Parenting materials are available in abundance for Christians. Each work claims to instill the Bible’s teaching on the subject, and some do in part. Writing such a book is difficult because the Bible itself is full of teaching on parenting.
But sometimes God gives us clear, straightforward instructions that, if we obey, we are better. One such place is Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
That first phrase is interesting. The structure of the verse suggests an on-going pattern of behavior that creates a resentment that will eventually destroy the relationship.
John MacAurther, in his commentary on this verse, offers several ways parents can provoke children to wrath. The following list is taken from his commentary with a few of my own ideas.
- Be overprotective. When we smother them, they do not grow. When we fail to give them any freedom, they do not know how to handle it. Either way, whether they are suppressed or unequipped, they store up resentment and often regret.
- Never make them take responsibility. When we explain away all their shortcomings, they never learn to face them. If their anger is only a personality quirk, if their laziness is due to some outside circumstance, and if their lack of self-control is simply renamed “having a free spirit,” they never learn the full extent of their actions or deal with the fallout they cause.
- Try to re-live your life through them. Your children are not your re-do in life. They are not meant to play the sports you wish you had or make the grades you once did. They are individuals and are meant to be raised as such. But, if you try to make them a little version of yourself, they will store up frustration and will come to believe that they will never be good enough for you because they can never be you.
- Push them to achieve beyond reasonable bounds. I recently saw a seven-year-old doing conditioning drills with a personal trainer in a gym. He was training like a college athlete when he should have been playing outside on a nice day. When children are pushed this way, they know they are missing something. And what they are missing is learning to play in a world full of adventure and fun. Their hobbies are not meant to be a job. So, when the child realizes what they are missing, they will grow in anger – an anger that will be directed at you for years to come.
- Verbally or physically abuse them. MacAurther is right when he says, “Battered children are a growing tragedy today” (318). “Proper physical discipline is not a matter of exerting superior authority but of correcting in love” (318). Words are God’s gifts to encourage and rebuke – not overpower and dominate. When we misuse these gifts, we help them store up wrath, and one day we will see the fruits of it.
Dr. Shane Arnold, Head Of School