“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“Do not provoke”
To provoke a child to anger suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually builds up a deep-seated anger and resentment in the child, which eventually boils over in the form of hostility. This can be done in several ways.
In the Old Testament, Isaac favored Esau over Jacob, and Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau (Genesis 25:28). This favoritism created a conflict that followed those boys well into their adult years. Jacob then repeated the cycle later in life by favoring his son Joseph over his brothers (Genesis 37:3). This created a great conflict and jealousy between Joseph and his brothers.
It can be discouraging and even devastating to compare one of your children to another. The resentment that builds in a child who is constantly compared with his or her siblings can be carried well into that child’s adult years, where he or she constantly tries to win your approval.
Your children need to know that you always love them—no matter how well or how poorly they succeed in academics or sports. Your child needs to know that you love and support him or her regardless of performance. Even when the prodigal son was in a country far away from his father, he still knew that his father loved him and would welcome his return. He also knew that there would be repercussions for his actions. Yet, he never doubted that his father would take him back.
Never complimenting your child
You need to verbally tell your children that you love them. You need to notice their achievements and give them credit for what they are doing while enabling them to see their own potential and to strive to do even better. It’s a delicate balance.
You can over-praise children and not encourage them to be all that they are capable of being. This sets them up for great disappointment in the future.
On the other hand, you can under-praise a child and not give credit where credit is due. At this point, your child has no reason to even try. A child needs approval and encouragement in things that are good, every bit as much as he or she needs correction in things that are not.
“Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord”
The systematic training of children needs to be spontaneous, natural, and consistent.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12, Paul referred to himself as a nursing mother and an encouraging father. While this passage is directed to the Thessalonian believers, Paul used what would be considered the natural action of a mother and father to illustrate his affection for those children in the Lord. From this, we can draw some scriptural conclusions regarding the roles of parents.
“A nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Of all the words that Paul could use to show affection, he chose one that we all could understand—a mother. The phrase “affectionately longing for you” means “to feel oneself drawing to something or someone.” It is the picture of a father who holds and treats a little child tenderly, feeling drawn to that little one. This fond affection for our children is not only to be reserved for them when they are tiny and vulnerable. We need to continue to love and care for them through their different stages of development.
“Impart not only the gospel. . .but also our own lives” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
There is no greater joy than to see our children embrace Christ as their own Savior. The apostle John wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
David said: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of your thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).