Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 NASB
This verse – Ephesians 6:4 – is a tough one for me. I have often fallen short of this command not to exasperate my children, like when I have treated my children like employees, or like machines (of which they are neither, of course). When they don’t act the way I want them to, it’s tough for me to slow down and put myself into their shoes.
For example: After Pastor Ryan’s recent sermon* about anger, I had to apologize to one of my sons. He does a good job for his age, but there are times when I expect him to know what I’m thinking, or to act like someone who has several more decades of life experience. (It’s been a long time since I was 8, and it’s easy to forget.)
Conversely, I’m challenged by this thought: Who will teach my children all the little things that they need to know, but won’t learn in school? Who will teach them how to treat women with respect, or how to tie a tie (if that skill is still required in the future), or what happened in their family before they were born?
If that’s me, when will I do so, if not when I’m spending time with them? Don’t get me wrong, not all of my time with my kids is sitting on the floor playing Candy Land (at least, not at their current ages). For me, driving time, meal time, and bedtime are great opportunities to have real conversations with them. There might be others who can teach my children the little, important things in life that they won’t get at school, but I’m not sure that I want Google, YouTube, or other kids teaching my sons how to be men.
So, how are we to treat our children? It’s one thing to know what not to do, but – by itself – making lists of things to avoid is rarely a formula for success. Check out these verses, for some ideas on how we can help – and not exasperate – our children:
- Matthew 19:13-14 – Let them meet Jesus
- Proverbs 22:6 – Get them started in the right direction
- Deuteronomy 4:9 – Pass along lessons that we have learned (perhaps the hard way)
- Deuteronomy 11:18-19 – Teach them God’s words
- Psalm 34:11 – Teach them to fear God (in a healthy, respectful way – not just “being scared” of God)
If any of these verses stand out to you as an opportunity to improve, see what you can do with your kids this week to be a little better parent to them – “better” in the sense of choosing what’s best for them, not just adding another obligation to your to-do list. (And, if you don’t have kids of your own, there’s probably someone in your life that you can reach out to.) You don’t necessarily have to change everything at once (after all, the kids might not recognize some of us if we went through a transformation that dramatic), but look for opportunities to do better tomorrow than you did yesterday.
For more reading, see also:
- A version of this devotion originally appeared at fcccanton.com, as a Study Guide for the February 7, 2016 message, “The Dude’s Guide to Manhood”.