If you grew up like me, you were told to obey and honor your parents a thousand times, and rightly so. Fortunately for me, I had parents that were honorable. We could use more families like this in our society, could we not? It seems that today’s kids and teenagers have much less respect for their elders than they did say in the 50’s. That may not be the case as we think, but we will leave that to another discussion. The contention I’d like to make here is that respect for one another between child and parent is not a one-way street.
Children absolutely have a responsibility to respect their parents. Honoring your father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments. The interesting thing about that commandment is that it not only says that children should obey their parents, but they should honor them. What does that mean? It means to show them the respect due just because of their position relationally. It means that obedience comes with the right attitude, not just right behaviors.
But parents and children are in a relationship with each other, not a business. We know that there are several passages in Scripture that tell parents that they need to raise their children in the ways of God. There are also several passages that warn parents, specifically fathers, that they need to be careful not to tick their children off. Two such passages are Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21.
The interesting thing about both verses is that the child’s need to obey is addressed in previous verses. They then move to the father/child relationship. Why we seem to pass by these, I am not sure. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
I have said before that the Bible, although vast, offers little in the way of direct application of how parents should raise children. These verses, however, pack a big punch. The first thing I think we should notice is the use of one word: “provoke.” The word has the idea to incite. The Ephesians verse talks about provoking children to anger. So Dads, according to this verse, there is a potential that you can incite your children to anger. There are times when your child may be screaming but shouldn’t be punished for it, because it is actually your fault, not your child’s.
So how do we know when we are the one inciting our child to sin? How do we decipher if it is our child out of control, or maybe, just maybe, we are the ones out of control? First, I think we can incite our children when we change rules. Nothing is more frustrating to a child to work hard at obeying parents, only to have different rules made half way through; or after they have broken a new rule they are unaware of. Imagine yourself at work. Would you be frustrated if you started a job that was nine to five, and a couple months in, for no apparent reason, the boss said, you have to work night shift?
Second, we can incite our children to anger by making unrealistic rules. We need age-appropriate rules and expectations for our children. (We can talk to other like-minded parents and see what their opinion is.) If we have an 18-year-old, to ask him to go to bed on the weekend at 8 pm when he is not close to being tired would be unrealistic. While most of us wouldn’t make such a rule, I often see parents make rules that are unrealistic to follow, for children of all ages.
Third, we can simply incite anger when we are angry. I have been a social worker or youth pastor for over a decade. I have a decent amount of experience working with children and teenagers. Here is what I have observed: typically, yelling breeds yelling. There are times for a good yell of course, but as my college speech teacher said, if you emphasize everything, you have emphasized nothing. If you are losing your cool with your child, your child is probably going to mimic your behavior. If we are yelling all the time at our children, do we really expect anything else from our children?
Last, we need to make sure that we are giving God’s rules. Growing up I saw a few of my friends around me who, it seemed, were unable to do anything because their parents were so strict. Their parents were trying to raise them in God’s ways. They wanted to instill into their child the moral law of the Ten Commandments. Then they added many rules. They had the idea that more strict and more conservative meant more godly. As we read in the beginning of I Timothy 4, we shouldn’t forbid people, including our children, from things that God has given as gifts to men. God’s rules are tough enough to follow without piling on dozens of extra rules that are just rules for rules’ sake. This will only frustrate a child who feels as if life is only about rules.
What are the consequences of ticking off your children? The end of Colossians 3:21 says that you will have kids who will be discouraged. Have you ever seen a child who constantly has his head down? Or have you seen a child that lives in the shadow and fear of her parent? I’m not talking about this child acting like this occasionally, but when a child acts like this almost every time that you see him? A child with this pattern probably has someone who has discouraged him. Children are happy by nature. When children can do nothing right and are always screamed at, they begin to hate life. I really feel for these children.
Even if you have a child that seems to be more bold than the rest of the children in a family, if that child is consistently corrected, but in a loving way, with forgiveness, grace, and mercy being given to the child by the parents, that child should often look like they appear to enjoy life. Why should we give love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace to our children? Because that’s exactly what God has given us. We need to pass it on to the little ones that God has entrusted us with.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.