One of the most concise instructions for parents appears in the book of Ephesians. It says, “… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Some of the ways we provoke our children to anger seem obvious, but others may be less so. Could you be provoking your children to anger in ways you haven’t realized?
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Could You Be Provoking Your Children to Anger?
Parenting … it’s both one of the greatest privileges and one of the greatest responsibilities we have. And our example is a hard one to live up to … it’s God Himself, the One Perfect Parent.
Thankfully, God knows we won’t do this perfectly and He gives us His grace everyday. All the wisdom and help we need is available to us for the asking (Heb. 4.15-16; Jas. 1.2-5), as is His forgiveness when we fail (1 Jn. 1.9).
Often that grace is extended to us through the very children against whom we occasionally sin. When we humbly go to them and seek their forgiveness, they usually extend it readily and quickly.
But God does expect us to be faithful to study His Word, to pray for ourselves and our children, to be humble when we fail, and to grow in any area where we may lack understanding (2 Tim. 2.15, 3.16-17).
The book of Proverbs is jam-packed with principles for parenting and all the biblical principles for other relationships apply to the parent-child relationship, as well. But, one of the most concise instructions for parents appears in Ephesians 6.4:
… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
We’ll talk more about training and admonition in a future post. But let me just say that fathers and mothers are responsible to educate their children morally, spiritually, socially and in every way. It’s not the church or the school that is primarily responsible, it’s us, as parents.
We’re to help our children understand that we are not the ultimate authority. We are under God’s authority and, as His agents, are responsible to raise them in ways that are pleasing to Him.
Training and admonition include both reproof and encouragement. Our goal, as parents, should be to raise children who have a reverence for God, a love for His Word, respect for parents and others in authority, an understanding of Christian principles, the ability to exercise self-control, and a desire to please God.
But in today’s post I want to focus on the first part of this verse, “do not provoke your children to wrath.” The NIV says, “do not exasperate your children.”
We must be careful not to provoke or exasperate our children by being harsh, unreasonable, unfair, angry, cruel, selfish, or by showing partiality. Even godly discipline and instruction should be gentle, fair, and done in love.
Lou Priolo in his book The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children gives us one of the most thorough lists of ways parents provoke their children to anger. I’ve shared them before, but they are worth reviewing.
Lou’s book is one of my favorite parenting resources. He’s been a biblical counselor for over 30 years. He’s a Fellow with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and an instructor with the Birmingham Theological Seminary. But more important, he’s a parent and his books are practical, readable, and applicable to the daily realities of parenting.
I often recommend it in counseling as a tool to help parents take the principles home and work with their own children. But it’s easily usable by any parent who wants to help prevent or deal with anger in their own children. It will not only help you get to the heart issues your children may face, but will deal with your own heart, as well.
25 Ways That Parents Provoke Their Children to Anger:
- Lack of Marital Harmony
- Establishing and Maintaining a Child-Centered Home
- Modeling Sinful Anger
- Habitually Disciplining While Angry
- Being Inconsistent with Discipline
- Having Double Standards
- Being Legalistic
- Not Admitting You’re Wrong and Not Asking for Forgiveness
- Constantly Finding Fault
- Parents Reversing God-Given Roles
- Not Listening to Your Child’s Opinion or Taking His “Side of the Story” Seriously
- Comparing Them to Others
- Not Making Time Just to Talk
- Not Praising or Encouraging Your Child
- Failing to Keep Your Promises
- Chastening in Front of Others
- Not Allowing Enough Freedom
- Allowing Too Much Freedom
- Mocking Your Child
- Abusing Them Physically
- Ridiculing or Name Calling
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Practicing Favoritism
- Child Training with Worldly Methodologies Inconsistent with God’s Word
Lou devotes a whole chapter in his book to the items on this list, adding plenty of explanations and Scriptural backing. I hope you find his list helpful.
In the next few days in the daily posts we’ll talk about what a mature Christian looks like, what’s going on when we think we can sin now and ask forgiveness later, angry children, hypocrisy, the armor of God and more.
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