A positive parenting, Biblical approach to teaching about obeying

Obedience is hard to learn. It goes against human nature. We want to do what we want when we want.

It’s evident in the youngest toddlers who want their way. And it’s partly why our kids learn to say “no” quickly. They hear “no” often from us, and like to repeat it back because they want their own way.

But, obedience is important for our kiddos’ safety (like those times we say “stop!” so they don’t get hurt). Obedience remains important as they grow and go to school.

Most importantly, learning obedience to their earthly parents and trusted authority figures helps kids learn how to be obedient to God.

A simple object lesson about obedience can help your children learn to do the right thing. This easy object lesson can be used with your own family at home or as a full Sunday School lesson.

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The importance of obedience

​To begin with, we don’t want to confuse the word “obedience” with the word “control.” They are two different things.

When someone is obedient, he is making the right choice based on respect and trust. Being controlled, on the other hand, is taking away the ability for another person to make a choice. 

Sometimes, I admit, I’d like to be able to control my children so they always do things the best way and make the best choices. However, I also know that I’m not perfect myself. I rely on Jesus Christ, God’s commands and the Word of God to help keep me in line with making good choices and doing things God’s way.

Obedience works much better. It allows our children to choose the right way for themselves. They learn to honor and respect those in charge — both us and God.

The best results come when obedience is more of a character trait than an action. I want to teach my children based on the principle of Godly obedience. We certainly don’t want our children to obey the wrong people who will lead them into making bad choices. 

Object lessons about obedience can help our children learn the importance of following God through a Bible lesson and some fun activities as well.

Learning about obedience through the Word

Scripture basis

Joshua 6

Memory verse

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” — Colossians 3:20 (NIV)

Memory verse activity

Between teaching kiddos at church and having my own children, I have learned that sometimes kids are able to listen better if their hands have something to do. My good friend and artist, Carol Daugherty, drew this awesome coloring sheet you can download for free and print by clicking the image below.

It shows both the story and the memory verse in one. This coloring page is great for kiddos and adults!

Read out loud

The Israelites, God’s people, had been wandering in the hot desert for 40 long years. They first followed a leader named Moses to the desert to escape being slaves to a wicked king. God promised Moses that He would lead the people to a Promised Land — a new land to call home that would be better than they had imagined.

However, before Moses was able to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, he died and left Joshua in charge. Just like Moses, Joshua led the people through the desert until they came to the land God had promised them. 

Unfortunately, one thing stood between the Israelites and the Promised Land: Jericho. Jericho was a big city surrounded by a huge, thick, tall wall. The tired and weary Israelites felt discouraged. 

But then, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua and told him not to worry. God was with the Israelites. All Joshua needed to do was have the people march around the city for a week, and then the city would be destroyed so the Israelites could go through.

Joshua was probably a bit unsure about how this plan would work, but he trusted and obeyed God. He told the people God’s plan. For six days they marched once around Jericho. On the seventh day, they walked around the city seven times. Then Joshua told them to make as much noise as they could.

Just as God promised, the walls began to crack. The walls crumbled and soon Jericho no longer stood between God’s people and the Promised Land.

They were able to get to where God had promised to lead them because they obeyed their heavenly Father and followed His directions — even when those directions seemed strange. 

Talking about obedience

Being obedient can be difficult sometimes. Talk with your children about how hard it can be to follow directions. Share a time when you either obeyed or disobeyed God’s leading and the consequences as a result.

Next, talk with your kiddos about some situations they might face. How difficult or easy would obedience to God’s will be if you had to… (Feel free to add scenarios specific to your family and children.)

  • Share your favorite toy with your best friend.
  • Say something nice to someone who has been mean to you.
  • Invite someone to your party who didn’t invite you to theirs.
  • Make a card for your sibling(s) saying what you like about them.
  • Share a piece of candy someone gave you with someone else.
  • Give a bigger piece of dessert to your sibling.

Faith object lesson about obedience

We tried this using cotton balls, because I didn’t have any cotton swabs at the time. The swabs would work better, but cotton balls work in a pinch!

