the name of discipline!

  48. says

    Below, really struck a cord w/ me.

    “My third son, I eventually learned, was adhd, and ocd and a few other letters. But being harsh never, never made his more mature or able to change his behavior. I learned that the more I poured into his life–affection, time, listening, talking, the more able he was to obey. I learned that if I was patient and gentle and helped him–holding his hand, using words of encouragement, gentleness, I could lead him in obedience.”

    I started out in the “first time obedience camp”. My oldest now 10 did quite well but it was her personality. My second came along and fit in no normal box….I was lost. He taught me that grace had to be applied over and over. I am still learning. He pushes me to my limits.

    Now with my third I am not sure what I am doing LOL!

    Being harsh so discourages my second boy…..yet he is the poster child for those in “he just needs a good lickin” camp :o) I am learning slowly that grace and mercy over and over with some pretty clear boundaries and reasonable consequences are the way to go. Some days nothing works and that’s when I have to rest and trust in Him who made my boy in His own image.

    Thansk for your words and the heart that comes with them.

    • says

      ha! i laughed at the part about your boy being the “poster child for those in the ‘he just needs a good lickin’ camp” — that would be my oldest boy, though he’s only four years old. i have thanked God over and over for giving him to me first, as his personality challenges and quirks have made us really search through what we believed God required of us as parents, and think outside-the-box about behavior, sleep, stimulation, etc. when my oldest was a baby, we would frequently leave church or large gatherings, and he would just scream in the car for 20 minutes or so, totally freaking me out. it wasn’t till he was 18 months or so that i realized how easily over-stimulated he was.

  49. says

    This was so great. With a 3 year old and a 2 year old, I’m right in the thick of trying to train my children to obedience. The influences of friends and family who all train for first time obedience has been sort of what my husband and I have defaulted to, mainly because it seems like what we “should” be doing (because I do really respect them and see positive results in their children). And yet, I’ve been struggling with it because it just doesn’t feel natural to me to expect a two year old boy to obey IMMEDIATELY. I feel like I am fighting a losing battle on a daily basis and as though I am constantly battling for obedience by requiring this. I’m such a perfectionist mother and after reading this, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief!

  50. Julia says

    I have saved your blog for few days but didn’t get to it until today. Thank you Sally for taking your time to share your wisdom and thoughts. They are priceless.

    The concept “First Time Obedience” (FTO) had been such a sore subject to me mainly because when my dd was in a private christian school few years ago, the school there required FTO and my dd, whom has such a unique personality didn’t do well with the concept. Out of desperation, pressures and pride, I became the strict and harsh dictator of FTO at home eventhough I never felt right doing it. My dd’s teacher would suggest that I spanked her everytime she did not obey right away and cheerfully. She told me that a friend of hers spent the whole day spanking her 2 year old into submission so it will take me a longer time to get my then 6 year old to submit and obey cheerfully. I was sicked to my stomach.

    We were constantly in meeting with the teacher and principle about how my dd cannot meet up to their expectations. My dd felt like a failure for not being able to comply to the way they wanted her to be and I felt like a failure. I am thankful God showed us His ways…and he made me realized that there is nothing wrong with my dd, she is the way God intends her to be.

    I thank God everyday that He made me aware of Him and who He really is. I know now that He is a God of relationship and He wants our “hearts” all the way. I know why I “want” to obey him now, it is not out of fear but rather out of love. The more I know Him, the more I want to please and obey him. It comes from my heart not because I am afraid that He is going to struck me or punish me.

    julia (who is learning a more gentle ways with my son as well)

  51. says

    Oh this is so wonderful. God had really been speaking to me about this very thing. Thank you so much for sharing your heart on this issue.

  52. Christina says

    I must say, I have loved this post and all the ensuing comments! There are times when I can “read” the author’s heart into their words, and this is one of those times. I have been so encouraged by the post and comments, even though it will take me a year to get through them all! Thank you, Sally, and the rest who have carried this discussion along.

    I am very interested in getting a group of ladies together to attend one of your Mom Heart conferences, but I see that your last one for this year is listed as this weekend. Will you have more later in the year in the NC/SC/GA area?

    Thank you again! God bless!

  53. says

    This post really got me. I wanted to make reference to much of what you said but then I’d be copying and pasting nearly the whole post.

    I am a 41 year old mother (42 in July) of three daughters–20 (21 in July), 18 and 4. Yes, that last one was on purpose (tubal reversal). I’m a grandmother to one 15 month old grandson. I struggle like all moms with getting it right. One already married with a family of her own. I’m always questioning and working and not willing to stop learning. And I have to say that this post summed up beautifully the answers to so many of my questions.

    I found you via Ann Voskamp. And now I want to stay and learn more from you. So if you see me around here for a little while commenting and questioning and pestering–just think of me as your new needy child. :)

    Many thanks!!

  54. Holly says

    Thank you for this! It was refreshing and thought provoking. My husband and I have three little ones, 3 1/2, 2 and 5 months, and so we are really beginning our journey of child rearing (although sometimes three years seems like a long time!).

    We are still trying to find ‘the right way’ to do things. Growing up I was raised ‘first time obedience’, and while we did obey our parents first time, it wasn’t always cheerful obedience, in fact most of the time it wasn’t. As I’ve thought about it as a parent, and as a parenting style, I think not only does it invite frustration, anger and resentment on the child’s part, it also invites laziness on the parents’ part. We are teaching our children to obey us no matter what, but that is only outward. For my part, I can think of plenty of instances where I would have responded better heart wise by a different method of discipline.

    Having said all that, my family is very close knit and loving, and I don’t want to make it seem like my parents were horrible!

    My husband grew up only having a handful of spankings, and this was a blessing to our children, I think, because it really made me stop and think and discover that there are other methods of training our children. Having said that, I am far from feeling that we are mostly always doing the right thing. I am still searching out how to train my children in love and godliness. We are currently struggling with our older two children’s bedtimes. Since they share a room, bedtime can easily become just playtime in the bedroom. And since my husband works odd hours, and because we have another baby, I can’t just sit in there until they go to sleep. In a way this has been good as it has made us think and talk about how we parent and what we could be doing wrong either in attitude or action. And just in the last couple days we’ve had a breakthrough that really brings home to me the idea of gentle guidance that you are teaching here.

    So anyway, thanks for that. I’ll try and find your books, although I’m not sure if I’ll find them here (in New Zealand). But I’ll bookmark your blog and be back.

    May you have a blessed weekend!

  55. Susan says

    Thank you Sally. Having tried both methods of parenting, I can tell you now that investing in their hearts first is so much better. I have one rule-follower, and one fiercely independent, creative, gonna-change-the-world-and-I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way types. She needs to be handled gently or I will lose her heart, and if I do, I will miss out on being a part of the greatness of what God has called her to. I don’t know what it is, but it will be extraordinary! So, I choose to love her and gently guide her…to listen to her side of the story and discipline gently (ie. taking away a privilege).
    Just 2 weeks ago, we pulled the girls out of school and started homeschooling because it is so crucial to me that they view themselves the way that God sees them. And oh how he sees them! So full of potential, so beautiful, so creative and wonderful! May I never be the one that squelches the fire that God has placed in them.

  56. says

    The unfortunate thing is that many parents, in the name of faithful discipline, do not understand the differences between babies or toddlers or young children or even teens with all of their hormones, and they exhibit anger and harshness toward their children, act in a demeaning way, while neglecting the cues of the child at each stage. These parents have no perspective for the children themselves–they use a rule and formula no matter what–and often wonder why their children to not respond to them.

