Why Does My Child Obey Others, But Not Me?

by sharon cannavo encouragement for mom homeschooling parenting tips

In the days of Cornerstone Community School, there were times when a mom would come to me and say, “Sharon, when I asked Jake’s (name has been changed) teacher how he did in school today, her answer seems always to be, “He did so well! He was very respectful and helpful to me and the other students, and he completed his work on time.”  I would look at the mom wondering why her brow was furrowed.  “Isn’t that a really good report?” I would ask.  Bursting into tears she would reply, “It would be if I was not having so much trouble with him at home!  When I home-school, all I get are excuses and arguments.  He is resistant to help his sister, generally landing in conflicts with finger-pointing and blame-shifting. When I ask him to complete a task, I get eye-rolls, or even worse, I am ignored! He doesn’t seem to respect me the way he respects his teachers, and he certainly does not treat his sister as kindly and considerate as his fellow students!  Why is Jake only disobedient and rude at home???” 

This is a very fair question!  When our children seem to be the perfect child for everyone…

Except his parents… What’s gone wrong?  Obviously in this scenario, the child had been trained, or he would not have been so respectful and obedient outside the home!  So what is keeping him from making these same brilliant choices with Dad and Mom?  

This is a great time to ask the following questions and see if we can get to the heart of this issue: 


1.  Am I Parenting Consistently?

It’s important to understand that if we are not consistent in our parenting requirements for our children, and in our application of consequence, we will stumble them! They will actually be encouraged to test us to see just how serious each instruction is.  If they sometimes have no repercussions for disobedience, it’s worth the roll of the dice to disobey and gamble on getting away with it.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we can probably admit that there are many times when we fail to faithfully apply the consequence for disobedience. We have to recognize that this is an offense to God, who determines that the heart that holds fast to His words and keeps His commandments will live (Pro. 4:4)

To address this issue, be careful to say what you mean and mean what you say.  

Do not give instructions in which you are not willing to follow up. Being faithful to our word builds trust with our children. When they know that what you said is solid, non-negotiable, and not forgotten, they weigh out their decision, knowing that either they obey, or they choose to suffer the consequence. This is the most effective form of parenting which leads your children to a biblical respect for their authority. And, let’s not underestimate your impact on them.  Biblical parenting is ultimately for their knowledge and understanding that they can trust and respect their Father in Heaven. This is a major point in parenting, as it will increase your right-relationship with your child throughout their lifetime, and help them understand that their God and Savior can be trusted beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (Ja. 5:12–13).


2.  Is my child people-pleasing?

If your child is disregarding you, but going out of her way to please the other authorities in her life, this could definitely indicate a heart issue similar to the one Jesus pointed out in the Pharisees.  This reveals a heart that is willing to play favorites to gain favor, to show prejudice and priority.  Or it may be an indication that she fears man above God… choosing man’s good opinion at the cost of God’s good opinion.  If this is the case, it is a blessing that it has been discovered, because man-pleasing is one of the most common stumbling blocks to salvation.   If you detect this as the problem, you now have the opportunity to work on increasing your child’s right and high view of God.  You can help your child to grow in strength of character and integrity, able to stand for God in difficult situations.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (Gal.1:10).


3.  Am I receiving accurate reports from others?

Our culture has submitted to the idea that parenting is personal, and therefore when you leave your child with a teacher or caregiver, they most likely will not give you an accurate report.  Teachers and caregivers in many areas have been encouraged to refrain from giving any negative feedback because it may be a result of the parent’s choice of parenting style.  Therefore, you may not hear about areas that the Bible describes as sin, because the world no longer ascribes to the practice of training for righteousness.  Even some churches will choose to stay out of this potential conflict with parents.  Therefore, your child may be practicing sin, but you may still receive a good report. If you have a regular teacher/caregiver, help him/her to be confident that you desire to have an honest report so you can help your child grow in respect and obedience.  It is also highly beneficial to look for teachers/caregivers who understand biblical principles and sin, so that they may become a help to you in identifying areas that you will be able to train at home.  

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:8–10).


4.  When and where am I most likely to misbehave?

Let’s approach our parenting with humility.  When we remember that our behavior is probably worse in our own home than anywhere else, we can understand that our children feel more relaxed and comfortable giving into temptation when they are home.  Of course this isn’t an excuse for anyone’s sinful behavior, but it can be seen as our opportunity to focus on training; both in our child’s heart, and our own.  Again, this can indicate people-pleasing.  If they can resist the temptation when with people outside their family, then they are capable of resisting that temptation when they are home.  

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:12-13)

Parent, just by reading through and considering these questions, you have already glorified the Lord! He sees your desire to discover the problem, and if you are a born-again believer, it is by His wisdom, through the power of His Holy Spirit that you may be enlightened.  May I encourage you to continue to seek God in your parenting, remembering it is a spiritual work ordained for you before the creation of the world.  God loves you so much and is intentionally involved in your family.  Trust Him, trust His Word, and be the example of obedience with a high view of your precious God, and you will grow in becoming the model God intended for your children.  

My child, do not forget my teaching

But let your heart keep my commandments,

for length of days and years of life

and peace they will add to you. (Pro. 3:1-2)