Fathers, Provoke Not Your Children
“And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21).
WHY ARE THESE VERSES DIRECTED TO FATHERS?
Although these verses are directed at fathers, they certainly do not take away any responsibility from mothers. But fathers often neglect their responsibility in parenting. Sometimes this is done on purpose, but at other times it is done by default. However, as the head of the house (Eph. 5:23), the father is more accountable to God than the mother for the training of the children.
PROVOKE NOT YOUR CHILDREN TO WRATH
This means not to stir up, enrage, exasperate, or cause irritation to the extent that it causes anger, discouragement, being disheartened, broken-hearted, or broken in spirit by sinning against them. This is commanded by God, so it is not optional, nor is it just friendly advice.
If it is not done, it is disobedience and rebellion against God. It is also in the present tense which means that it needs to be obeyed not just in the past or the future, but consistently and daily. This obviously does not mean that a child should never be told no, but it does include the following:
1. Not expecting too much or too little from them.
2. Correcting them with respect, which means without name-calling, demeaning, belittling, or mocking children.
3. Practicing what you preach without double standards or hypocrisy.
4. Valuing them as eternal souls, and not just because of their intellectual, physical, or athletic abilities.
5. Communicating love and appreciation for who they are and not just for what they can do.
6. Loving them even when they fail so they do not think they have to earn love.
7. Giving clear limits, expectations, and consequences.
8. Admitting your own mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and making restitution when necessary.
9. Being available to listen to their problems, difficulties, and concerns.
10. Not being too strict or too lenient.
11. Not neglecting or ignoring them.
12. Not abusing them physically, sexually, or emotionally.
13. Not continually finding fault with, or criticizing them.
14. Not exposing them to continual marital conflict.
15. Not comparing them unfavorably to others.
16. Not changing or being inconsistent with standards.
17. Not disciplining harshly, severely, excessively, or angrily, but fairly, consistently, lovingly, and promptly.
18. Not having anger that is out of control or destructive.
19. Not being unforgiving.
BRING THEM UP
Because children have a sin nature, they cannot bring themselves up. They cannot be left on their own to make their own decisions and choices. They need to be trained (Prov. 22:6) by teaching them they are sinners and leading them to Christ as their Saviour and Lord. This also means not to put them down, but to lift them up.
IN THE NURTURE AND ADMONITION OF THE LORD
Nurture means to discipline, train, correct, instruct, and chasten, while admonition is to warn, reprove, and rebuke. But, since it says “in the Lord,” it is talking about a very specific way of nurturing and admonishing. It is not referring to the wisdom of the world (I Cor. 1-2), what our parents did or did not do, our own thoughts and ideas, or the philosophies and traditions of men (Col. 2:8). It is based on the biblical principles of who Christ is and what He did on the Cross.
That alone can lead to knowing and trusting in Jesus, being His disciple, and being dependent on Him. Then and only then will their attitudes, patterns of living, and decisions reflect Jesus. This is the only way they can know the way they should go and not be able to get away from the truths they were taught as a child even though they may rebel against them later (Prov. 22:6).
This does not mean that children are not responsible for how they react, but it is emphasizing that parents—and especially fathers—are more responsible to God for not sinning against their children.
Even if a father (or any parent) did not have godly parents, he can pray to his heavenly Father who will help him to be what He wants him to be.