EPHESIANS 6:4b (continued)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:4b (cont.) “. . .provoke not your children to wrath:”
Being responsible to the One who gives them their authority, parents are to act in His spirit, and avoid behavior which might provoke children to wrath.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through public humiliation. Discipline is a private matter between a parent and a child, not a public forum for shame. Parents are sometimes brutally rude to their children. This is not right. Parenthood does not include a license to degrade. We do not own our children. They belong to God, and are souls placed under our guardianship. Created in His image, they are to be treated with respect and courtesy.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through neglect. Created in God’s image, children are to be valued. Take time to shower them with attention.
A house is built of logs and stone,
of tiles and posts and piers;
A home is built of loving deeds
that stand a thousand years. (Victor Hugo)
Parents, give your children priority in your life. Build your calendar around theirs. Attend their school, church, and sports functions. Be there when they shine. They know that what we do with our time is what matters most to us.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through favoritism. Isaac favored Esau, Rebekah preferred Jacob (GN 25:28), the results were disastrous. Avoid demeaning comparisons, as in, “Why can’t you be like your brother.” Never verbally compare siblings to one another in their presence. The law of every house should be, each family member will show equal respect for every other member. Parental partiality inflicts wounds on a child’s self-esteem, causes a child to be bitter toward parents, and drives a child away from other siblings.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through extended punishment. Be careful about grounding and other forms of punishment which extend over a long time. Protracted time can allow bitterness to fester. Another way we wrongly extend punishment is by constantly bringing up the past. Avoid insults like “You always mess up.” Deal only with the specific incident at hand. Let the past be the past. Once disciplined, leave a wrong behind. In any given matter, when you bury the hatchet, do not leave the handle sticking out.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through anger. Angry parents usually produce angry children. Children can understand controlled bursts of anger for serious offenses, but are also quick to perceive when parents lose control, throw needless temper fits, and punish too harshly. Avoid the latter. Discipline administered during a temper fit usually does more harm than good.
Truly good discipline can be dispensed only when we parents exercise self-control, for the purpose of our discipline, ultimately, is to teach children self-discipline. It is hard to learn self-control from one not showing self-control.
Before seeking to corral your children, corral your temper. “What right have you to say to your child that he needs discipline when you obviously need it yourself” (Lloyd-Jones). It is better for our children to see our grief and pain than our anger. A parent’s broken heart has more effect than a raging fit.
When I was about twelve, I helped a group of boys steal some sodas from church one day after Vacation Bible School. We took them into the woods behind our church and spent the afternoon drinking them. Stealing from a church was more than one of our saintly ladies could abide. The next day at VBS she told Dad, with me standing close by, “I couldn’t steal from a church. I’m afraid God would strike me dead.” Dad agreed. I piously did, too, knowing I was as guilty as sin itself. Weeks later, Dad learned I was in on the heist. In mid-afternoon, he brought me into the living room and had me sit on the couch. He told Mother to leave the house and to take with her my sister and brother. Once they left, Dad locked all the doors, closed all the blinds, pulled out his trusty belt, and walked straight toward his sobbing son. I truly believed life as I had known it was coming to an end. Dad wrapped his belt in a circle, laid it on the coffee table in front of me, leaned over me, and said, “Son, I am sorry you stole the sodas from church, but what hurts me most is that all these weeks you have lied to me about it.” He then turned and walked away, leaving me alone in the living room. It is the only time in my life I can remember wishing I had received a spanking. That was the most effective use of discipline I ever saw from my dad. He punished me with his grief rather than his anger. I have never forgotten it, and was made much better by it.
“Provoke not your children to wrath” through manipulation. Do not bulldoze your children toward what you want them to be. It is not our job as parents to determine what our children should be in life. We are to love them and help them prepare for whatever role they decide God has selected for them.
As parents, our objective is to help our children be able to stand on their own, whatever career they pursue. Do not try to squeeze them into our mold. Our children do not have to do what we do to be deemed successful, nor do they have to go as high up the corporate ladder as we have gone. Some fathers try to make a son into the ballplayer they once were or always dreamed of being. Some mothers try to make a daughter into the debutante or social success they were, are, or always wanted to be. Let’s not try to live out our own fantasies through our children. They have their own set of dreams to fulfill.
”Provoke not your children to wrath” through discouragement. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (CL 3:21). A broken and sullen spirit in a youth is a bad sign. Be reasonable in your demands. Do not ask for things beyond a child’s capability, or load the child with so many expectations that frustration is inevitable. Do not rob your children of their childhood, or try to make them into miniature adults.
Do not discourage the underachiever. A constant sense of failure can destroy one’s person-hood. Do not discourage the overachiever. A constant sense of never having done enough can lead to exasperation. Constant criticism and rebuke often produce broken self-despair. Mary Lamb had serious mental troubles. Walking to the asylum with her brother Charles she would often ask, “Why is it I never seem able to do anything to please my mother?”
Some children finally give up. They somewhere begin wondering whether it does any good to try to please their parents and do what they say. Children can be driven into frustration, and if their despair is bad enough, they do desperate things–run away from home, join the wrong crowd because accepted there, marry the first person who offers a chance of getting away.
Parents, we need to shower our children with love and encouragement. Barclay tells how Benjamin West became a painter. Left at home in charge of his little sister Sally, Benjamin discovered some bottles of colored ink and began to paint Sally’s portrait. He made a terrible mess, but when his mother returned and saw the mess, she said nothing. She instead picked up the paper, examined it, and said, “Why, it’s Sally!” She then stooped and kissed him. Ever after Benjamin West would claim, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”
Martin Luther, whose dad was strict to the point of cruelty, said, “Spare the rod and spoil the child–true! But beside the rod keep an apple, and give it to him when he does well.” “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.”