Friday, December 26, 2008

First Time, Cheerful Obedience Rant

Despite homeschooling and being an exfundamentalists, I was unaware of the concept of either first time obedience or cheerful obedience. It wasn't until some, intrusive older lady tried to 'correct' my parenting that I began to research different "Christian" parenting methods. Apparently some of my former Independent Baptist Church Members were concerned because I counted to three when my younger two girls disobeyed. They wanted my kids to immediately obey with big smiles on their face.

To be honest, their advice creeped me out. I had always got compliments on my kids behavior without expecting them to 'ask how high when I told them to jump". So, I was confused as to why anyone would complain about my parenting methods when they obviously considered my kids polite and well mannered.

What I discovered was that the 'ideal' fundamentalist parent had children who could sit perfectly still and quiet through a hour service, never disturbed talking grownups and obeyed quickly with a big, wide, happy grin. No, my kids are not 'ideal'. Yes, they whine and get grumpy sometimes. We've had issues with them that we have to work on as a family together. But we manage to deal with these problems without breaking our children's spirits down.

Several aspects of my childhood influenced me to strongly disagree with 'cheerful' obedience. (although I think kids and adults should be polite)First, my mother was abusive and she expected quick obedience and for us to hide our emotions. We had to be outwardly happy when we were actually very upset. Startlingly enough, I can understand the motives behind children who kill their parents. At one point, I was very, very angry with my mom, no matter how much I smiled. If my mother had used religion as a basis for her actions, I have no doubt that I would have hated God instead. Emotionally, it is easier for a child to hate an unseen entity then a parent. I wonder how many atheists and pagans were brought up to fear that any expression of anger toward their Christian parents equalled disloyalty to God. What a burden to place on a young child's shoulders.

I've always valued the ability to think for one self and not follow the crowd. My goal as a parent is to teach my kids that rebelling against the societal norm for what one considers morally right is the correct thing to do. Ultimately, I want my children to not just be good but to be noble. Part of being noble is learning to balance respect for authority with the ability to question and perhaps stand against the same authority.

My youngest son went through a period when he felt angry often. We worked with him, discussing the best way to handle anger and how to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle his temper. It took some time but I am grateful that I was able to see that he had a problem. What if he had been trained that the only legitimate emotion for a Christian to feel was happiness? Would he have swallowed down his anger only to have it reemerge when he had power over someone else?

I believe that God gives us warnings by allowing us to feel negative emotions. From a human vantage a situation or person can seem wonderful, but our emotions, instinct-God- is nudging us and trying to warn us. How does an adult brought up to believe that they should deny their emotions and only be cheerful handle situations in which they come under the authority of a evil person masquerading as a Christian? They won't know that they can trust their own instincts or that the icky feelings that they are experiencing might actually be God warning them.

My main problem, though, with cheerful, first time obedience is spiritual. I have trouble asking kids to do something that we as Christian adults do not do. I do not always obey God without whining. When it is cold out, I whine about attending church, I whine about saying my prayers, I whine about a lot of my obedience. God wants our hearts so even if I smile outside, he wants my inner smile and I don't always give it to him. Often the changes that have occurred in me as a Christian were accompanied by a lot of inner tantrums on my part. Learning to forgive my mom was something that I complained, whined and moaned about. I am probably one of God's 'difficult' children. LOL

God understands that we are a work in progress. In first time, cheerful obedience, the parent is expecting more perfection on the part of the child toward a fallible human then the parent is likely giving to God. That really bothers me.


ignorant redneck said...


In my upbringing, there was that prompt, cheerful ahppy obedience, and hid your emotions crap too.

And, there was an undercurrent ofnever ever learning to make your own decisions about anything, always getting permission for the most inoocuous things, far passt an age where you should make such choices for your self. And, yes, there was abuse.

That's a totally sucky way to raise a kid, and one of the reasons why I decided that the fundementalist/calvinist way of life wasn't for me. It just didn't make sense as a way to live, only as a way to make others live.

deb said...

Thanks Redneck. Yeah, I had to ask permission for silly things also, like taking a daily shower. You're right, it was a sucky way to parent a child.

Luke said...

I had never considered all these arguments against such a lifestyle. Excellent points! Thanks for sharing.

The problem that I see is that parents who have this mindset also believe that they are--at least relatively, if not totally--perfect. It's creepy and really annoys me, but it's what they honestly believe. So your last observation would be lost on them.


May we offer more grace, love, support, and growth to our children, our friends, and our families.


deb said...

Luke, I asked on the forum of Gentle Christian Mothers what changed the mind of the former Pearl and Ezzo followers. All the women said that it was their growth in understanding of God's grace that made them stop following extremely punitive forms of child rearing. I thought that was interesting.

I know that as I grew in my faith, my views on child rearing changed drastically.

Life Savior said...

Anyone can do what they are told. What is different from the world is when they do it joyfully; knowing that God has put their parents in that position, and that by obeying them, they are obeying God!

All For His Son's Glory!


deb said...

Hello LifeSavior! First, God gives us Grace to help us mature as Christians. I am trying to word this so not to cause confusion. I can not make my kids 'cheerfully obey me' in their hearts. I can force them to fake cheerful obedience. That is not what God wants from us and not what I want my kids to learn.

I used to get confused about the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32. Jesus tells the story of a man who asked his first son to do something in their field. The boy refuses but later decides to go and do as his father tells him. The second son agrees but then doesn't obey his dad. Jesus then asks who was the obedient son and his listeners reported that the first was. The reason that this parable confused me is that I would have gotten in deep trouble for telling my parents NO.LOL Yet Jesus is saying that our actions and follow through obedience count.

This is actually comforting. Being cheerful while obeying God is what we should all strive for. But everyone has moments when they obey out of love for God even thought they might not always feel happy and cheerful.