Fathers, Provoke Not Your Children

“And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Question: How should a parent handle it when the other parent provokes his children by being too hard on them or when that parent is inconsistent in what he says should be done and what he actually does?

It concerns me that you and your husband are not in agreement on the discipline of your children. I hope you are not voicing your disagreement in front of the children. Some of the anger you are observing, may be due to the fact that you and your husband are not presenting an united front.

Your question tells me that you already know that one of the secrets to good discipline is loving discipline. The problem seems to be that you and your husband are not in agreement as to what is love and what is discipline. There must be a balance between structure and support.

As a rule of thumb: Mothers are too indulgent, while fathers are too harsh. Both can hurt good discipline and thus ruin the child.

The other secret to good discipline is consistency. Your husband seems to need help with this one. Remember, however, you cannot change your husband – only your reaction to him; thus maybe bringing about some changes in the way he reacts. If in his view, his position and authority is being questioned or threatened, he will dig in and protect his turf and the children will suffer.

Webster says the meaning of “provoke” is to “incite to anger.”

This word“provoke” is translated “exasperate” in the NIV translation. How can a parent provoke or exasperate his child?

  1. Overly harsh punishment

When you use the words “too harsh” you are really talking about punishment; a word I do not like to use with children. When you punish, you are setting up a situation where you are hurting them for defying or embarrassing you. Your anger towards your child will only reap anger in return.

I rather use the word “discipline.” When we discipline a child, changing the future behavior is our target. Jesus is our model. Jesus hates sin but loves the sinner.

When a child knows he is loved unconditionally, he will receive discipline, even if it hurts; but he will rebel against punishment.

When we punish in anger, the consequence usually is too harsh or it does not fit the infraction. It is best to use natural consequences if possible, and only enough force to change the behavior.

  1. Inconsistency

Nothing exasperates a child as much as inconsistent rules and inconsistent consequences. Knowing where the fences are brings security to children.

Discipline is too often determined by how we are feeling at the moment. If we are feeling good, we are lenient and overlook many things. Child watch out, however, if we are feeling irritable.

The training of our children is too important to be left up to feelings. Our children need to know what is expected at all times and what to expect if they do not do it.

Never threaten  -always promise and always keep your promise.”

Rules that are not enforced consistently – are not rules.

  1. Poor use of words or harsh tone.

No matter the age of our children we should always treat and speak to them with respect. The tone and the words we use, many times, determines their response.

The closer a young person approaches adulthood the more they should be treated as an adult. The teen age years are given to them as a time to assert their will and try their wings; yet with the family near to pick them up when they crash. If you are too demanding or if your voice is harsh do not be surprised if they feel “honor bound” to do the very opposite.

If it can be a request; make it a courteous request. If it must be a command, do not raise your voice of attack them personally. State your wish calmly and assertively. State your reasons why it is a command. Never allow yourself to enter into debate.

Do not forget the last part of this verse. As the alternative to “exasperating” them. We are to: “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 [NIV]

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