As adults we can become intensely irritated, angered, maddened, enraged, provoked and infuriated. In other words you find yourselves being ‘exasperated’. As parents we’re capable of provoking the same feelings in our children. However since their brains are still developing, the long-term impact of constantly exasperating them has severe negative relational and behavioral consequences. God in His wisdom warns parents to guard themselves from exasperating their children.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV
Before we bang this scripture verse over our children’s head and demand that they obey us, let’s not forget the fourth verse in this passage.
“4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
In this verse the spotlight turns directly to parents. This verse makes it pretty clear that God holds parents responsible for how we use our authority. We all want to be good parents - but sometimes, in wanting to do the right thing for our children - we end up doing it the wrong way because of how we approach it. And when we do the right thing the wrong way we exasperate our children. Colossians 3:21 talks about the cost of exasperating our children:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”
Wow! The last thing we want to see happen is for our children to lose heart. When they do, we lose one of the most important battles in our lives– the battle for our child’s heart.
It’s clear parental authority comes with responsibility and accountability. First, we must model what it is to live under God’s authority so children see the benefits of living under God’s given structure and avoiding sin. Second, we must understand that the ultimate goal of teaching our children to walk in obedience under us, is to allow them to experience first hand the goodness of walking and respecting God’s authority. The fruit is a promise - that we will live a long and blessed life.
What would it look like to exasperate your children? How can you avoid doing so?
- Abusing your power to discipline - Biblical discipline is not punishment - it is course correction. It is modeling Christ in parenting - it is ‘training a child in the ways he should go’ according to scripture – all to protect and shape a child’s heart. Pray before reacting.
- High expectations without understanding your child’s natural gifts, talents, learning style and unique personality traits – slow down, read and educate yourself on what is going on in your child’s natural stage of development.
- Disciplining them without warning them (no matter what the age) – give grace the first time you see your child do something that is harmful. Take time to explain future consequence of repeating the same action.
- Constantly administrating harsh discipline – harsh discipline hardens the heart towards you and God. If you’re not observing any change in your child’s behavior patterns, try administrating a different discipline.
- When the time doesn’t match the crime.
- Playing favoritism – We are born to receive our parents’ approval and favor. Favoritism makes children develop behavior patterns that are attention seeking rather than character building.
- Withdrawing affection, especially after disciplining your children – it’s kindness and love that provides a place for children to safely turn their back on behaviors that are harmful in their life. Make it a habit to hug your child, or playing with them when you’re done disciplining them.
- When your yes is not a yes and your no is not a no – talk about confusing! Children thrive under consistent as well as predictable guidelines.
- When you don’t apologize – If you want to raise a child after God’s own heart, model asking for forgiveness. It’s the key to all healthy relationships.
- Over-protecting them – one of the goals of parenting is to teach them to gain independence as you earn their trust. Over protecting as well as micro-managing them kills their confidence and lowers their self-esteem. Let them learn the hard way - don’t bail them out of situations.
- Not keeping a promise – use your ‘promises’ wisely. A broken promise leaves long-term scars on a child’s heart and mind. In spite of the fact that we continue to break our heavenly Father’s heart, he has never broken His promises towards us. Children internalize broken promises as loss of love, attention and value.
- Embarrassing them in private and in public – it’s a gateway to feelings of shame.
- Model hypocrisy- Hypocrisy leads to disrespect and loss of credibility. Get in a habit of admitting your failure to meet expectations.
- Not listening to them –Teach them how to respectfully share their feelings with you. Listen, be slow to react!
Treating them as your friends rather than your children. This is especially true in case of marital conflict. Children are not designed to parent their parents. Role reversal shortens their emotional development and leads to unhealthy future relationships.