    This is my parents. They didn’t believe in teenagers, and frankly didn’t care about our emotions/thoughts/feelings/etc. I left that poisonous environment in July…I hope my other siblings come to realize how toxic it is there and leave!! (One of my brothers is gone and married which is good.)

  57. Crissy says

    Thank you for your encouragement. I would be interested to see what you think about John Rosemond and his approach to parenting. Lord bless!

    • says

      Voddie Baucham wrote about this very subject in his book Family Driven Faith. I have read his book, as well as Mr. Rosemond’s. Voddie is concerned that Rosemond’s approach may exasperate our kids to anger. He has some good Biblical points about it. If you haven’t read Family Driven Faith, it’s definitely worth reading!

  58. says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share so much wisdom … so much that I can take to heart as I continue to try to raise my children for His glory. I’ve learned so much along the way (my oldest of 6 is 10, while my youngest is 9 months) and I have made many mistakes along the way. I’ve spent much time evaluating and re-evaluating how we should do this or that. I appreciate mostly what you say about expecting first time obedience. I do believe it is important to teach our children the importance of obedience … but how far I have come in learning that reaching my child’s often means SO MUCH MORE. If all I ever require is obedience, then I am missing so much in my relationships with them. I wish I’d have understood better then what I see now … but praise the Lord for HIS faithfulness and mercy to us … thanks again, this was such a blessing to my heart!!

  59. says

    Your post made me think of the stuff that goes on in my family and I know I commented before, but I went and wrote a blog post as well, about just one of the instances my dad demanded first-time obedience of a child too young to understand, and kept spanking until they did it (or he got tired and angry and sent them to bed).

  60. Abbie says

    Sally, thank you for posting this. I have never heard of the “first time obedience” lessons, but I can tell after reading your thoughts, that I am too strict and don’t allow room for natural immaturity and other issues like that, but most of all for GRACE! I would love to know that you are praying for my efforts as I revisit my motherhood strategies and try to completely turn around some discipline habits I have made. Please pray for wisdom for me with the specifics of day to day life with my little boys and for patience and clarity.

  61. Jennifer G says

    So well put! Thank you! I have 4 children – boys (10, 8, 4) and a girl (15 mos). I could never swallow permissive parenting, and so I ended up going too far the other way, especially when I’d recently read another formulaic parenting book. Only recently through God’s grace and wonderfully timed books and posts like this one am I learning that gentleness doesn’t have to equal permissiveness. I pray that God will help me to unlearn these harsh habits and teach me to lead these much-loved souls with a meek and gentle spirit.

  62. jenn says

    I will definitely have to read this a few more times! I feel so “judged” by a lot of my christian friends for some of the parenting choices I make. I just realized your books are on my “to read” list…I will definitely have to get to those :) This was very encouraging to me. Thank you!

  63. Jessica says

    Sally, thank you for your post, it was so refreshing to read. Sadly, I have fallen prey to parenting my children (4 and 1 1/2) with ‘first time obedience’ and my oldest has been regrettably the victim of my anger, short fuse and harshness. I’ve read many Christian books that have encouraged this first time obedience and it has only left me feeling defeated, frustrated, angry with my child and having high expectations that at 2 or 3 my child should be able to obey me right away, all the time, everytime. For ME it left me expecting my child to be perfect and when my child didn’t obey me the first time, every time I became more harsh, far from the mercy Jesus tells us to have for children. I do believe God wants us to obey Him right away and that I should teach my children to obey immediately.

    God has been showing me many things recently but mostly my own imperfections. Jesus is the only person I know of in the whole entire bible that was perfect (sinless), I know I will never be able to be sinless or obey Him all the time (even though I desire to) so how can I expect greater out of my child who has 27 years less experience than I do? Yes, I will teach my child to obey but I have found when I EXPECT my child to obey me right away, all the way, every time, that it only sets him up to fail and it only sets me up for frustration and anger toward him.

    Daily I ask for Jesus to help me obey him and daily I depend on the Holy Spirit for his help and yet I fall so short every day! How much more for my child who is not yet controlled by the Helper Jesus sent us? Many people have mentioned in their posts of stories in the bible where adults didn’t obey the first time; can anyone tell me a story in the bible of any children being burned up or disciplined because they didn’t obey the first time? God has changed my heart of the first time obedience approach I use to hold and he has changed my heart from disciplining my child constantly all day long for the wrong he does to instructing him to do what God teaches in the bible and showing him his need for Jesus to help him to do the right thing. Thank you again Sally, I will be looking into reading more of your books, your post was such an encouragement to me.

  64. Gwen says

    Oh Sally, with tears I say thank you for your words here. I grew up in legalism and find it extremely easy to pass it along. I realize that I have misunderstood the first-time obediance philosophy, and now I wish I could go back and do it different. Sometimes I feel like it’s not fair that our kids suffer because well meaning parents just received the wrong advice, or interpreted the advice wrongly. Well, at least I can go forward now on the right path. I feel I can trust someone whose children are grown with hearts for the Lord and their parents. Humbly I ask if you would send a quick prayer up for healing for my broken heart and strength to remember when times are tough. One thing my 4 year old son does is open the front door and consequently my 1 year old wanders out. I disciplined him the first time he did that, but he’s done it again and again anyway even though I explain why it is dangerous.

  65. says

    I love this post. The tears are in the corners of my eyes when I see I have fallen short even this morning. I have been selfish, angry without good cause, and short-tempered. The real problem in child training is that I am such a sinner. But Jesus came to save sinners…He came to save me. I must fly to Jesus. The more I see my sin the faster I must fly. And He is able to help me to be the mother He knows my children need.

    • Joanna says

      i can relate to this. my reactions to my boys (6, 4 and 2) are so often full of frustration, anger, selfishness, laziness…the list goes on. i need so much grace and wisdom to show even a glimpse of God’s love to my children. Christ has obeyed perfectly FOR US. I do need to be more diligent with training my kids, but all the while helping pointing my children to Christ. thank you Sally for this blog post.

  66. says

    I really needed to read this post today. I struggle with what I think is expected of me or my children vs. relationships. I was raised in a very strict legalistic home and church and still suffer from that thinking as I raise my children at times. I flounder because I am NOT the person I was raised to be…Thank the dear Lord! And I now know God’s love and grace for myself. But it has made parenting interesting and an internal struggle for me. I totally have to say that my heart on discipline is very similar to yours and to be able to read that in words brings me to absolute tears! I am overwhelmed with God’s love that He would even lead me to this today!

    I read a post a while back of yours that really hit home as well's a part one as well! I have a beautiful daughter that doesn not fit into the molds that I had to as a young girl. I love her differences and her love for life. But I do find myself maybe disciplining her more at times. God has really been urging me to come along side of her more, hug her more, include her more, and encourage her more. I could really use prayers re: my relationship with her. I need to change! Not her! Thank you, Thank you, thank you for speaking this loudly! It’s something most people don’t talk about! I am so grateful you do!

  67. SarahJean says

    I have really enjoyed reading your post and the comments. I loved what Mrs. B said about making first time obedience a goal rather than a law. Of course we want to teach our children to obey, but the picture is so much bigger than just that. Discipline must be in the larger framework of Discipleship. As we walk by the Spirit and are washed in the Word we’ll know in every situation whether discipline, or training, or grace, or instruction, or just hugs are needed. That’s what I got from what you said.

