Although I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on T.V.), there are certain diagnoses that are fairly simple to make by recognizing specific symptoms. Just as that statement is true in the medical profession, it is also true in parenting. For example, when I watch a child throwing a tantrum, pitching a fit, or talking back to his parents I recognize these symptoms as being consistent with the disease of selfishness.

This disease, if not diagnosed and treated early in life, can result in a lifetime of self-centered symptoms: the consistent demanding of one’s own way, failure in recognizing or embracing God’s best, rebelling against authority, manipulating circumstances to meet personal desires, etc. Such was the case with God’s people, the Israelites. Even though God had proven Himself time and time again by fulfilling His promises, the Israelites continued to demand to have their own way rather than to follow God’s perfect will.

In the first Chapter of 1 Samuel, these people rejected God by demanding a king. Even though this was in opposition to God’s will, He provided them with a king. 1 Samuel 12:12 records Samuel speaking to God’s people, Israel: “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king.’”

This passage provides good lessons for parents to use in training children who insist on having their own way. Teach your child that God is creator and ruler of all and, therefore, demands to have authority in his life. Show your child that when we reject God’s will, we are rejecting His authority. Consistently remind him that those who reject God’s authority cannot expect to live within His protection or experience His grace and peace.

In a way similar to the Israelites, children will often cry, scream, and even demand something they think they want, instead of accepting what best meets their needs. As parents, we should help our children to recognize God’s best in each situation by pointing them to His Word.

Even though we can point our children to truth, we cannot choose obedience for them. As with the Israelites, God will sometimes allow His children to suffer natural consequences as a result of disobedience in order to positively influence future behavior.

1 Samuel 12:13-15 tells us: “Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.”

Parents, please teach your children that every situation and circumstance presents a choice, and the choice is always the same: To obey or disobey God. In each situation, teach your children to consider potential consequences by helping them identify choices. In doing so, you are training them to one day consider both choices and consequences for themselves. When your child chooses disobedience over obedience, lovingly point out the personal choices he has made, while allowing him to experience the natural consequences of those choices.

Ask God to use the suffering of consequences to teach your child to desire God’s will over pursuing his own way.