As moms, we may be so afraid of raising little heathens of the self-righteous, legalistic, variety that we neglect to teach our children how to obey.
Perhaps we grew up in a home that was as unloving as it was overbearing, or maybe we have known children who conformed to certain outward standards but who were also arrogant and rude. Or we may fear that to be firm with our children is the same as being ungracious and unloving.
But here is where we have to be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. In (rightly!) trying to throw out the bad motive of raising children who meet a certain external standard for the sake of our ease or reputation, we have to be careful not to throw out the biblical mandate to raise children who know what it means to obey, who can come to understand the gospel and live in submission to its claims on their lives.
Throughout Scripture, from the Pentateuch to Proverbs to Paul’s letters (e.g. Deut 5:16, 6:1-9, Prov. 6:20, Eph. 6:1-4), God couldn’t be more clear about a parent’s priority: we are to teach our children to come under the authority of God’s Word by coming under our loving authority. It is what Tedd Tripp so descriptively calls “the circle of God’s blessing.”
Lovingly teaching our children to obey, “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart,” is not legalistic, moralistic parenting. It is obeying God’s Word—if, and only if, we are doing it to please the Lord and not men. Obedience is the gateway to understanding the gospel.
“With her children she was a model disciplinarian, exceedingly strict, a wise lawmaker; nevertheless a most tender, devoted, self-sacrificing mother. I have never seen such exact obedience required and given, or a more idolized mother. ‘Mamma’s’ word was indeed law, but—O happy combination!—it was also Gospel!” (from The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by George Lewis Prentiss)
Here was a mother who was lavish with her affection as she was insistent on her children’s obedience. The fruit was found in her children’s love and in their receptivity to her gospel words. May our “Mamma’s word” be loving law and gospel grace to our children. O happy combination!