  68. says

    Hi Sally,
    I just came across your blog through a link another blog. Thank you for your refreshing words of encouragement! I am the mother of three boys (5, 4 today and 2). They are busy and highly energetic and mischevious, and while I love them dearly, it is stressful! I love what you wrote about not punishing boys for being boys and really getting to the heart of their behavior. Sometimes the crazy things they do are just mistakes.
    I write about this subject a lot. Here are a couple of posts I have written on what I have learned about staying calm as a mom, if they would encourage anyone else:

    I will be devouring your books soon, I’m sure!

  69. JEN says

    How do we convince our husbands that they should not be yelling at our children if they don’t respond in obedience immediately. Some think that they are backing up mom by yelling at the children.

  70. Audrey says

    Thank you so much for this article. My sister shared this with me and there is so much wisdom in your words. I can tell you’ve been there. Titus 2 says older women should teach the younger to love their husbands and children. We need each other. I’ve felt like a failure when my children didn’t obey me instantly, like I’ve done something wrong. Then I feel so guilty because I yell at them for not obeying. And all the time believing that’s what I am suppose to do, when my gut is telling me something different. I have three boys ages 4, 3 & 8 months. So often we left other people put their own convictions on us and we feel like failures because we don’t live up to them. When God wants to show us another way. Thank u for your post. Encouaged me and stirred my faith.

  71. says

    THANK YOU for speaking out against the “First Time Obedience” philosophy.

    I am so glad that I found your blog. I have had several of your books (and Clay’s) for MANY years … and have been BLESSED by them.

    I have written blog posts on this topic before, but am certainly going to write another one, and link back to your post. You have SUCH wisdom for young mama’s (and older mama’s, too).

    I am truly heartbroken for all of the families I see that are adamant about following the parenting books/philosophies that say, “THIS is how to have the perfect child”. As you said, if there were a formula, God would have given it to us.

    I have seen children that are scared of their parents. I have known teens that have rebelled from the authoritative homes they were raised in. I have seen large, homeschooling families who have not one ounce of JOY in their lives … life is ALL about the “rules”. So sad!

    I am the JOY-FILLED Mama of a DOZEN children (ages 9, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 20, 22, 22, 24, 25, 26) … and am expecting #13 in the fall. Yippee!

    We have always parented with structure … with discipline … with rules … with guidelines. But, mostly, we have parented with grace … and we have focused on our RELATIONSHIPS with each individual child. There is no formula. Every child is so very different.

    Our 6 young adult children are all loving and serving the Lord. Four of the six have travelled the world with missions organizations … one has lived in Argentina for the past 3 years. Two have served our country through the military. Each of them have followed their own paths … their own dreams … their own passions … as we parents have always encouraged their individuality (especially hard with identical twins).

    Yes. We expect obedience from our children. Yes. There are consequences for disobedience. But … we understand personalities … tiredness … situational behaviors … boy/girl differences (we were blessed with 6 boys and 6 girls).

    I am not perfect.

    My children are not perfect.

    I desire, with my whole heart, to obey the Lord.

    My children desire, with their whole hearts, to obey their parents.

    Yet … we are still not perfect. First time obedience doesn’t always happen.

    Blessings to you!

    Laurel :)

  72. Naomi says

    Wow. I just came over from the blog Inspired to Action & while God is not a central part in my life like a lot of the commenters, your post really does speak to and inspire me. I have until recently been a very harsh disciplinarian. I was raised that way as well. I am trying to get out of that habit. Your post will be printed and referred to often. My children (and I) thank you so much.

  73. Lollie says

    THank you! THank you! Thank you! I have gleaned some true wisdom from you. What you said with your introvert son has made so much sense to me. That may be what I”m dealing with in one of my sons, and all this time I thought it was rebellion! Thank you!!!!

  74. says

    Thank you so much for expressing so well what has been on my heart. We have six children, ages 7 to 17, and have not always been the best of parents, but are learning more and more as well go, always thankful for God’s grace with regard to our children!

  75. says

    I have been so blessed to read this post today. =) Thank you for your tender words. It is just right for me right now. I’ve just found your blog – actually my husband found it some how and left it open for me to enjoy. =) Blessings to you. — Erika

  76. Kristen says

    I have to share a little humor here! For at least 12 years I have quoted from a parenting book to my children. I would very often say, “you need to obey me immediately, completely, and without complaint”. Recently my 14 year old was working on a Bible study and asked me where that verse was in the Bible! All these years he thought I was quoting a Bible verse! I had to show him that they are principles found in scripture regarding obedience, but it’s not a Bible verse. We have laughed about this many times! Looking back, I wish I had been quoting scripture each time I wanted obedience rather than a quote from a book!

  77. Jen L. says

    We have 4 kids (3, 4, 6, 9) that we home school.
    On the subject of 1st time obedience: In our house we get the child’s attention, say, “I want you to pick up this toy/come stand right here in front of me/get in bed/etc. by the time I count to 3/5/10 (whatever time is appropriate). If you do not then you will get ___________ punishment.” That prevents them from dawdling and shows we expect them to immediately obey. I found that my kids would obey, but in their own time frame. When I started counting they realized very quickly they were to obey – RIGHT THEN! =) Also, they are adding extra punishment, not me.
    Thank you, Sally, for the encouragement, correction, affirmation!!

  78. says

    This is really good info. I’m struggling with this right now. I have 3 kids. I’m young, they are young, my husband works a lot, and I don’t have any family around and very few friends, due to moving a lot. I wish I had a mature woman to teach me of these principles. I am glad I stumbled upon this post though. thank you for the wisdom.

  79. Dawn says

    Oh my! Thank you for taking the time to share these thoughts with other women. God used these words to lift me up and strengthen my faith that HE is quite able to lead me in raising these four young men. My favorite quote for parenting (and I believe it came from Elizabeth Ellot) :
    “The true indicator of how well I am following the Holy Spirit’s leading in mothering my children is NOT in how my children behave at all. It is in how I behave.”
    Pray for our husbands to lean on the Lord for strength and wisdom. It is especially challenging for them since they deal with the children at the end of wearisome days AND seem to default to formulas by nature.

  80. says

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  81. says

    Sally, thank you for this beautiful post. By God’s grace, I was specifically warned against “first-time obedience” type philosophies by women who had been raised that way — and it would have been truly disastrous if I had tried to follow those formulas with my oldest. He has several special needs, each of which is relatively minor, but which combine to make self-regulation and obedience a terribly struggle for him. He tries very very hard, but is just often not physically able (at almost 5) to do what we ask. I want to cry when I think about children like him being subjected to such harsh measures of discipline.

  82. Beth Prince says

    I recently stumbled on this blog while doing a web search on “First time obedience”. Thanks so much for the balanced approach!

    My question now is taken from something Sally said in this post: “I read constantly when my children were little to learn about how they were made. I remember that I read an article that said that the average 2 year old took between 30 seconds and a minute to have some messages sink in if they were engaged in their brain somewhere else.”

    Can anyone suggest some good books on this subject, I would love to learn more about my little ones cognitive development at this stage.

  83. V LaLyn says

    For 14yrs I’ve wondered where in scripture first time obedience came from. Thanks for asking the questions and answering it biblically. I’m so thankful for the Grace which the Lord has shown us to get away from this sort of parenting . . . and pray he redeems the years of harshness with our older sons. Thanks for taking the time to share the Truth of parenting. I need to invest in some of your books!

