In my efforts towards living with more intention and purpose, I've spent a lot of time evaluating what my values and long-term goals are. In my motherhood, this has been especially true.
One thing I've definitely noticed is that when I'm only going through the motions--trying to simply get through the day or get to the next item on our agenda--then my main focus tends to be on my children's obedience. Stress levels are high, patience levels are low, and tension is often building. This is when I tend to be short, demanding, and easily frustrated with my kids. In these situations, my brain translates my children's slowness to obey into a reflection of their character. (i.e. "I told you to put your shoes on and get in the car! Why can't you listen? Now we're going to be late.") My focus here is situational and my feelings towards my child are dictated by one single thing he/she did or didn't do. This is not intentional parenting. It is also not a true reflection of what deeply matters to me or how I truly feel about my child.
Blind, swift obedience is not actually a character trait that I am trying to instill into my children. When I list the things that I most hope to cultivate in my future world shapers, obedience does not even make the list. So why then does obedience so often feel like the goal? For me, the answer is selfishness. My life is simply easier when they obey my commands immediately and exactly. But I don't want to be their drill sergeant. I want to be their biggest supporter, their confidant, their place of safety, and their teacher. But I teach nothing through demanding blind obedience and our relationship is not cultivated.
Do some things require strict obedience? Of course. Things like holding hands in a parking lot or crowded place; things pertaining to their physical safety. But even then, their obedience is garnered more effectively through a calm explanation of the reasoning than by forceful, demanding reminders of the rule. And most especially, their obedience is most quickly achieved when they understand that my requests are motivated by love.
As I was pondering this tendency of mine towards demanding obedience, I was reminded of my greatest example of an ideal parent-child relationship--the relationship I have with a Heavenly Father. Of all the parental examples I wish to emulate, this one reigns supreme. Does God demand my blind obedience or use threats and fear-mongering to motivate me to do exactly as he says? Absolutely not. He provides me with direction and explanation for his requests; all of which are motivated by His love for me. Even more importantly, He does not berate me or write me off as a failure when I fail to obey His loving direction. Rather, He allows me to learn from the experience and lovingly invites me to try again. He expects me to fail because He knows I am learning and He stands at the ready to forgive, forget, and continue to guide me in love.
These precious little souls that I am blessed to call my own are too often worthy of so much more than I have offered them. Obedience or not, I am striving daily to respond more to my children in the ways that my loving Father in Heaven is continually responding to me. Which is with grace, love, and confidence in who He knows I am capable of becoming.