Parenting tips is a monthly blog post to encourage those of you who are parents to think Biblically about parenting.
Parenting Tip #18 – God’s Design for Parenting – Parent without exasperating your children
Defining every Christian family should be the obvious expression of mutual love one to the other. A father and mother are to love their children in such a way that they do not exasperate or provoke the child to anger and so become the child’s object of resentment. The Apostle Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…” (Eph. 6:4a).
Let me first call your attention to what exasperation does not mean: It does not mean that we never do anything that would upset or annoy or make our children angry (These are all natural responses of the fallen human heart to the exercise of authority). Nor does it imply that we must never cross our children, or withhold from them something that they desperately want. There will be many times when the most loving thing you will do for your children is say no.
What it does mean, is that we don’t treat our children in a way that their passions are unnecessarily aroused. The Amplified Bible’s translation of this Ephesians 6:4 sets its meaning in clear focus. It says, “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger— do not exasperate them to resentment”. What we are to avoid is those things, that we do often without thought, that exasperate our children to the point of deep and abiding resentment towards us as parents.
One very enlightening cross reference is found in Colossians 3:21. The Amplified Bible (AMP) reads, “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children—do not be hard on them or harass them; lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated; do not break their spirit”. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translates the same verse, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart”. The Greek word translated, “they may lose heart” (NASB) or “break their spirit” (AMP) literally means “to take the wind out of their sails”.
God is commanding, “Don’t raise your children in such a way that you take the wind out of their sails. Don’t bring them up in a way that they become utterly frustrated, cast down, bitter, hostile, lazy, pessimistic, negativistic, fearful, frightened, insecure, rebellious, resentful, ungodly, and wayward young people”. The command is a call to love ones children in such a way that you build them up not tear them down. That they respond to your correction and instruction by expressing love and affection in return, seen in their willingness to walk with you.
One Christian father writes, “My family’s all grown and the kids are gone. But if I had to do it all over again, this is what I would do. I would love my wife more in front of my children, I would laugh with my children more – at our mistakes and joys. I would listen more even to the littlest child. I would be more honest about my weaknesses, never pretending perfection. I would pray differently for my family; instead of focusing on them I’d focus on me. I would do more things together with my children. I would encourage them more and bestow more praise. I would pay more attention to the little things, like deeds and words of thoughtfulness. And then finally, if I had to do it all over again, I would share God more intimately with my family; every ordinary thing that happened in every ordinary day I would use to direct them to God.”
Parenting Tip #19 – God’s Design for Parenting – Avoid exasperating your children
One way we can avoid exasperating our children is:
To expect only what they are capable of giving or doing according to their age and skill.
Jacob in his wisdom knew to keep his expectations in line with the strength and ability of those he was leading whether humans or animals. Consider how he responds to Esau’s request in Genesis 33:12–14, “Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he[Jacob] said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. “Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.””
The writer of Proverbs understands the need of training and developing someone towards maturity when he says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). The Apostle Paul speaks of different perspectives between childhood and manhood, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Cor. 13:11).
As parents we must consider carefully the skill, academic and physical maturity of our children, and then have expectations that match. This way we won’t become exasperated ourselves and nor will we exasperate our children by expecting more than they can give. As parents we should expect more of a seven year old than a five year old, because a seven year old has much more knowledge and dexterity of movement than a five year old. On the one hand we must not underestimate their ability and so fail to call for growth and development, but neither should we overestimate their capabilities and lead them to be exasperated because they can’t do what we are asking of them . Just as Paul warns us in the evaluation of our own lives to “think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3), so too as parents we must think with sound judgment about our children.
Parenting Tip # 20
To avoid exasperating our children we must be careful about the way that we reprimand or correct them.
1) Consider these important Biblical principles when confronting sin. Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger”; Ephesians 4:31“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice”; Matthew 18:15;““If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother”; and I Timothy 5:1, 2 “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Although these verse speak to a wider audience that parent to child, they nevertheless describe the respectful and courteous way we should deal with children. The principles of our exhortation must be the same. Yet how frequently we talk to children in a tone of voice or in a manner we would never talk to adults.
2) One man said when he was a child, his father made a habit of calling him “dumb” or “stupid”. To this day, though he is a very intelligent man with a very responsible position, he still thinks of himself as “dumb” or “stupid”.