  84. Nikki says

    Was so thrilled to see this. I am a counselor and frequently work with parents from a biblical perspective who have a hard time with this issue. It is so important to make sure we have reasonable expectations for each child and their current developmental level and circumstances. Thank you so much!!

  85. says

    How do I find space as a mom? I rise early. Some days I can’t beat them awake, so I tuck them in with Daddy and slip downstairs for a cuppa and my Bible! And I remember just to breathe!

  86. ruth fravel says

    What a wonderful article! This radiates the sweet heart of my heavenly father, and the fact that you have raised godly pure adult children who are living in different parts of the state’s and they are passionate followers of Jesus Christ….this is huge in my book! You and your husband have built a godly legacy and your home is joyful!! Sometimes I wish Daniels mom was mentioned in the bible because of the godliness of her son and how he stood for righteousness in a pagan world. You are like Daniels mom who raised your children with grace and joy that they are able to interact with the people that most of us would cower at. I’m so grateful for you.

  87. Tara says

    Thank you Sally, I am so grateful for your mentorship, I have read all your books, they have changed my life, I am very excited to read this book :) Have a blessed day. Tara.

  88. Chesnye says

    I am parenting 4 littles away from most family and this post really spoke to me! I have been guilty of the “formula” parenting and have seen how it does not work. I have also fallen into the trap of meeting others (societies) expectations for the behavior of my children. this only led to frustration and tears, i was only barking orders and felt as if i was loosing my relationship with my oldest children. Your husbands book, Heartfelt Discipline, changed my life!!! I can’t wait to read the revision.

  89. says

    Thank you, again, for so much wise advice. Finding breathing space for me has to be very intentional – I need a quiet place to go, reflect on God’s word, and regroup — I need to do this sometimes several times a day! :-)

  90. says

    I have struggled with the concept of first time obedience. I know many families who use that philosophy, but I have never felt that it was right for our family. I agree that obedience is a heart issue, that has to come from and understanding of God’s love and a desire to serve Him. I just posted this on my blog ( today >

    Teachable {Mom}ent for the day:
    Don’t get caught up in the latest parenting fad or style – look to the One who created you and your children for parenting techniques that are perfect for your family!

    Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Sally!

  91. Leah says

    So true. We started out demanding first time obedience of our oldest son and were puzzled when it didn’t work the way the “experts” said that it would. Thank God, he showed us that our desire for perfectly obedient children was more about how it would reflect on us as parents than about our son and his heart, and we made some adjustments. As it turned out, our son has aspergers sydrome and learns totally differently than many children. Discipling him and the three (soon to be four!) who have come after him is a day-to-day learning process, but such a joy now!

  92. Liz says

    I came across your site about 3 weeks ago and have been reading it daily. I’m in the midst of raising my two young grandchildren and I find I have lost my patience over time. With my own kids I was very patient and forgiving. I don’t know if it’s my age or the fact that I have no free time, time to unwind and relax. I have no one to watch them for me as the two great grandmothers are 84 and 82 yrs old. I can’t afford a babysitter as I have quit work to raise them. My husband works 6 to 7 days a week now so we can make ends meet. But we’re just barely making it. I know what I should be doing, but I become so frustrated and tired that I just lose my patience and become angry too often. I love these kids, but I’m afraid as time goes on and we get older it is just going to become more and more difficult. I would love to read your book and get some guidance in this difficult time. Thanks!

  93. Jenny says

    How do I find space as a mom? I try to rise early and get that first cup of coffee and a Bible verse or two, before anyone else is awake. We have 4 children, 11, 9, 7 and 5 and are embarking on the tween and teen years now – I see it coming and I feel like I have been tired for over a decade! Would love the book, have a few of yours. Thank you for these thoughts.

  94. amy c says

    Thank you for all this great encouragement. It is hard when you are raising a large family and you get caught up in the day to day life. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

  95. Sara says

    Thank you for sharing your life. I was taught “first time obedience” and I never felt right “enforcing” it and thought something was spiritually wrong with me.

  96. Kristi says

    Thank you Sally, for being an inspiration to others and sharing Gods light. I have read a few of your books and greatly appreciate your wisdom. I’m very excited to take a look at this new book.

  97. Stacey says

    I am blessed to have a husband who loves to be with our children, and will often spend his evenings with them while I rest.

  98. says

    I’ve read this post before and found it so encouraging. This time around I’ve read some of the comments and found even more wisdom! There’s so much to learn on this motherhood journey. Thank you Sally for sharing the wisdom God has graced you with.
    As for time to breathe, that’s what right now has been, although now it’s time to get my husband’s breakfast so he can get out the door.

  99. Mary McCulloch says

    So encouraged every time I read this post. Blessed so much by your ministry. Have been waiting for MONTHS for this book to come out. Hoping I win the giveaway so I can read it!

    As for how to find breathing space as a mom…on days when traditional “quiet times” haven’t happened, I try to relish quieter moments like taking a shower, washing the dishes, or nursing the baby to turn my mind back to the Lord, take in a verse of Scripture, pour out my heart to Him in prayer.

  100. Alison says

    I’ve read this post at least 2 times in the past, and reading it this morning I liked it just as much as before! I’d really love to win a copy of Clay’s book, but truth be told I intend to buy it soon regardless. Love the gentleness of your posts Sally!

  101. Sara says

    Lots of insight and wisdom in this article. I have read The Ministry of Motherhood and found it very helpful! Would love to read Heartfelt Discipline!

  102. Brooke says

    Thanks for writing this. It went straight to the heart. I was just praying this morning on guidance on how to parent my children better, to really reach them and help them to build a strong relationship with God both now and as they become adults. This was very encouraging.

  103. says

    Thank you for this, Sally. I’m currently reading Mission of Motherhood and loving it. This would be a wonderful addition to my book collection. Blessings.

  104. Colleen says

    Wish i read this the first time it was posted but i am new to this blog….thank you for your words, sally. You are the first older woman who has directed me to this type of discipline. I never felt fully commited to the “first time obedience” expectation, but that’s all i knew. My soul feels so much more at peace with what you have said. I will now pray God helps us change and gives His grace to whatever damage we have caused in our little ones’ hearts! Thank you so much.

  105. says

    Thank you for the reminders! As many others have stated, first time obedience is my goal for my children, and I think taking the whole of a particular situation and child into account is important. The issues I see with others and in my own children at times is with responses of “but” or if I must repeat myself over and over when my child has clearly heard me and ignored me. First time obedience can be important for a child’s safety. “Come to me” may be said in an effort to keep a child from a man or woman who could be a threat or to keep him out of the road, etc. Still, there are many instances, when if I’m not to provoke my child to wrath, I need to give opportunity for obedience by giving my child of warning (as in we’re leaving the playground in two minutes) before I expect the obedience. Two minutes later, when I call, then I can expect my child to immediately respond by running to me. I know those thoughts are scattered but I hope helpful to someone!

  106. Erin says

    Thank you, Sally. I needed these words. Patience is so hard with the little ones when I’m tired. Always, always reminded of God’s grace & mercy when I fail over & over & over again in certain areas. I most certainly would fail if the measure was first-time obedience. Thankful for a Risen Savior & your beautiful reminders in His Name.

