Understanding Obedience and Cooperation for Christian Parents

As an adult would you want to be in a controlling or forceful relationship? How do you feel when you are told what to do? Think about being volunteered for a position that you didn’t really want to take. You would likely feel the urge to push back, or feel angry. This is how our kids feel about being told what to do all day long.

I know that there is a lot of debate around obedience, especially when the bible does repeatedly does mention obedience. But there is a difference between forced obedience and willing cooperation / choosing to obey. The word obey means to comply with a command or request. So doing the action that was requested is obedience, but we should also be concerned with the heart or attitude behind it.

In this episode I talk about
The down side of forced obedience
Benefits of cooperation
Tips for winning cooperation
Listening Tips
Additional Strategies
Caring for yourself

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Watch the episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/NiguCuWoxuI

Forced Obedience

When a person feels threatened (fear of punishment, being yelled, etc.) their brain goes in to fight, flight or freeze mode. Children who have authoritarian (controlling) parents are more likely to be rebellious, sneaky, manipulative, and defiant. They are often angry for the way they were treated or look for ways to avoid getting into trouble. Children who were manipulated, through bribes and threats, become manipulative themselves. Colossians 3:21 reminds us “fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19

Punishment has is used as a method to control, fear of punishment is what makes people obey. But the bible says here that love drives out fear, we love because God loved us first. God doesn’t go around punishing, yelling, or hurting us when we make mistakes. He is forgiving, loving and kind. As parents we need to demonstrate this same love to our children.

Remember children learn what they live.


When our focus as parents is less on compliance and obedience but more on cooperation and a heart of willingness we see a very different outcome. Healthy relationships and connections are formed based on love and mutual respect. Your child will see you as a caring adult who wants the best for them. As a parent you will need to be flexible, willing to compromise and have conversations. Through this your child will learn to develop critical thinking skills.

“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1 often the phrase ‘in the Lord’ is not considered when quoted. As God’s representatives in the family (and in the world as Christians), we are to reflect His nature. Our God is abounding in love, slow to anger, full of compassion and forgiveness. Another point to consider is that ‘in the Lord’ implies that our relationship with God and our children’s are a key factor for the verse. Do you obey God out of fear of punishment or because you are so overwhelmed by his blessings and all that he has done for you? So then your children should desire to obey you because they know you love them unconditionally, care for their well-being and know what is best for them.

Consider also the greatest commandment in the Bible. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 Notice that of all the rules and all the commandments Jesus says to love God and love others. Everything else falls into place when we focus on relationships based on love.

Now that we’ve taken a look at why it is important to focus on a loving relationship in order to create a heart willing to obey, here are some practical tips.

Winning Cooperation

  • Check in with how your child is feeling
  • Show empathy and listen
  • After your child feels understood, share your feelings and concerns
  • Pray together
  • Work on problem solving and working towards solutions
  • James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
  • Consider the age and development of your child
  • Here is another blog post about winning cooperation

There will be instances when children need to follow directions immediately. Especially in emergency situations. Be sure to talk about that as a family. Practice if necessary. Don’t over use commands. If you are always barking orders then your children start to tune you out and won’t be as inclined to listen when it is absolutely necessary. Save orders or commands for more serious occasions and emergencies so that your children know it is important.

Listening Tips

  • Make sure you have your child’s attention
  • Get up and walk over to your child rather than just calling out their name
  • Take a moment to connect before giving instructions
  • Look into their eyes
  • Keep directions short
  • Break instructions into smaller chunks
  • Check for understanding

Other Strategies

In all things we must consider the age and development of our children. It helps to have other strategies available, especially for younger children.


  • Humor
  • Playfulness
  • Being kind but firm
  • Telling them what they can do vs what they can’t do
  • Redirect to a different activity or location
  • Leave room for God to work, and help. (Exodus 17:1-7) All the Israelites were complaining and grumbling about wanting water.Moses prayed and God said He would stand before Moses when he struck the rock. 

For yourself

In order to be calm in dealing with your kids you need to care for yourself too.

  • Pray often
  • Calm yourself before addressing your children
  • Speak respectfully
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
  • Don’t make threats
  • Don’t over use commands
  • Think carefully about what really matters
  • Pick your battles
  • Be humble enough to apologize 
  • Be open enough to consider new solutions

Next Steps

I want you to be successful and keep going with what you’ve read.

  • Slow down and consider your interactions with your children
  • Keep learning (be sure to check out my resources page)
  • Journal about what you are learning and going through
  • Find a supportive community (I’d love for you to join my Facebook group)
  • Contact me for parent coaching and courses

For more support in your parenting connect with Meaghan

Website: www.joyfulmudpuddles.com
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