What you’ll need:

  • dirty pennies
  • vinegar
  • salt
  • small bowls
  • cotton swabs

1. Give each of your kiddos a small bowl and a cotton swab. Pour about 1/4-cup of vinegar into their bowls. Ask your children to use the vinegar and cotton swab to clean the pennies.

2. Pretend to be disappointed that it didn’t work so well to clean the pennies. Tell the kiddos you realized you missed something in the directions. Point out that the vinegar needs salt added to it in order to work.

3. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt into the kids’ vinegar, let the salt dissolve and have them try again. This time, the pennies should come nice and clean.

4. Talk about how obeying can be hard, but just like the salt and vinegar helped clean the penny, so the Holy Spirit and God help us to be obedient. We want to be like Joshua and follow directions, even when they don’t always make sense to us.

Family activities about obedience

Activities are a great way to help children focus on obedience. Depending on your kids’ ages and time you have, pick a couple of activities (or all of them!) to do as a family.

“Joshua Says” Game

If you’re familiar with the beloved game “Simon Says,” then you know how to play this game. Instead of “Simon,” change it to “Joshua” to help kids remember the story. (You can also use “God Says,” if you prefer.) Be sure to give everyone a chance to be Joshua.

Follow the Leader

This is a classic game most of us are familiar with. Have one family member be the leader and the other family members follow them, doing what the leader does. You can kick it up a notch to emphasize obeying and have family members be “out” if they don’t do what the leader does. Give everyone a turn to be the leader.

I would encourage you a couple of times to have mom or dad (or both at different times) NOT do something the leader does and have “trouble” as a result. For example, if the leader steps around a chair, one of you could walk into the chair and then point out the trouble you had because you disobeyed.

Blind Obstacle Course

Set up an obstacle course around your living room, yard or elsewhere. You can make it as simple or complex as you’d like. (I’d recommend starting simple and then working up from there if you’d like.) Use whatever items you have on hand. You can use painters tape to map out spots to hop on one foot, chairs that have to be navigated around, boxes to step over, etc. You can divide your family into teams or just take turns.

One person puts on a blindfold and has to navigate the obstacle course based on the directions another family member gives them. The success of the person going through the obstacle course depends on how well they obey the instructions.

Cook Together

Another great way to help kids learn about obedience is in the kitchen. Try a recipe that doesn’t require using an oven or heat like this yummy and easy whipped pudding pie. Let an older child or parent read the recipe while the others obey their directions.

Read more about obedience

Our family adores “The Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Its version of Joshua and Jericho, called “The Warrior Leader,” is great.

Check out this video of me reading “The Warrior Leader” for a recent Story Time with Families with Grace:

The classic book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” is also a great book for encouraging obedience as poor Peter struggles to follow his mom’s directions and pays the price as a result.

If you’re looking for a longer book about obedience, consider “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. The beloved book (which was also made into a movie in 1971 and in 2005) offers great lessons on obedience and the consequences of being disobedient.

Watch more about obedience

One of my all-time favorite versions of Joshua and Jericho is the VeggieTales version of the story from the 1997. It’s the first VeggieTales I ever saw; even though I was college student without children, I loved it! “Josh and the Big Wall” is a great (and humorous) way to reinforce the story and lesson of obeying. (Also, who doesn’t love to see peas pouring slushies onto other veggie people?!)

Both the original “Mary Poppins” from 1964 and “Mary Poppins Returns” from 2018 are terrific family movies that include lessons about obedience. Mary Poppins swoops in with a spoonful of sugar to help the children learn how to obey and behave well.

The bottom line

Using a simple Bible object lesson can help our children learn more about the importance of obedience whether you’re working as a family or a small group at church. We can a Bible study for children to help them learn about obedience even back in the Old Testament. 

The coloring page, faith object lesson, books and movies help our children develop a good attitude and a heart for obeying our Heavenly Father. 

This post is part of a DIY Summer Camp designed for seven days starting on a Monday, but you can adjust the schedule according to what works best for your family. If doing one character trait each day doesn’t work for you then spread it out between two weeks. Get the full details and lesson ideas HERE!

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

Be sure to get the FREE family devotion book, "Finding Grace at Home: 7 Days of 5 Minute Devotions for Families." It's a great way to help your family draw closer to each other and to God.

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