  107. says

    Thank you for such an awesome piece. My 3 year old has a lot in common with your third son and I am still learning how best to guide him. I am so grateful God uses moms like you to be Titus 2 women for younger moms like me. Blessings, Lara

  108. says

    To find breathing space as a Mom- I installed quiet hour with yummy snacks for my kiddos as suggested by Sally Clarkson- It’s great!!! I also get up really early and go for a run with a running partner. So blessed!

  109. Chris says

    Sally, does your husband have a blog? There are so many wonderful Christian women blogs for teaching and support and encouragement. I am trying to find a good “Daddy version” of “I take Joy”. There are so many Dads out there that were never taught how to be good strong godly husbands and fathers, yet they want to be. Thanks

  110. Rebekah says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this delicate subject. I’ve seen many situations of parent immaturity in this area. I have been that immature parent, but how thankful I am that our gracious Lord has not left me there, in harshness. How thankful I am that He has not dealt with me in ‘first time obedience’!! He is showing me more and more that a grace-filled parent will show grace-filled discipline–only when necessary, always tempered by love and respect for your child. I have such a long way to go to learn, and I know there will be many mistakes (there already have been even this morning!) yet I know with full assurance that God isn’t going to leave me or my children on this journey to seek His glory in all that we do as a family. Thank you again for the wisdom you are sharing with me, a young woman!

  111. Fred Bittle says

    Well, as the Dad, I try to respond quickly to my wife’s requests for assistance. As the Mom, she makes certain to make know needs for assistance.

  112. kelly says

    a tea time or just taking a step back to take a deep breath and move on. Sometimes taking a few minutes to recharge with my Bible is what I need. Just depends on how much time I can take. JUST thankful for the Holy Spirit. I just bought this book and I am loving it. I am entering to win this for a friend cause I know once I finish the book (halfway done now) I am gonna want to start over. It is that good and that meaty. =0) I love that it is based on the Bible/greek and Hebrew.

  113. amy s says

    I like to steal away to my sunroom and sit in my comfy chair and look out the window – especially on a warm, sunny day!

  114. Cathy E says

    I try to have that “breathing space” though at times it is difficult. When my youngest naps, the older children are expected to read or do some quiet activity and I sometimes go to my room to read or do something I enjoy for an hour or so. Also, every so often, I’ll take my books and planning materials and go to a coffee shop for an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon when my dh is home with the children.

  115. Laura says

    Thank you for the article. Spend much time in prayer for all of my children and grandchildren. Each child responds differently so there is not a one size fits all action that you can do.

  116. Krystin says

    How do you find breathing space as a mom? – God’s Love. It’s His love that gives me breathing space. I won’t go into it here, but facing possibly losing your child this past weekend puts that back into perspective. He loves me as much and more so than I can/could love her. And that love, envelopes me. He brought that back to me at a time I needed. Praise be to God.

  117. Kim Kauffman says

    I find breathing space by going to a walk by myself (usually with worship music playing) or getting together with a dear friend for dinner.

  118. Lillian G says

    Wow, what a blessing it would be for me to win Heartfelt Discipline right now…..I really need it. Right now I am having a hard time finding breathing space as a mom. We have just moved to a new state and do not have any friends or family around, I am very lonely and feel very overwhelmed……Lord help me to take a breath as a mom..
    thank you Sally for the opportunity to win such a great book….good timing. Thanks

  119. Lillian G says

    Good timing. I need to breath as a mom. Moved to a new state with no family and friends around, very lonely and overwhelmed. Thank you Sally for the opportunity to win such a great book, especially now for me. Thanks

  120. Stephanie says

    Breathing space as a mom? It’s tough to breathe when I homeschool my 3 kids. Thankfully, my husband is willing to give me a break or a “time out” when I’m about to break. It’s hard to find space… in the midst of training our kids to obey and be respectful of each other and me. Thank God for his Grace and Mercy!

  121. Lauralee says

    Wonderful reminder, especially for the me. I am a mom of 6, ages 1yr – 16yrs. It is especially hard not to get harsh with arguing, seemingly disrespectful teens. To keep my head and guard their hearts can be lost in the heat of the battle. I am trying to keep formost in my mind that I battle not against flesh and blood( my children) but against principalities of darkness. The battle must be raged on my knees, not out of my mouth at my babes. Thank the Lord that His Mercies are new every morning!

  122. Nancy M says

    Breathing space: Having a quiet time and looking at my own heart when I start to see that my behavior is going the wrong way. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, read lots of materials, thinking there was a perfect “formula” out there and wishing I could do it all over again. Now that my children are older, I’m very thankful to get to homeschool and because of that — we have many discussions, looking to Scripture and prayer and am willing to admit I was wrong or being able to show them where they’ve gone wrong. I do believe that Hebrews says God disciplines those He loves and just like my children would get burnt if they touched a hot stove, correction and discipline is not fun, but meant for their good but if not done in love and grace and mercy and forgiveness, then we’ve failed to show the love of Christ and we must look at our hearts.

  123. says

    Such an encouraging post, Sally! Thank you!! I know I am so guilty of being too harsh and expecting too much of my children at times. I hear so many parents “parrot” these formulas that they claim work wonders for them and I think “really? What am I doing wrong to not get those results?” But then I see how they often crush their children with their strict policies. I so want to model our Heavenly Father to my children in his love and patience for us. Thank you again for this post!

  124. says

    wow thank you so what I needed to hear and would really love to add this to my libary with the other Clarkson books and what a great name for a book and discipline

  125. Coby says

    The way I find breathing space as a mom is through our (almost) daily quiet times. Every afternoon, after lunch and quite a bit of energetic play outside, each of my boys and I go to our own space and have “quiet time” for at least 20 minutes. They are welcome to play or read quietly in their rooms, and I sit down with a book, my Bible, or nothing at all and we are each quiet with our own thoughts. It really helps me to recharge and helps me to feel refreshed!

  126. says

    I’m really excited about this, as I’ve been reevaluating some of our discipline techniques. I can’t find the right spot on the spectrum between creating soldiers or creating monsters. I have 5 kids, aged 1-9, so for us to figure out at least a consistent thought regarding parenting would be helpful.

  127. kristy goode says

    this was just what i needed to read today. i have 3 little boys. its hard to find breathing space…

  128. Dee Anne says

    Thank you, Sally, for all of the wonderful words of wisdom! I have read an older copy of Heartfelt Discipline recently…it opened our eyes and hearts to a whole new way of training our child. And we have found ourselves repenting of many wrong ways of thinking and doing with our child. I would love to get a hold of a copy of the newest edition:)
    Much, much grace!

  129. Amy M says

    How do I find breathing space as a mom? Quiet time while my littles are sleeping. This is the best time for me to get space. I need this time as much as they do for resting and growing.

  130. Meagan. says

    My breathing space is when I’m in the shower. Haha Not much time, but everyone knows you DON’T interrupt mom’s shower! It’s my thinking place :)

  131. Hippie4ever says

    Breathing space:

    I’m working on that right now. I was of the opinion that it was a luxury that I just couldn’t have right now, in this season of life. But lately I have realized when I keep trying to go without any quiet time I feel an anxiousness start to build. It’s when I ignore this need to stop, for even 5 minutes, that I tend toward quarrelsome answers, scowling and frustration. The other day after entertaining my son with made up, off the cuff, stories while I drove to the store and grocery shopped (whenever I’d stop to locate an item or make a turn “Tell the story Mom”) I felt the anxiousness rising, knowing I needed some internal time, just for a few minutes. Normally I’d just persevere, I’m the Mom after all, but this time I said, “Mommy needs a few minute break”. Loaded the groceries, buckled him in, popped in his CD (Seeds of Family Worship) and drove, blissfully quiet, home. 8 minutes, that’s all I needed to regain sanity. Now here is to working to remember to do that next time.

