Learn like a dog

Any time

Observe dog trainers and the kinds of collars they use for large, disobedient dogs.

Discussion point: Disobedience earns harsh discipline, but those who “hear and obey” please God.

Visit a dog-training facility, watch a DVD or search the Internet (using search terms like “dog training,” “pinch collar” or “prong collar”) to discover how dogs are taught to heel. Explain that dogs who learn to obey quickly can wear a soft collar or no collar at all. Other dogs have to wear a choke collar while they are being trained. This kind of collar pinches their neck a little when the owner pulls on it. Dogs who are stubborn and more difficult to train (or sometimes just have thicker fur), have to wear prong collars. These collars give a significant pinch when the owner pulls on the leash. (You may wish to visit a pet store to check out these types of collars.)

While you are out walking and driving, watch how different dogs walk on the leash. Some tug and pull, while others walk obediently beside their owners.

Read Psalm 32:8-9 and Isaiah 46:12-13 and use the discussion questions below to challenge your children to be someone who accepts instruction without needing the painful guidance of severe discipline.

Questions for discussion
  • How do dog handlers/trainers decide what kind of collar to use on a dog?
  • If you were a dog, what kind of collar would you want to wear?
  • What kind of discipline would be like a soft collar? How about a choke collar? And the pinch or prong collar?
  • Of all of the disciplines Mom and Dad give out, which do you prefer?
  • Can you think of a Bible story where God had to discipline someone who wasn’t doing as God asked?
  • What do you think God means when He refers to people as “stubborn hearted”?
  • Do you want God to refer to you as “easy to train” or “stubborn hearted”?
Key concepts

Dog handlers choose a collar based on the dog’s level of obedience. Compliant dogs require only soft collars. Less cooperative dogs require some pain to help them learn. Similarly, God disciplines us according to the severity of our disobedience. The story of Jonah is an ideal example. Jonah disobeyed and was not doing what God asked him to do. God had to shake Jonah with a wild storm and a ride in the belly of a whale in order to get him to obey.

Jonah 3:1-2 says, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ ” It was as though God was telling Jonah, “Here is another chance to obey.” God uses the term “stubborn-hearted” to describe people who are “far from righteousness.” On the other hand, God compares some of His followers to sheep who listen to and follow His voice. These people are like the obedient dogs who do not need to wear a collar at all because they obey their master’s voice.

As a parent, you can use the dog-training terms studied to remind your children of the dangers of being stubborn, thus requiring painful discipline. A question like, “What kind of dog are you being right now?” can help remind a child of the importance of obeying. You can also assure your child that your goal is to discipline like God does, with a heart of love. Remind them that you will be consulting God and asking His opinion to help you select appropriate disciplinary measures.

Close by praying a simple prayer from Luke 11:28 with your children. For example, you might pray, “Dear God, thank You that You bless us when we hear Your Word and obey it. Please send Your Holy Spirit to help us to have obedient hearts that choose to do the things that please You.”

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 32:8-9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”

Isaiah 46:12-13 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing My righteousness near, it is not far away; and My salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, My splendor to Israel.”

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.”

Luke 11:27-28 “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave You birth and nursed You.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.”