631) Teach Obedience

By Amy Henry, married, mother of six, teacher, and correspondent for World magazine.  This article, entitled “Why I Can’t Teach Your Child,” was posted October 3, 2014 at:  www.wng.org

     Four times I asked him to take out a piece of paper.  Four times I asked him to find a pencil.  Each and every time we reached a new vocabulary word, I stopped reading and told him to write it down.  By the time the history lesson was over, I was exhausted and so was he, I suspect.  Whether the directive is to get out a book, pick up a piece of trash, or sit in a particular seat, I am met with stiff resistance, if not outright refusal to cooperate.

     Ah, the life of a teacher.

     Brand-new, beautiful books about Troy and Egypt and King Arthur sit on my classroom shelves begging to be read, but at this rate I can’t get through the lesson in time for us to actually read them.  The whole class goes without field trips or art projects and sits twiddling their thumbs while I deal with Mr. Uncooperative.  Day after day after day …

     It smacks of my mother’s return to teaching after 25 years “off” to raise her own children.  After finishing a grueling master’s program, my mom got a coveted position as a fifth-grade teacher at a new charter school.  The summer before she started, she scoured garage sales and thrift stores for beanbags and books to fill her reading corner.  She put art on the walls and decorated her room with the passion of one who loves learning and can’t wait to instill this love in her students.

     Her new career lasted a whopping two years, every day a misery.  Instead of reading in the corner like she had envisioned, she spent all her time writing up disciplinary forms in triplicate, calling parents, and sending kids to a principal who would just send them right back.  After drawing a line in the sand with her worst-behaved kids, she was told by their parents that they wouldn’t allow detention, taking away the only real consequence she could deal out.  Empty, the reading corner did nothing but gather dust…

     In reading through my student’s files, I see the hopes and dreams of parents who are sending their kids to our school with grandiose expectations that we will instill a love of learning and set ablaze the fire of curiosity in their children.  But I tell you, no matter how hard I try, no matter how many resources I have, without obedience none of that can happen.  I can teach an ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic child with severe anxiety issues the world; but I cannot teach a doggone thing to a high-functioning, intellectually bright, whippersnapper of a kid who won’t obey.

     All that to say, dear parent, I can babysit and keep your child warm and alive until 3:15 every day, but it’s not my job to teach obedience:  It’s yours.

     For the sake of their education, teach that so I can teach them.


In a 2014 Pew Research survey of parents with at least one child under 18 living in their household, only 12% checked obedience as one of the three most important characteristics to teach their children.  Granted, there may be three things even more important than obedience, but only 62% checked obedience as ‘especially’ important (no limit on the number of characteristics that could be checked as ‘especially important’); and 38% did not consider teaching obedience important enough to check at all.


Deuteronomy 32:45-47a  —  When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.  They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.”

Proverbs 5:22-23  —  The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast.  For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.

Proverbs 10:17  —  Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Proverbs 19:18  —  Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

Ephesians 6:1-3  —  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”— which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

I Timothy 3:4  —  He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

Hebrews 12:11  —  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.



O God, you command us to honor our fathers and mothers.  May we so fear and love you that we do not despise or anger our parents and others in authority, but respect, obey, love, and serve them, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.