  132. says

    For some reason I have to learn this lesson over and over again…..but when everyone is cranky and going after each other, just GOING OUTSIDE helps us all to breathe easy again. (even from the time my oldest was a baby, this was our trick – why do I forget this so often?) ;)
    Yes, outside time gives us all room to breathe!

  133. Shannon says

    Parenting is the most rewarding and yet hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It is a constant reminder of the grace the Lord provides to us daily in our relationship with Him, a constant opportunity to turn around and show that same limitless grace to our children. I am learning every day how very much I NEED JESUS every hour. <3

  134. Toni says

    How I create space in my home: kids are required to throw their fits in their rooms and are free to come out when they’re done and are ready to talk, calm down, etc. I don’t let them play or run through the kitchen when I’m cooking, it’s dangerous and also I like to have a little peace, unless they are willing to help out. And I’m taking up gardening on a small scale. I like to go out back and check on it once or twice a day.

    I loved this post and want to get the book ASAP. I sure need help breaking the cycles of my childhood experience. I get frustrated so easily with my children. I lash out with harsh words and discipline and I fear I will lose their hearts if I don’t change how I discipline them.

  135. says

    Great article. Great give away! To get breathing time as a mom lately I have actually taken up running. I run for 30 – 60 mins every few days and that time to myself has been really uplifting. :)

  136. BetsyD says

    Love all of your wise advice, Sally, and have referred to your writings as I train four precious boys. I find my breathing room during a required quiet/nap time in our home in the afternoons when I can escape away for just a little bit to sit in quiet (well, somewhat quiet) for time with the Lord. It is the most refreshing, longed-for time during the day. My husband and I also ensure a rather strict bedtime for all four, in part so that we can safeguard “couple time” to simply enjoy one another without interruptions. These are just little things that we do to maintain some level of sanity! :)

  137. says

    I’m a mom of 4 boys under 5, and often have been counseled toward first-time obedience/growing kids god’s way and similar parenting formulas. From early on, these always made be feel very uneasy. All I could say in response was “I don’t want them to obey me out of fear. I want them to obey me because they love and trust me.” But I could not really explain much better than that why we chose to parent in a more gentle, long-term focus sort of a way. I think you perfectly articulated why it makes sense. Looking forward to the book!

  138. Candace says

    I have been asking God for wisdom for my 2 year old and He has been so faithful to pour it out on me and I believe this post was some of him pouring! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom as a mother who has gone before me! My husband and I would love to read this book!

  139. Julie says

    Thank you so much Sally! I’ve learned so much from reading your writing. Your ministry is a blessing to me.

  140. Rachel Dow says

    Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU! You are the much needed Titus 2 woman so many of us mom’s need today! There is so much wisdom in your words.. wisdom only the Lord and years of parenting can give! This post was a God send! Please keep up the good work.. so many of us mom’s need a Titus 2 “older” woman in our lives!

  141. Sheri P says

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Hopefully I will win it. Your wisdom is much needed in today’s world.

  142. Michelle Spahr says

    It was a hard discipline for me, honestly it still is, but my best quiet breathing time is early in the morning before my kiddos are awake. A cup of hot coffee, my Bible, my journal and a study/devotional. I pray, I read, I talk to God and pour out my heart and my heart for my kids. It is a time I cherish and miss when I do not get out of bed. That time fills me up with Jesus and truly gets me through the day.

  143. Faith says

    My breathing space is while my kids are sleeping. This is my me time. I get to fill up. Ill read, play the piano, or just rest.

  144. Heather says

    I think this is the only book of your I have not read. Sounds very interesting and different from typical discipline books

  145. Lisa White says

    We have five children; all with different personalities. We try very hard to take those into account when dealing with them. Fair treatment does not mean equal treatment – even in discipline. As far as space to breathe; I rise early to begin my day with God; I take a walk and/or a nap daily; I have scheduled time to myself every two weeks.

  146. Charmin says

    Breathing space is hard to find. A good walk alone is wonderful on the days I can manage it. On the many days when I can’t seem to find any breathing space I pray often for God to help me hold it together.

  147. Janis says

    I find breathing space as a mom mostly by taking a daily walk — literally “breathing!” I also try to take a quiet bath once in awhile. But, really, the best breathing space I ever have is with the Lord each morning with my cup of tea, before everyone else wakes up.

  148. CarolFromMurphy says

    Very timely topic. I struggle with giving my child and my parenting over to the Holy Spirit, I’m learning to give myself a timeout when things get overheated, to go lock myself in my room for a minute and just pray for help. Our God is so good!

  149. Emily R. says

    Your words are so inspirational to me. They provide those much needed reminders to breathe, enjoy, and just love my kids as Jesus loves. That’s such an easy thing to forget when in the trenches.

  150. Melanie says

    Thank you so much for your words of wisdom! I too have heard over and over about the First Time Obedience and I was never quite sure what to do with that theory. It seemed so harsh! I have read MANY,MANY parenting books and I have come to truly believe that the Bible is the only parenting book worth reading. :)

  151. Sharon says

    I use the time after my son goes to bed for breathing space because it is usually the most peaceful. And if things are particularly stressful I will step away (another room) briefly to pray & recenter.

  152. Amy M says

    Thank you for the inspiring blog post and for the giveaway. The way I find breathing room is to get up early and go on a walk- just God and I. Also, I am not afraid to take a nap during the day if I find my energy and mood declining. I am a better mom and wife if I allow myself these freedoms. God bless you!

  153. says

    Sally…oh what a breathe of fresh air you are to me! :) I’m very relieved to hear your thoughts on first time obedience. In the homeschooling circles, this concept is very common. I felt as if I were doing something wrong because my child didn’t say “yes mommy” every single solitary time. In fact, it made me feel like a failure as a parent. However, I agree with you…this is not getting to the heart of the child. It’s just requiring obedience without addressing the heart. This is not to say that there aren’t parents out there that have their children’s hearts, and use this concept. Anyway…I just love your thoughts. I teared up as I read on about how we need to show grace. This is an area that I need to be on my knees praying more, asking for wisdom and discernment because all too often, I try to do it on my own rather than leaning on my Father. Also, I am SO excited that your husband’s new revision of his book is coming out soon! I’ve been waiting for months and months now! Hugs and God bless from Texas. :)

  154. Karen says

    Sally, thank you for sharing the wisdom God has given you. I have been so encouraged by your ministry for almost 10 yrs. I’m so excited that Heartfelt Discipline is back in print. Can’t wait to read it!! I’ve read Mission of Motherhood and Ministry of Motherhood. You have really helped me in my journey of mothering.

  155. Sabrina W. says

    Today I found breathing space. I cooked dinner and left the kids with my husband while I went to work in a community garden. I raked, shoveled dirt, watered rows, and spent the evening outdoors. I brought home a few vegetables, and the rest will be donated to our local food bank.

  156. says

    I loved this article. I have fallen into the trap of believing first time obedience was necessary and now I am seeing that I have to reach their hearts to help them want to obey.

