I was recently at a baby shower where the hostess read from a devotional. I didn't find out the name of the author or the devotional because as soon as I heard its contents, I felt it was not worth remembering. The passage described two kinds of children: compliant and defiant. Of course, the point of the passage was to discuss our preference for the compliant child. I was immediately on guard because I had quite compliant children, and I discovered that compliance is not the goal; the goal is to raise children to love and serve God, and the two aren't always synonymous.
Compliance is something we like as parents because it means our job is easier. Isn't it easier to ask only once instead of repeatedly? A refusal to do something means we have to deal with the situation. A lack of compliance means much more work. When our children are compliant, we praise them, because we like it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving verbal encouragement to our kids. However, for a child who has a natural disposition for pleasing others (and yes, some people are just wired that way) it is soon observable that being compliant makes life easier for everyone. And compliance is an outward thing. It does not guarantee an inward transformation. Haven't you ever complied with something you didn't really agree with in order to make things easier? To demonstrate grace?
If I focus too much on compliance, will it extend into other arenas, such as peers, school, and later work environments? If that is my goal, what is the consequence? A better goal is to raise our children in the instruction and disposition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) and then entrust them to God to take responsibility for their lives. Yes, we want our children to obey, but compliance is not the ultimate goal. Conflict in families is inevitable. We are all sinners. Those occasions of defiance are opportunities to practice godly conflict resolution. We can't avoid conflict with our children.
The trouble with focusing merely on compliance is that our attentions are increasingly drawn to the outward rather than looking more closely at what is going on in the child's heart and mind. When our kids are compliant it is so easy to assume that they are doing well, that there are no issues. But for some children, compliance is simply a way to cover up deeper issues. Young people can be outwardly compliance but inwardly struggling and even rebelling. I'm not making this up. I witnessed it in all three of my children. And yes, I was too concerned with compliance than I was with helping them grow and mature. And yes, I regret it.
Parenting is hard work, and it doesn't come easy. I grow continually frustrated with parenting advice that tries to make it look easier than it is. Ultimately, when we want it to be easy, it's for selfish reasons. Parenting is a vocation, and that brings with it challenges and joys. Trying to make it easy just reduces it to a task like any other, and honestly, it just isn't.
Our goal in parenting is to raise our children for God's glory; to teach them God's Word, to provide discipline and love. If compliance is our only goal, I think we ultimately settle for something less.