For those who invite foster children into our homes, or choose to adopt a child who has been through some trauma, the journey ahead takes emotional strength, fortitude, wisdom, and a whole lot of love. Understanding that these children have learned to survive abuse by developing coping skills that may be unhealthy and even damaging, certainly we’ll seek out professional help for both these children and for ourselves. But is there a way, in the meantime, to help our previously abused children learn obedience, all the while helping them learn that they are loved? I believe there is.

Let’s remember that obedience is learned through discipline. And discipline is a word that is often misunderstood.  According to Lynn G. Robbins, “The word discipline comes from the Latin word discere, ‘to learn,’ or discipulus, ‘learner.’” So, in working with our foster or adopted children to teach them obedience, ever careful to show great love in the process, it really matters where our hearts are.

No learning takes place when anger is present. A child may act out of fear, and it will resemble obedience. But it is not the same. Nothing is learned, character isn’t shaped, bonds are not forged, and positive growth doesn’t occur. We can see the same actions that we desire from the child through obedience—or a desire to act appropriately. Their desires will grow in direct proportion to our loving discipline.

Consistency is also required. There can be no wishy-washy disciplining in a convenient way. If we do so we will not only lose the respect of our children, but we will also confuse them. Preparation is the key. Daily preparation. If you are a praying person, pray morning and night for strength, wisdom, and a lot of energy to lovingly discipline and to follow through. If you are not a pray-er, take time to meditate and to plan. We can each gain the inner strength to continue to love and teach in an effective manner if we are intentional about it. Eventually our previously abused children will let down their walls and begin to accept our love. They will choose to act obediently out of respect, love, and a desire to do right. When their motives are such, obedience will be achieved, self-esteem will grow, and strong moral character will be formed.