  157. Jill says

    I find breathing space as a mom by serving my children throughout the day, so that when their bedtime rolls around I don’t feel guilty about cathing up on facebook, or my emails or watching something on TV, or reading. It lets me just zone out for a bit and not have to worry about things, which for me helps me recharge to face tomorrow!

  158. Ann Su says

    I’m bookmarking this page to go through the comments. Thank you!

    For the giveaway…my breathing space…I take my tea time after the kids had their snack. My time to read and unwind

  159. Amber W. says

    How do I find breathing space? I’ve found that if I get up early in order to have my quiet time, coffee, exercise, and shower, I don’t get frustrated later on in the day when I haven’t had time to accomplish these things that are important to me :)

  160. Amanda says

    I love this post and went back to find it for a friend just a couple of weeks ago. THANK YOU for your heart and wisdom!

  161. Stephanie K says

    Wonderful giveaway! I can’t wait to read this book, whether winning it or buying a copy. How I find breathing room – after all the little ones are in bed is a major part of my downtime. And also when we’re all outside enjoying lovely weather – my children run around and play, and I sit and just soak it all in. Something about being outside in nature, my children busy in their imaginary world, makes for wonderful breathing space.

  162. Dana Lacaze says

    Thanks for this encouragement today. I have been on a journey of bringing more and more grace into the lives of my children and how I respond to them.

  163. says

    Breathing space as a mom?… Bedtimes! Snuggle times! Reading! Even sick days can be a blessing to change our plans to allow all of us to breath. Today was one of those days – I’m sick, husband is traveling for work, but the kids and I still ended having a very different, but good day! :)

  164. Janet Belcher says

    I usually find breathing space late at night after my son has gone to sleep. Then I can relax and breath. He is 4 and full of life. Such a sweet little guy that I love dearly.

  165. says

    Sally, I love your posts! They are so full of wisdom. I have tried to decide what I would like to read about more but I have not read one post that did not encourage me or help me gain fresh insight. I consider you to be sort of like a me to me through your blog. If I don’t win the book, I am definitely buying it! Thank you so much! Be blessed! :)

  166. Tina says

    Thank you, Sally. I just had a situation to deal with and was looking for answers when I checked your blog post.
    I really appreciate what you have written. Thank you for making it available to us. And, thank you Clay, too!

  167. Shelly Roy says

    Thanks Sally for this reminder that training in obedience is a day by day, hour by hour process! I have two grown girls and a girl and two boys at home yet, the three youngest are getting it, they grow more in obedience by the day…just like I do! Would love to win Clay’s new book!! Thanks for the chance!

  168. says

    My breathing space is getting outdoors. Taking nature walks with my kids helps provide breathing space even when they are right alongside me.

  169. Rachel says

    Great, encouraging words.

    As long as my husband is in town, I go out once a week to either have time to myself or share coffee with a friend, or both! It’s been a couple of weeks since since I’ve gotten to do that due to back-to-back trips, but I don’t feel as desperate as I sometime would when that wasn’t a regular part of my life. I jokingly call it storing up sanity. :)

  170. Billie Ruth Bingham says

    I LOVE this article. So very important to think biblically about EVERYTHING in our lives…responses to our children, our husbands, our circumstances. The ability to think biblically only comes from reading The Bible consistently and applying it. Thank you for the encouragement to do this very thing. When I need a “moment to breathe,” I make sure to be the first one up in the house and enjoy quiet time…reading the bible and thinking. Also, listening to our pastor from downloads while exercising, is a great encouragement to me.

  171. says

    Such a good reminder- this discipleship thing is hard (all day yesterday spent on teaching 5 year old daughter to work diligently with the accompanying drama!) but so worth it. I am starting to see results in my eldest son and it is exciting!…K

  172. Dana says

    I think you are so spot on when you say that young mothers haven’t been taught to be gentle, etc with their own. And that is so true with me as I have no one guiding me- I have been that mom with a baby or toddler or preschooler who wont’ sleep that says “just go to sleep!” (not expecting that to work but out of exhaustion). It is so hard to read this and hear what you are saying yet not know how that looks like played out. My almost 4 year old is where I struggle and I do so fear I won’t/don’t have her heart. I don’t know where the balance lies, I think. Between being gentle yet disciplining. I am so encouraged by what you write. I will try to take away today what a loving, gentle and patient Father I have, and hope that I can be more like Him to my children.

  173. says

    Your article was a breath of fresh air. I have been pulling my hair out, wondering why my children have been so resistant to discipline…all the while I had lost my perspective of grace. Thank you for this. I really need a copy of your book…the First Time Obedience method was one of the first parenting books I read. I need to focus more on mercy and less on “results” or else I will be raising a couple of little hypocrites.

  174. Kari Jones says

    This is a topic that is close to my heart. I have three young children ages 3, 5, & 7…one is diabetic. I feel like I have tried everything I know to do and am totally failing, especially with the 5 yr. old. This is something I feel the Lord working with me on but am still not sure where to go from here. I want my childern to grow up loving the Lord and obeying Him. This looks like a book that would really help me on this journey of parenting. Thank you.

  175. TracyDK says

    I am so glad that you posted this today, it’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been praying over this very thing.

  176. Angela Nelson says

    Oh, I wish I had read this–or something like this–almost 20 years ago when I had my first baby. I was a new christian, clueless as to being a mom, and received and swallowed whole so much BAD counsel, which I tried so desperately to apply, even after seeing the bad fruit of it!! I have bumbled and “come around” to the way of thinking you are describing, but I often still feel “at sea” in parenting, and the responses of my natural flesh are often far from God’s love, wisdom and grace. My children are now 7, 13, and 18, and at this point we are coming out of 5 years of extremely diffcult rebellion and severe depression with our oldest. God challenged us over and over to meditate on the prodigal son, the love of the Father–(we really never know that that son “repented” or changed his heart, he actually came back for the clean bed and food!!! ). My son is coming around now, by God’s grace, but now the 13 year old is acting up! God works so individually and mysteriously in each one. I love how you said, “God is a LONG TERM” God–He certainly has been with me! So why did I expect so much “instant perfection”, and put so much pressure on, my children? I felt like the way they “performed” reflected my abilities and worth as a mother and as a missionary/servant of God, and no matter how hard I tried, they sure weren’t “showing well”, which made me feel like a failure–UGH.

    If you or others are able please pray for me to have renewed VISION as a mother. After the years of difficulty with my oldest, and previous to this some other extreme difficulties we faced as missionaries and as a family, I feel exhausted and bruised and just “negative” and hopeless about everything–faith, marriage, parenting, ministry . . . but recently the Lord clarified to me that despite calling out to him and depending on him in crisis, I have lost my overall “vision” and sense of purpose along the way. And I desperately need him to lead me. Thank you if you can pray.

  177. Jen says

    Thank you for this post! I am struggling to know how to discipline (and disciple) my three Wee Ones. Your post (and books) are so insightful and reassuring to me. Thank you!

  178. Ginger L says

    I can’t wait to read this book! I grew up in a “first time obedience” household, and I’m have been on a journey with my 3 boys to break that cycle. I love your approach to a gentle and loving way to reaching your child!

  179. Katie says

    I love this article and enjoyed reading it again. Thank you Sally! Please keep blogging-you are such an encourager and teacher. Whenever I a get to go to the Colorado Springs area, I always wish I could go to your house for tea:)

  180. says

    What a great post. I have struggled with the concept of first time obedience thing for a long time. I whole heartily agree with your post. Thank you for the reminder to respond to each of my children according to their personal bent.