3) When speaking to your children, avoid using phrases like these: “When will you ever. . .?” “If your head weren’t attached. . . .” “You always. . . .” “You never . . . .” “You dummy.” “You clumsy ox.” “You slob.” “You knucklehead.” Words such as these can be lethal weapons, leaving damaging scars on your children. If you have been accustomed to speaking to your children in this way, apologize and ask forgiveness, and seek to reassure them that you do love and respect them.
Parenting Tip # 21 – How to Avoid Exasperating Your Children
We must practice what we preach. We must avoid double standards.
Children are far more discerning than we give them credit for. Long before they can articulate the inconsistencies they see in us they are already making judgments. Children learn far more from what we model than from what we say. The Apostle Paul understood the process of mentoring and wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Jesus spoke of the kind of hypocrisy that demands one thing of others but has a different standard for oneself. This was especially evident in the Religious leaders of His day, and is perhaps one of the reasons they despised Him so much. Listen to what Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Matthew 23:1–4)
We must be careful not to tie up burdens on our children’s shoulders that we are not willing to carry ourselves, and or are too heavy for them to bear in their maturing years.
Children are quick to spot insincerity and hypocrisy. They resent it deeply. Double standards are most keenly experienced by the child when we as parents are inconsistent in our parenting. If we establish a standard with our children, we must be consistent in expecting that standard or we will exasperate them at a heart level.
Parenting Tip # 21 – How to Avoid Exasperating Your Children
We must fill the minds and hearts of our children with proper values and standards through both precept (principle) and personal example.
It is hard to parent for the glory of God in a culture that has made idols out of power, strength, beauty, wealth, intelligence, and athletic ability. These are the things that, by and large, people value and worship in the Western world, and so their standards and lifestyles are shaped by these idols. According to the Bible, this way of measuring worth and success is wrong. They are all things that relate to the flesh and the world.
In our society, a successful person is one who possesses at least one of these qualities. A really successful person is someone who has several of these qualities, and an unsuccessful person is someone who has none of these qualities. These fleshly values are not the most important things in life and a child who lacks these qualities and yet is called to produce them will be frustrated and exasperated for sure.
We must remember that all children are created in God’s image and are knit together in the womb by God (Ps. 139:13). As the Psalmist says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). On top of our inherent value of being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), God values the qualities of our soul: love and truthfulness, grace and mercy, faith and humility, forgiveness and integrity, hope and peace, and joy and purity. The prophet Micah reminds us what has value to God by telling us what is good. “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). God would want us to teach our children what is good and to make the priority of their lives the value of knowing God and being known by Him.
We must work hard to instill in our children’s minds and hearts the fact that we do not value them on the basis of external, superficial qualities, because God looks at the heart (I Sam. 16:7; I Pet. 3:3- 4). The child who is not as intelligent or handsome or athletically inclined must know that we love them and value them as God’s gracious gifts and that the things we value come from within. We must seek through our own example, and by what we strive for in our own lives, to make clear to our children the qualities and values that please God.
Parenting Tip # 22 How to Avoid Exasperating Your Children
We must plan to have many good times with our children.
This doesn’t mean we have to be a Disney-World Mom and Dad who hunt down the latest fun event or place to go to and spend lavishly on our children. Fun times with our children are not the goal, relationship is. Two things will be achieved through planning good times with our children.
1) Building up a memory bank of happy experiences through good times will engender in your children a good attitudes toward you and provide the needed cement in your relationship when you must correct, rebuke, or chastise your children. We must remember that there is a time for everything even, “…a time to laugh; …and a time to dance.” (Eccl. 3:4). As wisdom would state it, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” (Prov. 15:13). “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov. 17:22)
2) The remembrance of the fun that they have had with you will help them to realize that you are not an monster or a sourpuss who just enjoys being nasty and mean. This is important for both Mom and Dad, especially Dad who is often seen in the Christian home as a disciplinarian. Young teenagers whose hearts are not filled with the balance of good times will often have hearts filled with resentment towards their parents.
It was the memory of the goodness and blessing of the Fathers house that caused the prodigal son to return home. “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” ’ “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:17–24).