Most parents would agree with me that parenting is sometimes hard work!! Most of us never attended “Parenting for Dummies” and find ourselves clueless at times when it comes to raising our children. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul gives parents a simple charge filled with amazing implications. He writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
There are two primary commands in this passage—one negative the other positive. First of all, negatively, we as parents are not to provoke our children to anger and give them cause to be despondent or discouraged. We must be consistent in our parenting and discipline so that our children will not have to express a righteous anger at our parenting. How in the world do we do this on a consistent basis?
Let me give you seven exhortations that you as Christian parents can embrace that will help you not enrage your children.
First of all, we must ourselves as parents be under control. We need to be submissive and yielding to the Spirit’s work in our lives. We need to be saturated in the Word and allowing it to dwell richly in us so that we are Christ-like. We cannot punish or discipline if we ourselves are out of control.
Secondly, discipline must never be arbitrary or unpredictable. There’s the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” As parents, that won’t work. We can’t ask our children to behave in ways that we ourselves are blatantly ignoring in our own lives. Children see the inconsistency in our own conduct and it brings confusion to them and there is no legitimacy to our discipline.
Thirdly, we must never be unreasonable as parents in that we are unwilling to hear our child’s case. We must never punish capriciously or illogically. We might not change our punishment or change the consequences, but we must honor the dignity of our children and allow them to speak in their defense. We must remember that our children are not automatons, or robots, but precious souls that the Lord has entrusted to us.
Fourthly, parents must never be selfish. We must never put guilt trips on our children where we require them to love us through sacrifice, but instead we seek self. This could be a mother who pushes for a child’s success to affirm her own worth, or when a father punishes to enforce behavior that serves his own reputation or convenience. We must not be crushing the child’s personality to compensate for our inadequacies and insecurities.We must remember that we are only stewards of gifts entrusted to us by the Father. Our children are not our own. We are not absolute owners, we are stewards. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
Fifthly, we must never discipline in purely mechanical ways. There must be logic and reason behind the punishment. The punishment must fit the crime and we must explain to our children why their behavior was wrong and why we are punishing them. Again, we are not dealing with animals or robots, but individual persons.
Sixthly, we must never humiliate our children. We must never demand respect at the expense of individual dignity. A mother should never shame her child into obedience–especially in front of others. Parents, never play the comparison game by shaming your child that he or she isn’t a good little boy or girl like so and so. Never compare to other sibling, friends, or whoever. This diminishes the dignity of that child.
Lastly, never fail to recognize the growth and development of your child. Two year olds act like two year olds and 12 year olds act like twelve year olds. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on children when they haven’t grown in certain areas.
The second major command from Paul in Ephesians 6:4 is positive. As parents we must bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The word “bring them up” carries the idea of fondly cherishing and nurturing our children to maturity. We must discipline our children. Proverbs 13:24 states, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Contrary to popular opinion, you’re not going to hurt your child’s self-esteem if you discipline them. They need boundaries. Children need protection and direction and discipline.
As parents we are to nurturing our child to maturity through godly discipline as well as instructing them in the Lord. This means to strongly warn them about the dangers and consequences of sin. And ultimately the raising of our children must be “in the Lord.”
In other words, our goal as parents is to mature our children to godliness in keeping with a devotion to Christ. Our ultimate goal is not to crank out moral, good, obedient children. Our goal is to lead them to maturity in Christ so that they have a passion for Jesus and a love for His truth so that they see that their chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. We’re not after “good little children”—we’re after transformed children who live under the power of God’s grace and who have a deep personal relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Parents, you can do it!! But it is only by the grace and power of Christ alone. Keep your eyes fixed on Him!