  181. says

    Thank you for this! As a young mom I find myself going against how I was raised and trying to raise my children more kingdom minded. However when so many people question my methods it’s refreshing to get this reinforcement.

  182. Melissa McIntyre says

    Thank you Sally! Your style of parenting is what mine has evolved into these past 14 years of mothering our 6 precious ones! Many people disagree with how we do MOST things, but often it is THOSE SAME PEOPLE who comment on how smart, polite, respectful, and well behaved our children are! I can’t help but think, “and HOW do you think they got to be that way??” Thank you for being sort of my “online” – distant mentor!
    Prayers and Blessings to you!

  183. says

    I struggle with figuring out how to parent my children. I would love to have obedient well-behaved children, but not at the expense of their souls. I am well aware that my actions will shape them and that this is the only important job of my life. It scares me. I have no idea how to instill faith in my children. I grew up believing and can’t point to what my family did to raise me that way. I also am very different from my children personality-wise and the discipline methods that worked on me do not work on them. Thanks for the things to think about.

  184. Yolanda Fields says

    In answer to the Giveaway “Blog Post Comment” question, turning on some worship or Christian music helps me get some “breathing space” from the feeling of frustration, stress, or impatience with my kids. It makes the environment in our home positive and changes the mood. Oftentimes my girls will dance to the music and it reminds me of how enjoyable being their mother really is.

  185. Stacy says

    This was very refreshing to read! I’ve longed for “first time obedience” & heard it touted in my circles of influence, but can’t help but feel the wise thing to do is observe my daughter when she’s “misbehaving” & try to understand what led up to that. I’ve felt slightly judged at times, so thank you!

  186. Fibia says

    How do I find breathing room? Hmmm… with 2 small kids, I wake up before them and spend time with the Lord as often as I can.
    Thank you for the giveaway.

  187. Adrianne Storr says

    I have been very frustrated lately b/c my children are condescending toward one another, always pointing out the other one’s faults. I think that, though we have tried hard to train their hearts, spend time with them and love them, our discipline is too harsh. We have been raising our voices lately and have been convicted by the Lord. This post was heaven sent. Praying I win the book ;) I think I need it for my four boys! Praying, as always, for more wisdom!

  188. says

    I ride the exercise bike and read the Bible and other encouraging books. like yours :). I really needed this, Sally My husband and I read it together and he said it was good as well. we are having issues w/ our youngest (well, w/ both of our boys) and this was a real blessing today.

  189. Mama G says

    How do I breath? Eat a bite of chocolate, read encouraging words from wise mothers around me and of course spend time with God reading the word.

  190. Laura says

    My “breathing space” usually comes at night after all are in bed. I enjoy the quiet time to read or study then.

  191. Sabrina L says

    I wake up at 4:30am to get my husband off to work and in that time I have time for myself before the kids wake up. I spend time with my God, drink some coffee and plan my day.

  192. Nicole Clark says

    I am abundantly thankful that I stumbled upon your blog from a friend’s reposting on facebook. I find the simple truth and encouragement of your words so refreshing. Grace-based parenting has never been so clear to me, especially in this post about first-time obedience–which was a MUST in my growing-up years. As my husband and I prepare for parenthood, we have both been reading faith-based parenting books. I really fell into the “formula” way of doing things and it made me so worried! My heart always felt uneasy with that game plan because I could think of so many ways to misuse the formula or find it completely useless. But this learning of love and grace and mistakes and “they’re still fine!”… THIS is right. Many thanks.

  193. Jane says

    Try not to be too hard on the mom with the baby. Obviously, I don’t know the circumstances in this case, but I know that my first born didn’t sleep very well at all. It’s one thing when your newborn is up frequently, but he hadn’t started sleeping any better by the time he was 4 and 5 months old, and even though things improved slightly after that, we were back to square one by the time he was 8 months old. There were weeks and months together when I would go on less than an our of sleep a night. My husband, who is the breadwinner and needs to be at his job every morning, also had an untreated sleep disorder that left him exhausted himself, and I didn’t feel like I could rightly ask for his help at night. Every night I’d go through the motions of giving our boy a bath, toweling him off, sometimes lotioning him, then nursing him, then rocking and walking and singing… and rocking and singing… and rocking… and walking and rocking… and rocking and rocking and walking and walking for three and four hours waiting for my baby to go to sleep until I wanted to burn Dr. Sears in effigy for ever writing the attachment parenting books. It’s taken me three years to get to the point where walking a baby – mine or not – doesn’t make me extremely angry and bitter. I’ve recently learned that sleep deprivation is a favorite tool of brain-washers, and I can believe it. The whole time that I cycled through the different suggestions and all the right, caring ways to put my baby to sleep, and failing miserably, I just sank to a place where I felt like I was in the fight by myself, and there was no hope of ever succeeding in it. I felt like my baby hated me, or was laughing at me, or like he and his daddy were on a team trying to destroy me. A year later when I was expressing to my husband how utterly and shamefully disgusted I was with the whole attachment method (all bazillion of them), he realized how extreme I felt I had to be with it, and when he said that sometimes I could just set the baby down and go to rest for a little while, I burst into tears.

    Let’s just say I know the power of words and how careful we need to be with our little ones’ hearts… but I have also definitely been the mom running on fumes and fighting sickness in my own body from being so exhausted, telling her months-old baby to “go to sleep!”

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  195. Sally says

    love, love this and will try to put it up tomorrow morning. Blessings of His grace to you, sweet one. So glad you are experiencing joy. The more you enjoy your life the more your children will feel your love and joy contagious.

  196. Caroline Cordle says

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but I was pondering the several points that I read before not managing to get through all the comments! :-)
    I think, as parents, the issue of children not obeying the first time OFTEN comes from us not making the requests of them in the right way. WE are at fault, not the children. We call them from another room to come to us, whilst they are engrossed in something, and they don’t come? Surely it is our fault for not going right to them, engaging their little, childish attention and THEN giving them the instruction? Or, do I make the command clear enough for the child I want to obey? Do I give enough information, or am I unreasonable. I really do think the fault often lies with myself!
    I am trying very hard to be gentle, loving, patient and merciful with my children. I believe I am seeing an improvement in their attitudes, as I am trying to engage and train their behaviour.
    I also like the valid point that we should AIM for first time obedience, but acknowledge that it doesn’t always happen and it’s our job to train their heart and mind towards that goal.
    I also don’t think that expecting first time obedience is so much the issue, as how we DEAL with the lack of it? God desires obedience – but it’s how he DEALS with it that counts. Grace is not relevant towards someone who doesn’t err! Mercy is required for the errant one, not the obedient one! God is, by nature, merciful and gracious because we behave in a way that REQUIRES it! Likewise, our children will, by their sinful nature, require us to deal with them with the same mercy and grace that our Heavenly Father shows us, whilst still dealing with the sin.
    As always, a lot to think about, and digest. And, once again, the realisation that the responsibility of training up my children faithfully, before the Lord, is a huge and serious one. Praying that God continues to show grace and mercy towards ME as I try and do the right things, and so often fail.


  1. [...] post at Sally Clarkson’s blog, I Take Joy on first-time discipline versus the heart: And so, when we discipline our children, we must learn to look at their hearts. Is their heart [...]

  2. [...] thanks to a friend of mine who posted the link on facebook, I read an article titled “First time obedience, really?” First-time obedience is something that is extremely important in my family. It pretty much [...]

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