It may not be the key New Testament passage on parenting, but it’s definitely one of the most important: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In this video I talk about it and warn how we, as parents, can provoke our children to anger.
It may not be the key parenting passage in the New Testament but it’s certainly one of the most important. Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Let’s talk about it.
Well, there’s no doubt that this parenting thing is really, really hard. Thankfully, the Lord does not leave us without guidance. In fact, through his word he gives us all we really need to know about parenting, and there’s no area he does not address in some way and in some time.
In Ephesians 6:4 he begins with this word: Fathers. Does this mean this passage is only for dads? No. It’s meant for moms too. It applies to all parents, but Paul is speaking here to fathers as the head of their households, and he says, “do not provoke your children to anger.”
See, there’s a way we can provoke our children to anger. We can exasperate them. We can irritate them. We can treat them so unfairly that the right and fitting response is anger, that their angry response to our unjust behavior, or our unjust demands is actually a fitting response.
If we go to the parallel passage in Colossians 3:21 Paul adds this: “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, lest they become discouraged.” See, our provocation of our children can cause them to become discouraged. Our children have this natural desire to honor their parents, this natural desire to please their parents, but over time we can exasperate them to such a degree that they just give up. They realize there’s no pleasing this person. There’s nothing more I can do. And so they give up. They’ve become discouraged.
Is there a solution to this discouragement and this provocation. There is! Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Discipline and instruction—these are two sides of one coin. Discipline, that’s the negative side of parenting. The part we don’t enjoy. The part we don’t love, but it’s so crucial. That’s warning our children away from poor behavior. That’s intervening in their disobedience, that’s meeting our consequences when they’ve defied us, when they’ve done things that are harmful or wrong. But then there’s the instruction. That’s the teaching, that’s the training, that’s the positive side of parenting. That’s coming alongside them to raise them especially in the ways of the Lord, to teach them that there is a God. That he has demands on their lives. That they need to turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. That there’s a right and good and God-honoring way to live in this world. That is the task of every parent.
Now, what are some ways that we as parents we may exasperate, may provoke our children to anger? I’m going to give you three.
The first is when we live with hypocrisy instead of authenticity. We as parents can live in hypocritical ways before our children and that may anger them and rightly so. We may display that hypocrisy when we have one set of demands on ourselves but a very different one for them. We’re very demanding about their behavior, about their outbursts, about what they watch, about what they do, but have far looser standards for ourselves. That’s hypocrisy. Or it may be that our children see that we live in one way before other people. We live in one way in the workplace or in the church but very differently at home. Again, that’s hypocrisy, and our children are right to respond against that.
Another way we can provoke our children is when we are aloof instead of involved. We as parents may have to fight the temptation to be distant from our kids. See, what happens is if we’re aloof from our children we only tend to get involved when they irritate us, when they’ve done something wrong, when they’ve defies us, when they’ve embarrassed us. Then suddenly we come bursting in their lives and tell them how to live. No. We need to come alongside our kids through all of their lives. Teaching, training them, befriending them, enjoying them. And then when times do come when we have to intervene, they’re much more willing, much more ready to hear because they know that we are for them.
The third way we can provoke our children to anger is when we live with pride instead of humility. I think as parents one of our big, big temptations is to be prideful toward our children especially when we’ve wronged them. We can have this idea in our minds that we weaken ourselves in the eyes of our children when we repent before them. That it somehow diminishes us in their eyes when we seek their forgiveness. We say, “Please, will you forgive me for this sin I’ve committed against you?” Nothing can be farther from the truth. We actually grow in our children’s eyes. We honor them and they honor us when we seek their forgiveness, when we apologize, when we live in humility before them.
“Parents, do not provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” If you do this you’ll be doing well.
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