Written by Peter Blanch
There is a surprising sentence in the Bible that says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4]
It is surprising because you expect the verse to read the opposite way around – “Children, do not exasperate your fathers and mothers”! Yet it is to fathers that God speaks directly: with a warning not to exasperate their children. The word ‘exasperate’ simply means ‘to provoke to anger’. There are probably thousands of ways that fathers might provoke their children to anger and so there is great need to think carefully how we are following God’s instructions in this regard.
Ray Galea, a minister of a church in Rooty Hill in Sydney [and who is also on Wagga Evangelical Church’s Board of Reference] has helpfully noted 13 ways he has noticed that fathers can exasperate their children. I still remember hearing this list for the first time, back when I had become a new father (so I listened very carefully!). Here are the ways that Ray suggests we might provoke our children to anger:
- Constantly making and breaking promises. How unlike God the Father.
- Crushing discipline. Discipline may be physical but it must never be violent.
- Being inconsistent. Rules which change from day to day. Too much of our discipline rides on the wave of our emotions.
- Punishing children when you have no evidence and so ending up punishing the innocent. Our children will remember that injustice for a long time.
- Disciplining in our rage. It not only doesn’t work, its a sin.
- Incessant nagging. We don’t like it when our partners do it to us so why should our children. If we keep on their backs about every little thing they will think that putting the lid on the peanut butter jar is as serious as lying.
- Never embarrass your children in front of your friends or their’s.
- Not spending time with them and just having fun together. Make time and have a great time. Family is the place for a lot of happy memories.
- Being one thing at home and another to the world. God hates hypocrites and so do our children.
- Asking the impossible. Don’t expect a 4 year old to act like a 10 year old. And if you’re anything like me you don’t even know what is realistic. So men, listen to your wife. By the way, neither is treating a 15 year old like 4 year old any better.
- Favouritism. I love my parents for being absolutely clear on this issue. There were no favourites in our family.
- Nothing exasperates more than a parent who is not willing to say “I’m sorry” when appropriate.
Of course, there will also be many times when you will deny your child’s wishes because you are wanting to train them up. It is the tragedy of modern parenting in our generation that is not prepared at times to disappoint our children for their good.
I hope you find these wise words helpful. I certainly have.