“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
Children and Teens will usually accept discipline without anger if they know the rules, know the consequences, and know these consequences are enforced consistently. The penalties must also be fair and enforced without undo harshness.
The word provoke can be translated exasperate, or aggravate. The NIV says it this way, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I believe in ‘discipline’ not ‘punishment’.
Discipline should make the child uncomfortable to the point of wanting to change their behavior. It should also produce a desire never to repeat the infraction–but never to the point of exasperation and aggravation. I maintain that it is not the act of discipline, many times, that brings the irritation so much as the way the discipline is administrated. Punishment is an act to get back at someone for confronting or disobeying. Discipline has the ultimate good of the child in mind–to change the child for the better.
Let me point out some problems to avoid:
1. Overly Harsh Treatment
When you use the term ‘harsh treatment,’ you are really talking about punishment. When you punish you are setting up a situation to hurt the child for defying or embarrassing you. Your anger will only reap anger in return. I rather talk in the terms of ‘discipline’. The action you take may be the same but your motives are different, and your child can sense your motives.
When we discipline a child, changing the future behavior is our goal. Jesus is our model. Jesus hates sin and allows us to reap the consequences–but He loves the sinner. When your child knows you love him unconditionally, he will accept discipline-even if it hurts.
When we punish in anger, the consequence is usually too harsh and usually does not fit the infraction. It is best to use natural consequences, when possible, and only with enough force to change the behavior.
Nothing exasperates a child more than not knowing the rules, not having consistent rules, and not having the rules consistently enforced. Consistency is as a fence in your child’s life. Knowing where the fences are brings security to your child. Sadly, discipline is too often determined by how we feel at the moment. If we are feeling good, many times we are lenient and overlook the rules; however, if we are feeling stressed or irritated–child watch out.
The training of our child is too important to be left up to feelings. Our child needs to know what to expect at all times–and what to expect if he does not obey. “Rules that are not enforced–are not rules.” I have heard it said: “Never threaten–only promise–and always keep your promises.”
3. Poor Use of Words, or A Harsh Tone
No matter the age we should always speak to our child with respect. The tone and the words we use, many times, determine their response.
The closer a young person approaches adulthood, the more he should be treated as an adult. His teenage years are given to him as a time to assert himself and to try his wings in a safe environment. The family should always be near enough to pick him up when he crashes. If you as a parent are too demanding or use a harsh voice, do not be surprised if your child feels honor bound to assert his will.
‘Request’ often, and if you mean it as a request, make it a courteous request. If it must be a command, do not raise your voice, but state your instructions calmly and assertively. State your reasons why you must be obeyed and the consequences if you are not. A parent should never lower himself to debate the issue.
Let us not forget the last part of this verse. As an alternative to ‘exasperating’ our children, we are to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
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