Teaching the Value of Obedience

It may be tempting to require children to obey adults no matter what, however it is also important for children to be able to say “no.” There are times when children could be taken advantage of by an adult authority figure in their lives. We need to give children permission to say “no” when it is necessary.

Please use the following age level specific guidelines to help you teach this particular value.

3 – 4 YEAR-OLDS:

Three and four year-olds moral behavior is influenced by the authority figures in their lives. They do not yet understand the abstract concepts of right and wrong. They might obey if they anticipate a reward from someone they want to please. Research gives some evidence that physical punishment tends to result in obedience only if the child believes there is a danger of being caught disobeying. So, when adults explain the rules and children are allowed to experience the consequences of disobedience, then children will eventually come to accept parental values.

5 – 6 YEAR-OLDS:

Five to six year-olds will still disobey because their desires are stronger than their ability to follow through on resistance. They want and need to explore and experiment, and sometimes that will mean that they disobey adults. They are beginning to express their emotions, and sometimes that will mean that they will disobey out of frustration and anger. Scolding and lecturing are not very helpful for guiding this age group. Parents should demonstrate strong affection, give simple explanations, and explain the natural and logical consequences of disobedience. For example, a “natural” consequence of not putting toys away might be that toys get stopped on and broken. A “logical” consequence established by parents might be that children must complete one activity (such as putting toys away) before they may start another activity (such as playing outside).

7 – 9 YEAR-OLDS:

Seven to nine year-olds are beginning to know right from wrong, but they still think in terms of concrete things. They still focus on what they want rather than the right way to obey. It might be helpful for parents to work with their children as they follow through on some tasks. You could clean up a bedroom together, so your child can learn the many steps involved in cleaning. The goal is to inform, guide, and teach the child. Children will be able to obey only if they clearly understand what is being asked of them and what steps to take to accomplish the task.


Activities To Do to Learn About Obedience

  1. Help your child make a list of ways to obey. It might include picking up toys, brushing teeth, eating dinner, folding clothes, or waiting to cross the street. Talk about how you know that those are things you should do. Discuss what would happen if you didn’t obey. What would be the consequences or results?
  2. Have a family meeting to decide what the chores will be for each family member. Develop the list based on each person’s abilities and interests. For example, very young children can put flatware away, fold towels, water plants. Older children can carry out garbage bags, feed the pets, make their own beds, put their toys away on shelves. Create a chart to give stars or stickers each time the chore is completed. Talk about why each family member needs to do their part to help the family.


Quigley’s Village Recommended Video on Obedience: “Bubba and the Big Berry Belly Ache”

The video that ties into this value is “Bubba and the Big Berry Belly Ache.” In this video, Lemon, Spike, and Bubba go with Mr. Quigley to pick berries. The only rule is that they may not pick the berries that are not ripe. Lemon and Spike decide not to obey Mr. Quigley and even try to persuade Bubba to eat the green berries too! Bubba decides to obey Mr. Quigley and, in the end, is the only one of the three who doesn’t get a stomach ache. Meanwhile, Danny learns that simply obeying his mother and cleaning up his room is much easier than making things complicated by procrastinating.

During the video, you may want to occasionally stop it and ask your children, “What do you think you would do (or feel or say) in this story?” Then, watch how the program ends.

After the video, ask your children to share what they thought about the story. Which character was their favorite? Which character was most like them? In what ways?

Additional activities to do after the video could be:

  1. If possible, actually go to pick “berries.” Another alternative might be to pick your own apples, or, plant and harvest from your own garden. Young children may learn about how fruits and vegetables ripen and what it means when fruits and vegetables are not yet ripe.
  2. Learn to sing together songs from “Let’s Obey!”


Recommended Books to Learn About Obedience

  • “Noah’s Ark,” Peter Spier. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1977.
  • “The Story of Noah’s Ark,” Jane Latourette. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1965.
  • “Noah and God’s Promises,” Gloria A. Truitt. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1965.
  • “The Booklets’ Baking Boo-Boo,” Ken Gire. Arcadia, CA: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1987.
  • “Good Hugs, Bad Hugs: How Can You Tell?” Angela R. Carl. Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Co., 1985.
  • “Sexual Abuse: Let’s Talk About It,” Margaret Hyde. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1986.
  • “Never Say “Yes” to a Stranger: What Your Child Must Know to Stay Safe,” Susan Newman. New York, NY: Putname Publishing Co., 1985.