Question: What Can Be Done When Children Refuse To Obey?


Quick Answer:

Respond with love and gentleness. If necessary distract them to break the confrontation. Do not scold, fret or get angry! These things will never reform your children.

Bible Answer:

Colossians 3:21 (NKJV) "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

Longer Answer:

"When children have done wrong, they themselves are convicted of their sin, and feel humiliated and distressed. To scold them for their faults will often result in making them stubborn and secretive. Like unruly colts, they seem determined to make trouble, and scolding will do them no good. Parents should seek to divert their minds into some other channel. But the trouble is, parents are not uniform in their management, but move more from impulse than from principle. They fly into a passion, and do not set an example before their children that Christian parents should. One day they pass over the wrong-doings of their children, and the next day they manifest no patience or self-control. They do not keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. They are often more guilty than are their children. {Ms 38, 1895, par. 44}


Some Commentary:

Paragraph above comes from a manuscript of a talk given in Hobart [Tasmania, Australia] in May of 1895, where the forbidding attitude of the church against children was considered. In the course of the manuscript ones learns about the danger of scolding, fretting and expressing anger, for these only make things worse. Note the following:

"Mothers should forbear from fretting and scolding. It is not safe to practice habits of fretting and scolding, for you will become unpleasant and harsh in your home, and will be likely to burst into a passion at anything that displeases you. This would greatly injure your soul, and injure the souls of your family. Be patient, be kind, be gentle. Gain the confidence and love of your children, and it will not be difficult to control them. Never fret, never threaten, never make a promise to your children that you cannot fulfill. Your lack of fulfilling your word will weaken the confidence of your children in you." {Ms 38, 1895, par. 41}

"The manifestation of anger on account of the misdeeds of your children will never help them to reform. Parents may manifest sorrow on account of the wrongs of their little ones, and at the same time show love for their children. Let parents set before their children their errors and wrongs, not in a spirit of harshness, but in love. Let them seek to reach the tender heart of the erring one, that he may feel he has grieved Jesus who loves him more than his earthly parents can." {Ms 38, 1895, par. 46}


Additional Quotes On Diverting The Child's Mind

Divert Their Minds As Best You Can

"Never let the parents at such times manifest anger, never strike a blow in passion. The Lord wants the hearts of these children from their very babyhood to be given to His service. While they are too young to reason with, divert their minds as best you can; and as they become older, teach them by precept and example that you cannot indulge their wrong desires." {Ms 93, 1909, par. 12} ... Instruct them patiently. Sometimes they will have to be punished, but never do it in such a way that they will feel they have been punished in anger. By such a course you only work a greater evil. Many unhappy differences in the family circle might be avoided if parents would obey the counsel of the Lord in the training of their children. In righteousness shalt thou be established, God declares;—that is, in doing the works of righteousness." {Ms 93, 1909, par. 13}

Divert Their Minds To Christ

"My mind is drawn out after those that are to be warned and to be converted and to humble their hearts before God. If they will only come into right relation to God, do you think my Saviour would pass them by? Do you think my Saviour would not notice that these children, who have been brought up under the rattan whenever they did wrong, would respond to what we were trying to do for them? Well, this is the way that we want to bring ourselves into right relation to God. We want to humble our hearts before Him. Jesus loves us. {Ms 80, 1912, par. 6} ... We can divert the minds of the children to Christ and what He bore for us, and this will reach their hearts. What we want is religion. Let us take right hold, here at this meeting, and let us be determined that we will be transformed in character. We will have that spirit that Christ has enjoined upon us to bring to Him. He will accept that spirit and we shall be preparing our children for a home above. Where the parents are so careless, many of the children are not being converted. They are being transformed into another character, into a character that Christ will not accept, and that is a terrible thing. We cannot allow that. Our churches will become weak and feeble." {Ms 80, 1912, par. 8}

Divert Their Minds

"Mothers should guard against training their children to be dependent and self-absorbed. Never lead them to think that they are the center, and that everything must revolve around them. Some parents give much time and attention to amusing their children, but children should be trained to amuse themselves, to exercise their own ingenuity and skill. Thus they will learn to be content with very simple pleasures. They should be taught to bear bravely their little disappointments and trials. Instead of calling attention to every trifling pain or hurt, divert their minds, teach them to pass lightly over the little annoyances or discomforts. Study to suggest ways by which the children may learn to be thoughtful for others. {RH May 26, 1910, par. 10}"

You can read the entire excerpt at this link: The Greatest Missionary Service That Parents May Perform